The Sperm Whale Who Studied Us

Oban shorefront 1981
For nine days, from 31 March to 8 April 2013 a subadult sperm whale decided to come close in shore off the Scottish town of Oban. In fact, so close that he gained a habit of watching tourists eat breakfast outside a local backpackers. This activity took the notice of the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS), who advised the local Oban authorities. It also gained the notice of the local media as reported Here.

Because it was disrupting the shipping lanes, SAMS put a whole team to work studying this one animal. They found a young adult male that was displaying an peculiar combination of behaviors, several of them abnormal.

  1. He displayed no signs of discomfort or distress
  2. He was aware of his surroundings, and the way out but chose to stay in harbour
  3. He showed no feeding behaviour or inclination to eat during the entire visit
  4. He showed no sign of ill health
  5. By the time he left he had lost much weight and was almost emaciated

So, this healthy whale went to great lengths to hang around a Scottish town and shipping lane. Whatever his objective, he was was prepared to pay an extraordinarily high price for it. Maybe, just maybe, sperm whales are far more interested in human operations than we credit.

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