Secrets of the Whales

Secrets of the Whales is a celebration of the lives, personalities and cultures of whales. Whales have captivated humanity for centuries but despite our fascination, most of us have had only brief glimpses of these majestic animals and little has ... Read More

Brian Skerry

Secrets of the Whales

Secrets of the Whales is a celebration of the lives, personalities and cultures of whales.

Whales have captivated humanity for centuries but despite our fascination, most of us have had only brief glimpses of these majestic animals and little has been understood about their lives.

Brian Skerry’s work illuminates the latest scientific research that shows that, like humans, whales have complex societies and ancestral traditions.

His latest work focuses on four key species - sperm whales, humpbacks, orca and beluga whales. Within genetically identical species, whales have their own unique languages (dialects) and food preferences. For example, the orca that lives in New Zealand prefers to eat stingrays, while the orca that lives in Norway prefers herring. In each location, the whales have mastered techniques to capture their preferred foods.

Whales celebrate their identity and home. The first thing a sperm whale tells another sperm whale when they meet in the open sea is where he or she is from, … “I am from Dominica” or “I am from the Azores.” The knowledge and wisdom that whales possess about the places they live, has been acquired over eons and is passed to each new generation.

Many of these whale families are matrilineal and are led by older and wiser females. Mothers teach their babies not only the skills they will need to survive but also their family traditions. Family is very important to these animals. When a beluga whale calf is born the family gives it the same name as its mother until the little whale begins to speak ‘beluga language’ at which time the calf is given its own name. Humpback whale mothers ‘whisper’ to their calves to keep quiet when swimming in places where predators might be found. Whales are highly social creatures. They share joy, play games, have singing competitions and even mourn the loss of family members.

It is Brian’s hope that by seeing animals through the lens of culture, we might begin to understand that we share more in common with whales and other species than was once believed. Maybe, with this new perspective, we will see our direct connection to nature and be moved to take better care of our home, the Earth.

Brian Skerry