"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean"
- Arthur C. Clarke
- Arthur C. Clarke
I have had the good fortune to meet many other species of cetaceans. I haven't spent as much time with them as I have with humpbacks and sperm whales, but on this page, I will share a some photos of a number of species, including blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus), southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), Bryde's whales (Balaenoptera edeni), dwarf minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata, as yet to be named subspecies), killer whales (Orcinus orca), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), Indo-Pacific common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris).
Dolphins let it all hang out quite frequently. It's just a normal part of social dynamics in many dolphin species. This one, an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, was interacting with other males for an extended period of time. There was no obvious jockeying for dominance, but surely displays like this must have some significance?
One thing that has become apparent to me over time is that while each species has unique characteristics and behaviours, there are often similarities as well. Whenever I meet a new species, I spend time observing first, if at all possible.
I watch, try to discern what I can about how the individuals relate to one another, what they do when they are comfortable, or when they're not. I will have also read about the species, studied books and scientific papers, to glean whatever knowledge possible in advance. On location, if I can pick up on social cues and proper etiquette, so to speak, prior to attempting a first approach, it improves the odds of mutually respectful, productive encounters.
It troubles me to see a growing number of people charging in, plunging into the water, splashing like idiots, interrupting social behaviour, knowing nothing about the animals in question, not caring so long as they get photos, any photos, to post to social media.
Sadly, the flood of such ego-tourists is being increasingly enabled by tour operators who are happy to trade the welfare of wildlife for profit, under the pretence of ecotourism. This phenomenon is not just affecting the animals of the sea of course. Animals on land are also being subjected to the global onslaught of mass narcissism.
No photo, no amount of likes or hearts or whatever, justifies harassing animals.
I will wrap up this section with a few sad images. I don't want to bring you down, but it's an important subject. Most whale species have done well since the official moratorium on commercial hunting was agreed upon in 1986. We should be thankful for that. But that doesn't mean we humans are not still killing many whales each year. Because we are.
It's just that these days, whale deaths (along with the deaths of a lot of other marine life) are caused not by harpoons, but by fishing gear, ship strikes, habitat loss, noise pollution from seismic testing, and ingestion of pollution. Stress from ego-tourism is likely exacting a toll as well.
You probably don't hear much about these topics, because they're not "sexy" in a TV-ratings sense, and most people do not wish to hear that we are all complicit in potentially thousands of whale deaths a year.
The last three photos below are of a blue whale caught in fishing line, a Bryde's whale brought into port stuck to the bow of a container vessel, and a blue whale that had probably died from a ship strike, literally split open by the impact. (Click to read about the blue whale on my blog.)
If you'd like more information on these topics, follow my public Evernote notebooks on ship strikes, entanglements, seismic testing, and plastic garbage. The notebooks are not comprehensive, but I save relevant articles whenever I come across them.
Also, I can recommend reading War of the Whales, by Joshua Horwitz, if you want to learn about the damage that seismic testing (both commercial and military) can inflict upon cetaceans. The book is well-written and documented.