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SPERM WHALES

Sperm Whales are the primary species of research of the scientists onboard the R/V Odyssey. Read education reports about the largest predator in the sea.


March 24, 2004
'The Science of the Voyage - Collecting Biopsy Samples from Sperm Whales'
"This is Roger Payne speaking to you from the Ocean Alliance's whale research vessel Odyssey. Today, we go behind the scenes and examine how we find and track sperm whales, take tissue biopsies from sperm whales and see how that data is processed with at the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution."
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June 13, 2003
'Pygmy Killer Whales and Sperm Whales'
"One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of a long-term, oceanic expedition is that the crew is never quite sure of what events each day will bring. We have learned to always expect the unexpected."
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April 18, 2003
'Whales in the Gulf of Mannar'
"The Odyssey crew departed Colombo and headed north late yesterday afternoon with great anticipation and high hopes of finding whales. Early this morning we passed over the edge of the continental shelf into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mannar. Almost immediately, Mark, our first mate, heard the clicks of sperm whales through our acoustic array."
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January 28, 2003
'Deep Divers and the Bends'
"Sperm Whale are very deep divers. People often ask us how these air breathing mammals can dive to such great depths for extended periods of time without suffering from decompression sickness, also known as the 'bends.'"
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November 3, 2002
'Moby Dick of the Seychelles'
"After five days at sea, we have barely travelled more than 10 nautical miles, for the density of sperm whales in this area is incredibly thick. So far, the clusters of five to ten animals have consisted mainly of adult females and sub-adult males and females, as well as a few scattered young bulls. However, today was a different story!"
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September 27, 2002
'Challenges of Tracking Whales at Night'
"Throughout the day, we are able to visually spot the whales by looking for their blows when they come to the surface. However, at night, we have to rely solely on sound in finding and tracking sperm whales, this can be a far greater challenge."
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July 12, 2002
'Sperm Whales & Orcas'
"Our thoughts drifted back to the sperm whales we had left only hours ago. Sperm whales are sometimes attacked and killed by Orcas, although the size of mature sperm whale bulls, and the communal defence by healthy groups of females or young males usually keep them safe from predation. We hope they are still moving quickly and that they are now too far away to be detected by the orcas."
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July 5, 2002
'Architeuthis - The Giant Squid'
"Most of us have a perception of this creature, that was born of the many legends and myths that have so long surrounded it. However, the truth about this animal may be quite different. Inaccurate information regarding the giant squid is often found in popular literature. So what do scientists really know about this creature? "
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June 30, 2002
'Legends of the Deep'
"Today a whale abruptly fluked and I noticed something floating just below the surface about 20 meters away. "It's a squid!" - yelled Chris from the bow. We scooped it up in our net, laid it out on the deck and found it to be a large fin, 21 inches (55 centimeters) long. It was the fin of a very large squid. Was this a fin from a species of Giant Squid?"
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May 19, 2002
'Surveying the New Holland Grounds'
"The Wallaby Saddle, made up of two, large, underwater plateaus - Cuvier plateau and Zenith plateau, runs through the center of the New Holland Grounds. Each of these plateaus rises from the ocean floor for 5 kilometres to within about 1 kilometres of the surface."
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May 6, 2002
'A Win for Whales - The Establishment of a Whale Sanctuary in PNG'
"We were with whales late yesterday afternoon when we received news that lifted our hearts and hopes in a way few of us have experienced in our lifetimes."
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April 15, 2002
'Scrimshaw'
"In Albany, Australia, we have met several interesting local people, among them, Gary Tonkin - an artist and scrimshander of exceptional ability, and a major force in his community. Gary is one of the people responsible for persuading the local government and Albany community into preserving the retired whaling station, and converting it into a whale museum."
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March 21, 2002
'Shadowing the Whalers'
"In the late afternoon sun, we sailed through the heads into King George Sound, the harbor on which this town was settled in 1826. Strangely, our usually talkative crew, always excited to enter a new port for the first time, was collectively silent. We were preoccupied with thoughts of a time, not very long ago, when thousands of dead sperm whales were dragged through this very same narrow passage, the South Channel."
