Scientists got a rare surprise when a sperm whale interacted with their ROV underwater robot called Hercules. Researchers with Nautilus Live note that sperm whales rarely interact with ROVs so the photobomb was completely unexpected. The encounter was captured on video as the scientists studied methane bubbles and sampled the water in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
In the video, you can watch as the Hercules underwater robot floats 1,962 feet below the Gulf of Mexico waters. As the video rolls you can see a strange gray object enter the screen and disappear. The object then swims around the robot a few times while one researcher ponders what the creature could be, noting, “what the heck is that?” Shortly after, another crew member answers, “We have a sperm whale. Awesome.”
The crew says the sperm whale was highly unexpected as the creatures typically do not interact with underwater robots. In fact, it is a very rare occurrence. USA Today notes that the researchers were most concerned with potential damage to the equipment as the whales are rather large in size. However, the scientists say that the whale never bumped into the ROV, but just swam around the unit.
“He spent 15 minutes circling and examining the ROV and was at one point eye-to-eye with the equipment. Shockingly, he didn’t even tap the vehicle.”
The Nautilus crew says this is the first time they have come in contact with a sperm whale and found the interaction exciting. For those interested in the work being done by the Nautilus Live expedition, footage from the ship is streamed 24 hours a day and can be viewed online from anywhere in the world.