A sperm whale is an extremely rare sighting considering it’s propensity for deep dives, but a whale watching tour got just that rarest of treats on Saturday off the coast of Washington state.
Jeff Friedman from Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching and Valerie Shore out of Eagle Wing Tours along with their groups caught the sperm whale swimming in inland waters of the Haro Strait in the Salish Sea.
The last time a sperm whale was known to be in the waters of the Salish Sea was in 1984, and only it’s sound was picked up on a hydrophone (underwater microphone), according to Seattle PI.
‘He seemed to be making his way south, but you know what? There’s a lot of water out there,’ Shore said. ‘We thought the chances of seeing him were pretty slim.’
World’s largest, and loudest, animal, the sperm whale was seen in the shallow waters off the coast of Washington state
Majestic: The enormous whale was known to have been in the area of the Salish Sea in the past months and researchers believe they are returning as populations recover from now-banned commercial whaling
The whale’s tail: The enormous tale flipped out just as he retreated below the surface
Friedman said he saw the large spout in the distance, and while he couldn’t immediately identify the whale, he knew it was a giant.
‘We knew from the size of the blow it was not a killer whale,’ he said. ‘It was way too big to be an orca.’
Friedman’s group continued pursing orcas when reports of a sperm whale in the Haro Straight came in.
Using his hydrophone in the water he could tell that whale, nicknamed Yukusam, was nearby.
There had been a handful of reports of the 45-foot-long Yukusam in the area, but no one had seen his majestic presence yet.
Sperm whales emit clicks from their echolocation system allowing them to navigate in the darkness of the deep waters.
‘It sounded like a nail gun,’ Friedman said.
Those clicks are the loudest natural sounds on the planet, and are 3,000 times more powerful than that of a jet engine at takeoff.
Scientists believe sperm whales can hear each other around the planet through their clicks.
‘Just listening to those clicks and realizing that there was this amazingly large animal down there, it was just mind-blowing,’ Shore said.
The whale’s clicks paused in a sign that it might be surfacing, and then the clicks stopped.
Yukusam broke the surface and breathed, blowing out water at 45-degree angle.
‘We just whooped and hollered and cheered,’ Shore said. ‘It was just like a party boat.’
The whale spent no more than 10 minutes at the surface, gloriously spouting, as the whale watchers took photos and videos of the once in a lifetime moment.
The whale spouted several times as the ecstatic whale watchers caught a glimpse of his back
As Yukusam spouted to breath, whale watchers looked on in utter amazement
Just as Yukusam took one last breath he turned toward Shore’s boat and flipped his enormous tail before going back under.
‘At that point, we all lost it,’ Shore said. ‘We were just cheering. We were hugging each other and yelling. It was just — it was an amazing moment.’
‘I was absolutely blown away, and that feeling lasted. Looking back on it, I’m feeling like, ‘Did that really happen?,” Friedman said.
‘It’s very possible that I will never again in my career be out with a group of passengers in this area looking at a sperm whale. It was absolutely incredible and mind-blowing.’
‘The adrenaline rush went on for hours,’ Shore said. ‘It was just a high like you could never imagine. Just to see something that incredible — to be there, at the right place on the planet at the right time.
Researchers believe the whales are returning to the area as populations recover from now-banned commercial whaling.