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March 1, 2002
'Whales Abound'
"Heathcote Williams, author of 'Whale Nation' once said - "From space the planet is blue. From space, the planet is the territory , Not of humans, but of the whale.""
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February 25, 2002
'Townsend's Charts'
"Sperm whales roam the world's oceans ranging from the equatorial waters to the polar regions, yet we still do not know much more than the nineteenth century whalers did about their migration patterns."
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January 27, 2002
'The Whalers of Albany'
"Paddy Hart and Chase Van Der Gaag worked as skippers and master gunners aboard the Cheynes Beach Whaling Stations catcher boats. Between them they spent almost 30 years chasing and dispatching sperm whales that were processed and sold to overseas markets. Today they share some of their past experiences with us."
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January 21, 2002
'The History of Whaling in Albany, Australia'
"For almost two centuries, whalers from around the globe came to the waters of King George Sound and the surrounding areas for the same reason to hunt right whales, humpback whales and sperm whales. The last working whaling station [in Australia] only closed in Albany in 1978. This vast natural harbor on the remote southern coast of Western Australia has a rich and sometimes violent maritime history."
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December 17, 2001
'The Evolution of Whales'
"The earliest mammals appeared about 200 million years ago as air-breathing, land-dwelling creatures that were warm blooded, had hair, and nursed their young. About 50 million years ago, the earliest known true whales appeared, having apparently evolved from large, carnivorous land mammals right after the earliest ancestors of the first whales made the first tentative motions to reinvade the sea."
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October 26, 2001
'Preparing a Sperm Whale Skeleton for Display'
"The other day we spoke with Jared Archibald, taxidermist and preparator at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, about the adult male sperm whale that stranded on a Darwin city beach seven years ago. In order to assist with public education about marine mammals and in particular, large cetacean species, the museum has spent the last few years preparing the skeleton for public display. Jared explains the process."
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October 23, 2001
'A Sperm Whale Stranding in Darwin'
"Seven years ago, a 50 foot adult male sperm whale, weighing approximately forty tons was washed ashore at Casuarina, one of the Darwin's most popular beaches. Although there is no coordinated network in place to deal with stranded animals of this magnitude, Australian Parks and Wildlife officials did their best to save the dying animal."
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August 9, 2001
'How Do Sperm Whales Produce Sound?'
"Sperm whales are highly acoustic animals that emit powerful, regular clicks almost continuously while they are underwater. In large males, up to one third of the entire body length is made up of the huge nose, the world's largest biological sound generator."
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July 24, 2001
'Papua New Guinea Takes a Stand Against Whaling'
"It is the first day of the 53rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Global tension is mounting as member nations gather in London, England to discuss the future of the whales of the world. It is highly likely that the resolutions of this years meeting will spell disaster for the great whales."
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July 20, 2001
'Marine Mammal Forum'
"The Odyssey crew have spent the last few days in Port Moresby, where the Ocean Alliance together with The Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery and the United States Embassy hosted a two day Marine Mammal Forum. The aim of the forum was to bring together fisheries officials, policy and decision makers and environmental management groups to discuss the status of marine mammal protection in Papua New Guinea waters. Currently, only the dugong, a relative of the manatee, is protected by law."
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June 12, 2001
'Sperm Whale Socialization'
"Sperm whales are cosmopolitan animals. They inhabit the blue waters of all of the world's oceans and are well known as the most social of all the great whales."
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June 8, 2001
'The Dive Cycle of the Sperm Whale'
"While the whale is at the surface, it recovers for about 10 to 15 minutes after a dive, blowing heavily every 10 to 15 seconds. When the oxygen stores in the blood and muscle tissue are replenished, there is sufficient oxygen to allow the whale to hold its breath for the next 40 to 50 minutes. Sperm whales repeat this cycle with varying intervals, throughout the day and night".
