Journalist James Nestor becomes a freediver: one of a group of mostly scientists interacting with Moby Dick whales without breathing gear – spermwhales – to depths over 100 feet and for times over 5 minutes duration. They study the whales’ speech and behaviour and next, will be trying to replicate their language and hold conversations about trees and other things whales cannot see from their watery perspective. Once believed too dangerous to attempt, this group has been diving since 2007 with whales that, “can grow as long as 60 feet and weigh up to 110,000 pounds,” and eventually, Nestor dove in too:
I HELD MY BREATH AND SWAM DEEPER, 10, 20, 30 feet. I heard a thunderous crack, then another, so loud they vibrated my chest. Below my kicking feet, two sperm whales emerged from the shadows, each as long as a school bus.
The cracking was coming from the whales; it’s a form of sonar called echolocation that species of dolphins, whales and other cetaceans use to “see” underwater. With these vocalizations, called clicks, the whales were snapping three-dimensional images of my body, and those of my diving companions, from the inside out — scanning us to see if we were a threat, or if we were food.
Hat tip to Leen De Weerd-Mosley for the beautiful find.