An underwater photographer recently observed the birth of a baby sperm whale, watching as it was helped to the surface for its first breath by a group of female whales acting as midwives.
As the Daily Mail reports, wildlife photographer Kurt Amsler captured the remarkable footage in the Azores, after seeking special permission from the government to swim with the whales. He spent nine hours in a small boat, guided by spotters on the coast who sighted the animals.
Once in the water, Amsler noticed blood, quickly assuming that the pod of whales were protecting an injured member.
“As the whales’ communication sounds intensify, I can see the group about 18 meters in front of me, just below the surface and huddled together. With the sun directly in front of me, it is very difficult to see exactly what is going on.
“I then descend to 15 meters and carefully pass beneath the whales. And now they are clearly distinguished from the background and I realize what is happening – this is not a wounded animal but a mother giving birth.”
— DianeN56 (@DianeN56) December 4, 2014
Newborn whales are unable to swim within the first few moments of their life, and would quickly drown without assistance. As the mother is exhausted from the process of giving birth, other female whales in attendance act as midwives, guiding the baby to the surface for its first breath.
After a few moments, Amsler noted that the mother whale had recovered enough to support her newborn.
“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.”
Recently, Sea World San Diego welcomed a baby whale as well, when one of their orcas gave birth to a calf measuring between 6 and 7 feet. As the Telegraph notes, the baby was born after two hours and 15 minutes of labor.
Newborn whales often face other, immediate dangers in the wild. As the Inquisitr recently reported, kelp gulls have been observed attacking whales as they rise to the surface for breath off Argentina. The whales have developed defensive strategies, but the exhausting process is thought to contribute to higher mortality rates among young whales in the region.
Though he has documented many unique situations in his 45-year career, Amsler asserts that the birth of the baby sperm whale was the most powerful of all.
[Images: Kurt Amsler via the Daily Mail]