Photographer: Diana Serebrennikova
Text: Diana Serebrennikova
Translator: Ekaterina Kurova
From a diary of Diana Serebrennikova
July 15, 2014
“The sea is shrouded in mist. The weather is perfect to swim, but it is absolutely impossible to see killer whales. We have put hydrophone receiver in the sea, trying to hear their voices. However, only even clicking of cachalots resounds in the sea. It is not surprising, because cachalot is the loudest mammal. It could have been hunting squid 50 km away from us, but it seemed that the clicking came almost from beneath us.
– Maybe we could try finding a cachalot, if it is asserting itself so loudly? It is big, and we will surely notice it, won’t we? – I ask hopefully.
– As if. We can determine the direction from where it is hunting, but to find it we need clear visibility – only then we would be able to notice the whale on the surface when it is resting. However, it is impossible to find it in such a fog – responds Tatyana sadly. She has been studying killer whales for more than 10 years.
After an hour of quiet swinging on the water we have finally decided to go search for cachalots. In the south the fog started to dissolve, and a curtain above the sea begun to crack open.
– “We have spotted a cachalot in the south-west, a couple of kilometers from here. Let’s try to look for it there,” – informed us biologists form a nearby boat. With a help of special equipment they can determine the direction from where the animal emits sounds. Nevertheless, it is one thing to understand which direction is the animal located at and it is another to see a whale on the surface. In second case we have to rely on our vision and hearing to detect sounds of breathing.
A cachalot spends about an hour under water and floats to the surface for only a couple of minutes to inhale oxygen and to come back into the sea depth once again. That is the time to spot a cachalot and to take a picture of it to identify it afterwards by its tail – each animal has a unique one. Couple of minutes after Tatiana has noticed cachalot’s back on the horizon, and we rushed to meet the mammal.
At first we barely saw some water splashes, but then a back fin appeared within a line-of-sight. A cachalot was inhaling loudly, slowly rocking on the waves. It was enormous. He has risen itself a little and looked in our direction after noticing our approach. One more second…and he has started to dive to the bottom. For the finale he has flapped his tail and disappeared. A wave pushed our boat three times and the silence came”.