Australian researchers Thursday revealed they had filmed a pod of extremely rare Shepherd’s beaked whales for the first time ever.
The Australian Antarctic Division team was tracking blue whales off the coast of Victoria state last month when they spotted the reclusive mammals, which are so rarely seen that no population estimates of the species exist.
Voyage leader Michael Double said the black and cream-coloured mammals with prominent dolphin-like beaks had been spotted in the wild only a handful of times through history.
According to the Australian environment department, there have only been two previous confirmed sightings — a lone individual in New Zealand and a group of three in Western Australia
They have never been filmed live before.
“These animals are practically entirely known from stranded dead whales, and there haven’t been many of them,” Double told AFP, calling the footage “unique”.
“They are an offshore animal, occupying deep water, and when they surface it is only for a very short period of time.”
Double said what was remarkable about the sighting was that the whale was previously thought to be a solitary creature, yet was in a pod of 10 to 12.
“To find them in a pod is very exciting and will change the guide books. Our two whale experts will now carefully study the footage to work out the whale sizes and so on and prepare a scientific paper.”
For the last 12 years, a single solitary whale whose vocalizations match no known living species has been tracked across the Northeast Pacific. Its wanderings match no known migratory patterns of any living whale species. Its vocalizations have also subtly deepened over the years, indicating that the whale is maturing and ageing. And, during the entire 12 year span that it has been tracked, it has been calling out for contact from others of its own kind. It has received no answer. Nor will it ever.
The mystery of the solitary whale has captured the imagination. Hypotheses as to its identity include the possibility that the whale is deaf, that it is a hybrid of two species, or that it is sick or malformed (although unlikely, since it has survived for more than 12 years).
Or perhaps, if you want to get weird, you can note for fun that this story matches the plot of a Star Trek Movie. But Leonard Nimoy did not pen this story; it is for real.