Sunday, December 10, 2006

In the Lagoon


In Kealakekua Bay Captain Cook's blood was spilled. The bay has blossomed with sea life, including a pod of Spinner Dolphins. There is also a place in Queensland where dolphins swim so close to shore that you can reach out and feed them. The focus of my research has been an animal I've not been able to take a good picture of, the Sperm Whale.

Unlike most great whales, which feed on shrimp and krill, the Sperm Whale enjoys calamari. His favourite dish is that most tenacious of sea beasts, the giant squid. With their nest of tentacles and parrotlike beak, they are not easy prey. The giant squid lurk in the perpetual night of the ocean bottom.

The Sperm Whale can dive to 3000 meters, deeper than a nuclear submarine. To locate a discrete target in total darkness, the whale has an enormous forehead containing an oil reservoir. This allows the whale to send out low frequency sound signals to better penetrate the ocean. Oil in the reservoir has a lower speed of sound than the surrounding water. Sound signals are thereby focused to produce a tight beam.

Sperm Whale choose to hunt the most difficult prey of all. They have been found with scars and sucker marks from titanic battles with squid. They have also fought the most dangerous predator of all. Whalers hunted the Sperm Whale for that enormous reservoir of oil. Then there was Captain Ahab. Despite the enmity of humans and squid, Sperm Whales persist in their hunt.

11 Comments:

Blogger Kea said...

On your blog, Louise, it sometimes feels like we are following the voyages of Captain Cook across the Pacific. I am quite fond of his statue in a central park of Christchurch.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Here is a picture.

3:21 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thanks for the photo, Kea. I read many books about Cook's voyages when I was younger, how he circumnavigated New Zealand on the first voyage making maps all along the way. One of these days I should get a photo of his cottage in Melbourne. He was truly daring and made amazing discoveries.

7:42 PM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

One of Cook's sailing masters on his last (fatal) trip was William Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty infamy. The most fascinating book I've read on him was about the language he used.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Bligh had an incredible life. In 1806 he became governor of New South Wales!

11:22 PM  
Blogger QUASAR9 said...

Awesome pic Louise
A piece of Paradise on Earth!

11:17 AM  
Blogger serge said...

For great images of DSP works of art and science from whale sounds, including the cachalots, aka. sperm whales, see:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/yc6d6e

http://flickr.com/photos/aguasonic/

http://www.aguasonic.com/

Mark uses his own wavelet-based software.

serge

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