Although further investigation is needed, the animal was reported to be a Sperm Whale, the largest toothed whale species on the planet, known to grow to 20 metres in length, possessing the largest brain in the animal kingdom and diving to incredible depths in search of their prey, giant squid species. Melville’s fictional whale Moby Dick was a Sperm Whale.
The reason for the animal’s demise was unclear, but whatever the reason, the whale had most likely been carried into the Channel from the Atlantic by the action of strong tides, where it could pose a threat to shipping and may need to be sunk or brought ashore. Stranding records for Sperm Whale do occur annually, but these are normally in Scotland and along the North Sea East coast of England, if it is a dead Sperm Whale, its presence in the English Channel, would be a rare occurrence.
During the preceding 2 days of the ecotourism cruise, the BDRP team had already encountered 13 Sperm Whale, primarily in their natural deep water habitat in a water depth in excess of 3000 metres. A further 11 species of whales and dolphin were also encountered in the productive waters of the Bay of Biscay and English Channel.
Tom Brereton, chief scientific officer for BDRP commented:
“Sperm Whale are known to dive to well over 3000 metres in depth and are often encountered in Biscay at depths in excess of 4000 metres. These mammals will dive on average for 45 minutes to an hour, then, on surfacing, they will remain almost motionless for 5 – 10 minutes whilst they re-oxygenate prior to the next dive. Seeing these whales as they raise their tail flukes and dive is an amazing sight.”
Like all large whale species, Sperm Whale numbers were drastically depleted as a result of whaling and still face threats today, including ship strike, entanglement in fishing nets, pollution and damage from high frequency sonar.
Adrian Shephard | alfa
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