Sperm Whale Sounding by Gina Ruttle  (Whalegeek)

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Male sperm whale sounding just off Kaikoura, located on the eastern coast of South Island, New Zealand.

A deep (4000’) sea trench is located minutes by boat off of Kaikoura, NZ. Male bachelor sperm whales live here year round, diving to immense depths in search of meals of giant squid or fish. After 40" or so given to a deep dive, sperm whales rise to the surface for life-giving breaths. Sperm whales’ oxygenation of their muscles is 95% whereas humans oxygenate approximately 20% of their tissue in a deep breath. Amazing creatures, aren’t they?

This whale tail was captured as Tiaki, the Protector in Maori, dove for a meal in the depths off of Kaikoura. Tiaki received his name as he was once observed fending off an attack on a smaller sperm whale.

Near Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand

Camera equipment: Canon 40D with a Canon 100-400mm lens, shutter 1/500, f 8.0, focal length 275mm, ISO 400.

December 3, 2008.

It is my sincere wish that visitors to my portfolio experience the beauty and wonder of nature. Moreover my hope is that my photographs will inspire viewers to be proactive toward the protection of wildlife and its habitat, those efforts ultimately making a far better world for all beings.

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  • Teresa Zieba
    Teresa Ziebaabout 6 years ago

    Wow, impressive capture. I tried to do this when I was in Hawaii and it’s very hard. Beautiful.

  • Gina Ruttle  (Whalegeek)
    Gina Ruttle (...about 6 years ago

    Thank you, Teresa. I spent many days on the water looking for the perfect sperm whale tail shot. With this one, all elements came together; lighting cooperated, boat motion wasn’t unpleasant, no rain was pelting me in the face, and the captain of our whale watching boat placed his vessel into the perfect position. Sperm whale tails are a bit easier to capture than humpback whales’ flukes since sperm whales log on the surface re-oxygenating their muscles for 8-10" before they make a shallow dive and then a deep 45" or longer dive to the watery depths. This predictable behavior gives a viewer/photographer some time to get into position.

  • Teresa Zieba
    Teresa Ziebaalmost 6 years ago


  • Gina Ruttle  (Whalegeek)
    Gina Ruttle (...almost 6 years ago

    Thank you ever so much, Teresa for the Feature of my sperm whale tail. Also, YOU MADE MY DAY after my little Snares Island Penguin was chosen as Islands Of The World’s group avatar. This is such an honor! I’m grinning from ear to ear.

  • A.M. Ruttle
    A.M. Ruttlealmost 6 years ago

    Wow, whalegeek, thanks for getting so upclose and personal with the whales and sharing your images with all of us! Wish I could be there with you!

  • Thanks ever so much, A.M. Ruttle. I’d love to take everyone along on my whale adventures. Check out the new snorkeling with whales photos in my portfolio when you have spare time. Sharing a small piece of the ocean with JD, or Juvenile Delinquent, the young humpback calf brought many emotions to the surface.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • bigkahunadiver
    bigkahunadiveralmost 6 years ago

    Killer shot! how long of a lens?……. I did some sperm whales in the Bahamas and had to use a 400mm and still wish i was closer.. Good job!

  • Thank you, Mike. Happy to hear you enjoyed the image. You do fine work with the creatures of the deep so your comment is especially appreciated.

    I used a 100-400mm lens on this whale’s tail. The focal length was 275mm. My husband and I spent days looking at these particular whales but the day I caught this image was especially good. The captain of our boat was able to maneuver her vessel into perfect position for when the whale sounded. Waves were cooperative, not knocking us off our feet. Most shocking of all, the sun was in the correct position, too.

    I just saw a video on the web of a fellow who snorkeled with the resident sperm whales off Dominica. Think I’ll have to get on down there for a look.

    Unless one is lucky enough to see a breach, sperm whales don’t do an awful lot on average. Helicopter views are great; that’s something I’d recommend highly if journeying to Kaikoura, NZ for the sperm whales. One has a far different perspective on these great leviathans from high in the air where their massive size becomes more obvious.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Michelle BarlondSmith
    Michelle Barlo...almost 6 years ago


  • Many thanks for having a look at my portfolio. Sperm whales are truly magnificent creatures.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Kathy Reid
    Kathy Reidover 5 years ago

    Awesome shot …. lovely lighting! We live 2hrs from Kaikoura and go there reasonably often for water sports but haven’t had the pleasure to go out on the Whale watching boat yet!

  • How fortunate you are to live so near to lovely Kaikoura. What a beautiful setting it occupies. One tip for when you go whale watching off Kaikoura. The more times you can arrange to be on the water, the better. One of our days in Kaikoura there were terrible swells on the ocean that caused the remainder of the sailings to be cancelled that day. Fortunately we had more days to be on the water for some good looks at sperm whales’ tails. It’s best to be flexible. The dolphin swim was also quite exhilarating. I’d recommend that, too. Have fun and say hello to those wonderful whales for me.

    – Gina Ruttle (Whalegeek)

  • Kathy Reid
    Kathy Reidover 5 years ago

    Thanks for the great advise :))

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