In fact a single adult male sperm whale can travel the entire world during its 70 year lifespan. At best, it’s looking for a little entertainment on an otherwise humdrum day. Sperm whales are extra­ordinarily intelligent animals with deep family traditions and the ability to communicate across oceans with sonic clicks. Previously these cells were only found in humans, elephants and apes which are all considered highly intelligent animals. Gaelin’s been at it pretty much ever since, though the toys have grown considerably more expensive and the subs are now real. By listening to the hydrophone, Pernell can tell if they are near or far, diving or surfacing, feeding or cruising. “Multiple animals. This looks nothing like that. This would make the whale’s sound pressure, at any given distance, the greater by 6dB, or by two fold. “West. He rotates the pole, pointing the device in every direction, face tight with concentration. She parks beside the boat and lets us swim around her like otters. It is thickset and has small paddlelike flippers and a series of rounded humps on its back. “I’ve got codas southwest of us.” He keeps listening. This is extremely easy to calculate and would be the same even if it took off silently. He lowers his hydrophone and hits pay dirt. The sperm whale has the largest brain of any creature known to have lived on Earth. The sponges protect the dolphins’ noses from scuffs, scrapes and stings, in the same way as we would protect our hands with gloves when gardening or clearing rubbish from a beach. When they see you, they’ll turn and speed past. NASA itself gives a figure that would equate to only 170dB at 1 metre, but their particular reference pertains to how humans perceive white noise when much of it is outside our hearing frequency. But those experiences won’t be like this one. In addition to all being marine mammals they share many of the same physiological traits. I also feel humbled and privileged, like I’m being granted a gift I don’t deserve. Perhaps one day we will find a way to communicate with the other intelligent beings we share our planet with. Sick with a mystery illness and being battered by waves, Physty was towed to a nearby boat basin for rehab. Plastic clogs their bellies. “I know these whales!” he says. These are all very different from our own, yet in many ways they are still more like us than you might suspect. At 67, Stacy’s still strong in the water, and offers a seasoned pair of hands to steer a boat or hold a camera. They are also very protective of each other and will defend their family and pod from any potential threats. Sound travels much better in water than light does and so it makes more sense for dolphins to sense their surroundings with sound. And there’s no getting out of the way. Making a financial contribution to Outside is not tax-deductible, but it will help pay for the writers, editors, fact-checkers, designers, and photographers that stories like these demand—and will ensure we can keep publishing them for years to come. It’s not lost on me that the story of these intensely matrilineal whale communities is being told by a mother and daughter who have been best buds for decades. Melville lays out “the pre-eminent tremendousness of the great Sperm Whale” in loving detail, and like most modern readers, I rooted for the whale, and was elated when he sunk the Pequod and got away. Subtle variations in sperm-whale calls suggest that individuals announce themselves with discrete personal identifier. The first is Billie. Can conceivably discern if we’re scared or elated. No joke. Gaelin is photographing her preeminent tremendousness, Stacy is shooting Gaelin, Pernell is tooling around with a selfie stick, and I’m trying to capture them all. Once processed, the oil had low viscosity and didn’t break down at high temperatures; it was used in everything from rifles and cosmetics to mills and locomotives. In a study published last June in Marine Mammal Sciences, they described a sound-analysis technique that linked recorded codas to individual members of a whale family living in the Caribbean. They are notoriously talented mimics and quick learners; they demonstrate self-awareness, problem-solving, and empathy, innovation, teaching skills, grief, joy and playfulness. The densely packed bubbles rise in similarly shrinking circles, effectively trapping the fish as the 'net' gets tighter, and then at the right moment, the whales swim up the net, mouths agape, and swallow the fish in great clusters. Dolphins recognise themselves in a mirror even earlier, at only seven months old. By many standards yes whales are considered intelligent. Within days, Physty had improved enough to be released into the sea, escorted by a flotilla organized by the National Marine Fisheries Service. To put it another way, they might have names. Attacking them is likely to disperse them, so instead they swim beneath the fish in ever-shrinking circles, blowing air bubbles as they go. In several locations including Brazil, India and Myanmar, dolphins have teamed up with fishermen and fished cooperatively together for generations. Whales and dolphins have large brains; brainy dolphins have a brain to body ratio second only to humans. Adopt a whale and help us protect these amazing creatures. If you are measuring the amplitude of the pressure wave, then it doubles every 6 decibels. It’s not that he’s cocky so much as pleasantly surprised at the gift that has been bestowed on him. Working in groups they split up and use a series of techniques to direct, trick and scare their prey into a cleverly devised trap which they can then use to successfully attack their prey while avoiding or minimizing risk to their own health. Whale and dolphin brains contain specialized brain cells called spindle neurons. Again I think of that New Yorker cartoon. Then there is Kelly. Most of the research on this topic actually comes from studying dolphins which belong to the same cetacean family that whales do as well as observing whales in their natural habitat.