Rare Footage Shows Sperm Whale Giving Birth With Help From Her Pod
While diving in the waters of the North Atlantic recently, veteran filmmaker Kurt Amsler had what he says was "the greatest experience" in his 45 years of underwater wildlife photography - capturing rare footage of a newborn sperm whale.
Amsler tells Caters News that he and his crew had been slowly tracking a pod of sperm whales near the Azores islands when they happened upon an unusual scene. Amsler discovered a small group of whales huddled together in an odd arrangement and amid a faint cloud of blood.
"At first I thought this could explain the pod's strange behaviour - a wounded animal watched over by the others," says Amsler. "I then descend to 15 meters [to] carefully pass beneath the whales. And now they are clearly distinguished from the background and I realise what is happening - this is not a wounded animal but a mother giving birth."
Incredibly, the pregnant whale and her newborn calf were being attended to by others in the pod, Amsler describes as "midwives," who nudged the infant to the surface to take his first breath.
Fortunately, the calf appeared to be in good health, gaining his strength quickly under the watchful eye of his mother and pod.
"With every passing minute the baby is increasingly mobile and able to swim independently over short distances. I can also hear his communication, which has a higher pitch than the others – the voice of a child," Amsler says.
While the stirring scenes Amsler caught on film are certainly heartwarming, sperm whales, classified as an endangered species, are still reeling after two centuries of rampant whaling, which claimed the lives of some 1 million whales before the practice was banned.
The species has since rebounded, but are still under threat from human activity because of boat strikes, entanglements in fishing gear and ocean pollution.
Amsler writes on Facebook that he hopes his footage might help generate a newfound respect for these endangered animals:
"These images where made in respect to the animals and with special permission by the Azores Government. This film and photo documents are unique and worldwide publications will sensibilize people to stand up for the Whales!!"
Watch the video in its entirety below: