I've just arrived at Kasawari Lembeh Resort, and I'm getting ready to get some sleep to rest up for a full day of diving tomorrow (hurray!). Before I hit the sack, I thought I'd post one final set of images from Ogasawara...a couple of photographs of Bryde's whales.
Our final day in Ogasawara was a beautiful one...winds calm, sun bright, water a perfect blue...but not a sperm whale in sight. After we had cruised around for several hours without much to show for our efforts, keen-eyed Julia Sumerling spotted something far off in the distance.
We lost whatever it was, then saw it again, then wandered around semi-aimlessly...and eventually, late in the afternoon, we zeroed in enough to see that Julia had spotted a pair of elusive Bryde's whales (pronounced "brooda's" whales).
There are at least two species of Bryde's whales, Balaenoptera brydei and Balaenoptera edeni. According to the captain and his wife, the pair we came across were the latter.
I believe that encounters with Bryde's whales are rare. They certainly are in Ogasawara. Makoto-san has been working with cetaceans in Ogasawara for over 20 years, and this was only his second encounter. Tomoko-san had never seen a Bryde's whale in local waters.
The pair was travelling at high speed, spending a lot of time submerged, coming up for a few short breaths before diving again.
Though obviously together, the pair didn't stay with one another all the time. They split up and put quite a bit of distance between them on several occasions, which contributed to the difficulty of tracking them. Fast-moving, zig-zagging, submerged whales aren't exactly easy to follow.
At one point, the pair pulled up alongside the boat. With crystal-clear visibility and bright sun overhead, we could see their entire bodies.
My first impression was: "Wow...beautiful."
At roughly 12 metres in length, the Bryde's whales were sleek, streamlined, refined. The best word I can think of to describe them is "elegant".
By the time we had found the whales and managed to get close, it was late in the afternoon, so we weren't able to track them for long. The chances for an in-water encounter were slim, given their high-speed and general elusiveness, but after securing a few topside ID images, I suited up and waited for an opportunity to get in...which came just as we were about to give up.
One of the whales swam alongside, the captain dropped engine power, and in we went. The whale kept going, but when I dived down to get a better look, it turned and swam parallel to me for just a few brief seconds...long enough for me to take a handful of pictures...before it turned away and continued going wherever it was going.
The crater-like scars on the whale's body (clearly visible in the image below) are probably from bites by cookie-cutter sharks, deep dwellers that make a living by carving out chunks of flesh from larger animals like this.
My virgin experience seeing a Bryde's whale in the water...a perfect end to a perfect trip.
Note: Photographs taken under permit.