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June 6, 2001
'The Diving Physiology of the Sperm Whale'
"In order to exploit the food sources of deeper waters, whales have to stay submerged at great depth for extended periods of time. Sperm whales are masters of this discipline as they may dive to depths of 2000 meters, holding their breath for an extraordinary, 1.5 hours. So how do they accomplish this?"
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April 17, 2001
'Acoustic Clues to Sperm Whale Ecology'
"So there is a wide array of uses that researchers have for these 'clicks'. For instance we use clicks to track the whales, which is very basic in this voyage and in any sperm whale ecological research. We listen to the clicks passively and track them via a directional hydrophone. We can look for dive times and surface intervals, by looking at click patterns, by looking at when do the whales click and when do they stop clicking, which indicates that they are surfacing."
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March 15, 2001
'The Acoustic Realm of the Sperm Whale: Part I'
"We have been surveying a relatively unknown area in terms of whale and dolphin species, and have been thrilled to encounter several groups of sperm whales. Some have been in tight clusters of eight to ten animals, others spread out in small groups of three and four, as well as several individuals in loose associations. It has been particularly interesting to collect acoustic recordings, or vocalizations from these diverse groups, differing in compositions of abundance, sex and age."
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March 18, 2001
'The Acoustic Realm of the Sperm Whale - Part II'
"One would be hard pressed to encounter a more impressive animal than the adult male sperm whale, by any measure it is a most magnificent animal. The largest predator in the sea, he may reach lengths of over 60 ft (18m), he has nothing to fear and is the undisputed king of his ocean home."
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February 8, 2001
Ambergris
"One of the most unusual and mysterious byproducts of the sperm whaling industry was ambergris. It is a grayish, waxy, buoyant substance, associated only with the sperm whale. It is believed to form around the beaks of squid to avoid irritation in the intestine."
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December 22, 2000
How We Find and Track Sperm Whales
"To find and track sperm whales we use a hydrophone array (two underwater microphones housed in a 30 foot, oil-filled tube and towed behind the ship from a 100 meter-long cable). Alone, this acoustic array gives us very good stereo sound from the sea surrounding the boat."
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June 30, 2003
'A Renewed Hope for Whales - The 2003 International Whaling Commission Meeting'
"The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has concluded for another year. The crew was ecstatic to learn that those working for the protection of the great whales 'for all time', achieved a narrow victory over the loathsome representatives of whaling nations that eagerly anticipate a return to the commercial slaughter."
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June 13, 2003
'Pygmy Killer Whales and Sperm Whales'
"One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of a long-term, oceanic expedition is that the crew is never quite sure of what events each day will bring. We have learned to always expect the unexpected."
Read more >>
Listen to the Odyssey report:
Real Audio -  >28k
May 6, 2003
'How Ships' Traffic Noise affects Whales In a Shipping Channel '
"The Odyssey crew is currently working 50 miles southwest of Dondra Head near the southern tip of the island. Over the past three days we have sighted between forty and fifty sperm whales, even though we are sailing in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the entire Indian Ocean. The majority of ships travelling around the southwest coast of Sri Lanka are moving between the Suez Canal and Eastern India and from there on to elsewhere in Asia or to Australia."
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April 25, 2003
'Sperm Whales and Elephants'
"It is difficult to imagine two mammals with more different habitats, however, there are striking parallels between the lives of these aquatic carnivores and terrestrial herbivores."
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April 18, 2003
'Whales in the Gulf of Mannar'
"The Odyssey crew departed Colombo and headed north late yesterday afternoon with great anticipation and high hopes of finding whales. Early this morning we passed over the edge of the continental shelf into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mannar. Almost immediately, Mark, our first mate, heard the clicks of sperm whales through our acoustic array."
Read more >>
Listen to the Odyssey report:
Real Audio -  >28k
January 28, 2003
'Deep Divers and the Bends'
"Sperm Whale are very deep divers. People often ask us how these air breathing mammals can dive to such great depths for extended periods of time without suffering from decompression sickness, also known as the 'bends.'"
Read more >>
Watch the Odyssey report:
Real Audio -  >28k
 
 
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