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More Whale Tales

Lots of positive comments regarding last Sunday’s post about swimming with whales in Dominica. Perhaps understandably, many people seemed to focus on the risk involved in freediving down 30-50 feet and mingling with animals that can be larger than a semi.

Beyond the fact that there is no record of people being injured by whales (other than folks trying to stick harpoons into them), a few moments in the water brings the understanding that whales move with measured, even solicitous care. They are gentle and curious creatures (albeit carnivorous ones with 36-52 teeth, each one weighing up to two pounds). I make this assertion that having swum within a few feet of many of them. In fact, when they are close to you, they most often roll onto their side or even turn upside down to get a better look at you (possibly using their non-visual senses as well).

In the below shot, freediving French scientist Fabrice Schnoller photographs a group of sperm whales as they begin a shallow dive. They will swim right by him. Fabrice is holding a virtually reality (VR) camera on a short pole:

Dominica Freedive VR Camera.jpg

(Photo: Fred Buyle)

To view Fabrice’s VR photography, download the NYT’s Virtually Reality application onto your cellphone and search for a short video entitled The Click Effect. In 2015 Schnoller’s Darewin Project received a MacArthur Foundation Grant to produce this work about dolphins and whales.

In the below shot, Elizabeth and I watch a small group head off into the blue. Once they are on their way, sperm whales only have to give two or three full tail strokes in order to disappear from sight:


(Photo: Fred Buyle)

With any luck, we’ll be off to the Azores in September to swim with the numerous humpbacks there.


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