Deep-sea explorers were caught by surprise when a sperm whale approached their rover nearly 2,000 feet below sea level.
The crew of the remotely-operated underwater vehicle, Hercules, was doing a routine dive at 1,962 feet below the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday when, suddenly, a monster drifted into frame.
A massive sperm whale approached the craft and circled it several times, giving the crew opportunity to capture up-close footage of the creature.
The ROV is operated by members of the 2015 Nautilus Expedition, a scientific mission dedicated to exploring new frontiers of the ocean and mapping the Galapagos Rift, where the first hydrothermal vent was discovered. Along the way, they’ve educated students and armchair adventurers around the world with live online broadcasts, and it was during one of these when the gentle giant decided to make his appearance.
Sperm whale sighting are few and far between, due to the animal’s shy nature and its ability to dive below the reach of humans and most underwater vehicles. While the whales live at the surface, they can hold their breath for over an hour and dive 10,000 feet into the abyss to prey on bottom-dwelling giant squid. Even with technology that allows humans to probe deeper into the ocean, the sperm whale is rarely captured on camera, which explains why the ROV crew is absolutely giddy with excitement about the up-close encounter.
Even these great scientific minds seemed perplexed as to why exactly the sperm whale approached the ROV. But whether it was investigating a possible food source, curious about the high-tech invader into its watery world, or simply showing off for the camera, it definitely left an impression on the crew and countless people watching online.
The Nautilus Expedition will be broadcasting for another six months until wrapping up their journey in late September. If you want to follow along with their deep sea exploration, you can join the live stream any time on NauitlusLive.org. If the expedition’s footage so far is any indication, there are plenty of surprises left to come.