A September Spectacle: Eleven Days of Sperm Whale Sightings
by firmm Team
Text: Lucy Hahner, Photos: firmm
It is the largest toothed whale in the world: the Sperm Whale. With a size of up to 18 metres and a weight of 50 tonnes, it generates great enthusiasm with every sighting. This September the giants gave us eleven days in a row numerous moments of happiness: From September 20th to September 30th the Sperm Whales showed themselves several times a day.
By its diagonal blow we can recognize a Sperm Whale already from a distance.
Usually Sperm Whales stay in the Strait of Gibraltar primarily in spring. The surprise was accordingly big, when we saw on Friday the 20th of September far away a blow with an inclination of 45°. It had to be a Sperm Whale. Their S-shaped blowhole is asymmetrical on the left side of the head, which is why the angled blow is characteristic of them.
Now it was time to hold on: Our captain accelerated and we drove in the direction of the whale. Everybody stood at the railing and looked in the direction of the whale.
Fourfold luck: Not only one, but four Sperm Whales at once
"Look: Three more blows! We have a total of four Sperm Whales at one o'clock," Katharina excitedly said into the microphone. We couldn't believe our eyes. Rarely do we meet groups of Sperm Whales in the Strait of Gibraltar; usually they seem to travel alone.
Even for the encounter with a single Sperm Whale you need a bit of luck. And even more in September - what a goose bump moment! While shortly before countless "Ohs" and "Ahs" were to be heard and everybody talked excitedly, it suddenly became quiet. Meanwhile we were at the height of the 18 meter large animals. They lay still on the surface of the water and filled their blood with oxygen. At regular intervals we could hear their blow and their calmness were transferred to us.
The moment of silence lasted a few minutes. It was broken by the successive impressive descent of the four giants. When a Sperm Whale starts its dive, he lifts its fluke out of the water and glides vertically to depths of up to 3.000 metres.
Ten more days of blissful moments:The Sperm Whales stayed in the Strait for eleven days.
The 50-ton toothed whales also gave us goose bumps in the following ten days - both the guests and our team were thrilled.
Our firmm employees also did not want to miss such a unique time and joined the guests. Together we drove out into the Strait of Gibraltar and kept an eye out for an angled blow.
We didn't have to look for long: As soon as we had left the harbour, we could see the first one - right off the coast of Tarifa. Again on this day the Sperm Whale was not alone. Altogether seven whales lay at the water surface. The closer we came, the clearer became: We would not only meet one species. Bottlenose Dolphins and Pilot Whales had joined the Sperm Whales. What a breath taking experience! Seven angled blows going alternately upwards, surrounded by jumping dolphins and a family of Pilot Whales - we were all speechless.
Since the first of October we still had sporadic Sperm Whale sightings. The unique encounters of big Sperm Whale groups in September will be remembered for a long time.