Franco Banfi was free diving off the coast of Dominica when he stumbled on this spectacular phenomenon.
Have you ever wondered how sperm whales sleep? A rare photograph by seasoned wildlife photographer Franco Banfi shows you how. The whales sleep vertically, making for a fascinating and eerie sight. This photo was captured off the coast of Dominica, an island country in the Caribbean.
This phenomenon was first seen in the UK by a team of biologists from UK and Japan in 2008. When they found a group of sperm whales floating below the surface, barely responsive, they were baffled. They went on to analyze data from some of the whales they had tagged to understand this behavior, Nature Knows reports. It was then that they discovered that this is how the giant mammals rested.
Banfi was following a pod of sperm whales along with his fellow divers in January 2017, in hope of picture opportunities. According to Amateur Photographer, he makes these trips in January as it has the best weather and sea conditions to photograph whales.
All of a sudden, the giant whales they were following seemed to "fall into a vertical slumber." They free dived and managed to capture this phenomenon. His partner Sabrina Belloni, who is also a freediver, can be seen in the shots. She can be seen hovering above the group of whales who all seem to be shooting upwards towards the surface of the water.
Researchers have found that whales spend about seven percent of their time taking short naps.
These brief naps that last anywhere between six to 24 minutes may be the only time these whales sleep. "This was a group of around ten sperm whales all sleeping together," Banfi told The Daily Mail. "I don't know why they sleep vertically, maybe because they can use the sonar they have in their head to sense any danger approaching."
Was lucky enough to swim alongside sleeping sperm whale and calf, one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life, you could feel the sonar pulsing through your body... #BluePlanet2 @BluePlanetII @BBCOne pic.twitter.com/fWtgOrIWqU— Steve Backshall (@SteveBackshall) November 19, 2017
The Swiss photographer went on to say, "I was very lucky to see such a great moment in nature, and I'm thankful the whales trusted me and gave me the opportunity to attend the show. It doesn't happen like that every time you see them."
The images he captured of the sleeping whales were shortlisted for the Big Picture Competition in 2017.
Sperm whales are commonly found mainly in the deep oceans, from the equator to the edge of the pack ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. This species of whales are still recovering from the commercial whaling practices that have significantly reduced their population.
You can swim with whales like Banfi did in Dominica but this part of their tourism is still under wraps. Only a few permits are granted each year and are given only to accredited tour operators. They must follow strict regulations and all of this is done to safeguard the whales’ welfare, reported National Geographic.