Animals Wildlife Epic Photos Taken While Swimming in a Superpod of Whales By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated June 27, 2020 credit: Tony Wu via bioGraphic Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species An underwater photographer found himself amidst a rare and enormous gathering of sperm whales; his photos are out of this world. Tony Wu is a naturalist and photographer who has been using his gifts for decades to encourage people to appreciate and protect the beauty of the oceans. Last year he was out at sea in a small boat looking for whales when lo and behold, he saw not one, but many. As he recounts for the wonderful website, bioGraphic: When a faint puff of condensation shot into the air on the horizon, I thought it was a mirage, an artifact of fatigue and my compromised senses. But when I saw a second, I knew there was only one thing it could be – the exhalation of a surfacing whale. Excitedly, I counted a third, then a fourth, a dozen... no, hundreds! That’s how I came to witness a phenomenon few have ever seen before. Skimming over the waves, I stopped the boat a short distance from where I had seen the whales’ last blow and slipped quietly into the sea. I could scarcely believe my eyes. Hundreds of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) swam to and fro, their huge bodies elegantly twirling and twisting through the water as they socialized. Bumping, jostling, and rubbing themselves against one another, they were exuberantly tactile, their behavior appeared almost euphoric. I felt like a gatecrasher at a wedding, so obvious was their delight in each other’s company. The whale party he witnessed was an enormous superpod gathering of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals actively engaged in a frenzy of physical contact and biosonar communication. While scientists aren't exactly sure why these graceful giants gather in such extraordinary numbers, one thing is for sure: It might be one of the most beautiful things on the planet, as evidenced by the photos Wu shot and which can be seen on the following pages. credit: Tony Wu via bioGraphic Don't try this at home! You may be wondering about the wisdom of diving into a frenzy of hundreds of 40-ton wild animals, Wu has more than 16 years of experience observing, photographing, and interacting with sperm whales and other cetaceans. He knew that they would not be aggressive, especially given that they were preoccupied with socializing. Still, with bodies bumping and flukes flying, being able to read the whales’ movements and anticipate their actions were crucial to his safety, notes bioGraphic. credit: Tony Wu via bioGraphic Caption: An inquisitive sperm whale calf approaches, buzzing the photographer with biosonar. The calf was part of a family group made up of several adult females and three juveniles. credit: Tony Wu via bioGraphic This one might be my favorite. Caption: A curious family of sperm whales, comprising several adult females and three juveniles. The prominent white stripes on the surface of the adult in the foreground made it relatively easy for Wu to distinguish this family unit from the many dozens of others gathered in the area. credit: Tony Wu via bioGraphic Caption: A family of sperm whales engaged in social activity, including a great deal of physical contact and biosonar communication. credit: Tony Wu via bioGraphic Because all good things must come to an end, so too did the gathering of whales, but not for another two days after Wu first came across them. What an enormous treasure to have experienced this, and how lucky we are that Wu was there to witness it with his camera in hand.