Whale tales

A most unusual visitor has taken up residence in the harbour at the V&;A Waterfront. Stephan Pretorius of Strand said he heard about the dwarf sperm whale, Kogia breviceps, from Trevor Hardaker of the South African Rare Bird News (SARBN).

This is the smallest species in the world that is referred to as a whale. To spot a sperm whale in southern African waters you have to travel out to sea, which is not South Africa and so it’s something people are unlikely to see again. This fascinating species is the deepest diving of all of the whales, with the ability to hold its breath for up to 1.5 hours. It is at those depths that it finds its favourite prey, the giant squid. The whale reaches a total length of 3.8m, has a distinct hump on the back when at the surface, and has a rounded fin that is recurved.

The experts have little idea why it is here but say its condition has deteriorated in the three weeks it has been here. On Saturday a diver from NGO African Adventures and an NSRI dingy were trying to coax it out of the harbour, but with all the sea traffic going past they had no joy.