National Geographic : 1984 Dec
On Assignment SAILING THE INDIAN OCEAN off the coasts of India and Sri Lanka may seem like a delightful adventure, but if your sched ule is dictated by the erratic movements of sperm whales, the glamor quickly fades. "It sounds exotic, but it's actually quite ex hausting, because we follow them day and night," says zoologist Hal Whitehead. Here, aboard the sloop Tulip (below), which served as the project's research vessel, he stands watch flanked by crew members Caroline Smythe and Philip Gilligan. A native of Derby, England, Whitehead learned to sail in the United States during boy hood summers spent at his maternal grand mother's house on Maine's Islesboro Island. He holds a Ph.D. in zoology from Cambridge University and has studied whales off the coasts of Greenland and Newfoundland and in the West Indies. Though his fondness for the giants is unshakable, he says, "The whales had no idea what anguish they caused us when they suddenly changed direction or crossed in front of a passing ship." "I've worked with a lot of whales before," says photographer Flip Nicklin (below), "but the sperm whale is special. It's like diving with Moby Dick." For this assignment Nicklin put his scuba gear aside and used only a snorkel, since sperm whales shy away from bubbles produced by air tanks. A veteran diver, the San Diego native has photographed articles on three other whale species-humpbacks, rights, and killer whales-for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, and another on krill, a favorite whale food. "We're just getting beyond the survey years in whale photography," says Nicklin. "Eventually we'll see pictures that will really knock your socks off." And Nicklin hopes to be the one who trips the shutter.