National Geographic : 1995 Nov
An upside-down audience of whales Being stared at by sperm whales was a novel event for Nicklin. "I was snorkeling on the surface when the whales showed up 50 feet below me. They turned over and floated belly up for 15 minutes sending out sound waves to echolocate me. I could feel them looking at me." The unorthodox posture principally aids vision. Right side up, the whales' upward vision is restricted by their bulky heads. By turning over, the whales could use both eyes together, improving their depth perception. Nicklin saw the whales easily from the vivid outline of their lower jaws. The white skin coloring probably plays a role in visual communication between group members. Sperm whales are usually heard but not seen. Counting whales, researcher Jonathan Gordon (below) listens hard to a hydrophone. If he hears a loud clang, he knows a big male is somewhere near.