Sperm Whales Clicking You Inside Out — James Nestor at The Interval

Sperm Whales Clicking You Inside Out — James Nestor at The Interval


A sperm whale can click at about 236 decibels. It’s the loudest animal on the planet. Sperm whales can hear each other in the ocean from hundreds even thousands of miles away. Some researchers believe that they’re able to keep in contact with one another through these clicks on other sides of the planet. These clicks are so powerful in the water that they can blow out your eardrums easily. And they could actually vibrate a human body to death. So when you’re diving with them it’s a little sketchy. What I’m going to show you now is a video of some freedivers that I ended up hanging out with. I wasn’t with them during this expedition, but I was about six months later. We went on a trip together and I had the same experience. So clicks you’re going to be hearing are not coming from a boat. They aren’t coming from a camera. These are the whales clicking these guys literally from the inside out to see what they’re all about. And the clicks were so powerful that one of these guys put out his hand to stop a whale from running into him. And his hand actually was paralyzed for about four hours afterwards. So he learned not to keep out his hand in front of him when he was diving. This is an emerging discipline of research and it’s pretty sketchy. This is what it’s like. I’m not going to talk over this. We’re going to play this kind of loud, so you can really get an experience of what this is all about. So you’re going to notice the whale is going to flip on its belly. That’s where it collects those echoes, underneath its jaw. They don’t use ears under water. We get a really good look at him right now. Okay, so i know what you’re thinking: why the hell would anyone want to do that? I know that was pretty loud for all of us, but trust me in the water it’s like four million times louder. Once you’re hanging out with the whales for a long time–this didn’t happen to me, but it happened to these guys, their bodies started heating up from being pelleted with all of that energy, after a while. Again this is pretty sketchy stuff. It’s strange to do. But it’s important to note that these guys are fascinated by whales. They don’t necessarily want to freedive with them this closely. But they have to because it turns out the only way to really study these animals up close is by freediving with them. By approaching them in your natural form and interacting with them in that way. SCUBA doesn’t work, it’s too loud. Submarines don’t work; same thing. Robots don’t work; they freak them out. But when you freedive with them, this amazing paradigm shift occurs. And they not only don’t swim away, but most of the time the whales will turn around and welcome you into the pod. Sometimes they orient themselves vertically and do this very weird sort of New Age thing around you. As they’re clicking. It’s extremely intense. So the next question you’re probably asking yourself is like why research sperm whales? Well it turns out that those clicks you heard they aren’t just used for echolocation. Sperm whales and dolphins also use clicks for communication. And inside of those clicks is probably one of the most sophisticated forms of communication we’ve discovered on the planet. Could be more sophisticated than human language. Now I know that sounds completely nuts to all of you. And certainly sounded nuts to me when I first started researching this stuff a couple of years ago. But just consider a couple things. The sperm whale brain is about six times the size of ours. This is a picture of sperm whales facing us head-on. And that top thing is their nose and behind that is their brain. Now sperm whales also have a neocortex. In humans the neocortex is believed to govern higher level functions like conscious thought, future planning, and language. Well sperm whales not only have a neocortex, but theirs is about six times the size of ours. Sperm whales also have spindle cells. These are long and highly developed brain structures that neurologists have associated with compassion, love, suffering, and… you guessed it.. speech. All of those things that make humans human. And separate us from great apes. Well sperm whales not only have spindle cells, but have them in a far larger quantity than we do. And they’ve had them for 15 million years longer than we have.

100 thoughts on “Sperm Whales Clicking You Inside Out — James Nestor at The Interval

  1. Intelligent? Sure. More than humans? No. Intelligence is measurable by a ratio of brain mass to body mass.. whales, elephants, all big animals loose compared to humans cuz we have the biggest ratio of brain to body mass.

  2. So they ARE dumb af!
    Think about it: if you yell at a puppy while talking and the poor dog shrinks and tries to get away – you know you are being too loud. Dumb whale paralyzes your arm and still doesn't care. Empathy my ass.

  3. Loved the vid except the ass stupid assertion whales can communicate in a more complex way than we do. thats not "nuts" it just means that person has no idea what he is talking about. also arguing with brain size is…pffff

  4. The fantastic thing is to see these large whales (the only large ones with teeth able to chew u to pieces) are so friendly and contact seeking.

  5. Idea for a movie: Our first contact with an alien race proves to be unintentionally deadly, as the visitors simple act of communication is done in a manner that can destroy human beings from the inside out.

  6. Damn! I did not know there was an animal that could go over 200 DSB Interesting to know a there is an animal out there that can kill you with sound.

  7. Are they communicating? Yes
    Can a human understand any of it? No
    Is the human brain capable of deciphering what a the sperm whale speaks? Barely if Not yet at all
    Would the life of a whale or a dolphin be enhanced by any technological advancement? Nope they are a thousand times more free as is and fully sustained by their Eco system(unless humans destroy that like everything else they do)
    And humans think they have the most advanced brains and most advanced language for communication. Still way off the mark with how cognitively advanced whale, dolphin & octopus are.
    Mostly most humans take for granted the complex advanced body &a brain that they do have and make themselves completely dependent upon a multitude of advancements to free their mobility, to amplify their communications, to even sustain themselves at the level of food chain mankind has propped themselves upon.

  8. Not sure why whaling is a thing… just goes to show how easily humans destroy things with little regard to what comes after.

  9. Seems to me, they could be taught English or binary, Perhaps using taps/Morse code… And listen back for possible interpretation or reply
    Obviously, you'd have to build a remote pod and attach it somehow…

  10. can you answer me one question why do americans and englischmen still call this animal spermwhale although they know now its not sperm that is in its forehead?

  11. I’m sorry did anybody else catch the stupidity of what he said around 1:10? The guy put out his hand to stop a freakin sperm whale from coming at him? Lmao ok aquaman

  12. WOW! Totally interesting and also heartbreaking! What we as a subspecies have done to THEIR home is totally unconscionable! Now see if I wasn't 51 and old! I'd love to have delved more into this type of research! Thank you so much for sharing, really love the internet for learning purposes. Take care!

  13. I’m absolutely terrified of whales and the ocean, but I find it all very fascinating! I truly enjoyed this video, and I never knew about the sperm whale’s clicks being that powerful! I’m sure I’ll have nightmares tonight, but this was worth it 😂🐳

  14. Praised be to the creator and designer, architect and engineer of this kind of living machine……. amazing…..its represent the colossal amount of strength of the originator of the species who brought them to being from nothing……And it increased my believe in " Oneday I will meet the creator of human being and all species living matter and dead matter existed in this multiverse "

  15. He stuck his hand out and it was paralyzed for 4 hours?? That's the stupidest thing I've heard so far and it's not because I don't believe whales could harm humans through their clicking but because the claim is that the divers arm alone was paralyzed. Wouldn't the whale's loud clicks affect the divers entire body and not just single out his arm? Dumb, dumb! Dumb!

  16. Absolutely amazing. I could watch videos like this all day. I whole heartedly agree with some of the comments about how they have been treated by man over the years. All sea life should be protected. Don’t get me wrong. I like a piece of fish as much as the next person. But these magnificent creatures should be off limits to everyone. Mankind is doing a poor enough job of looking after the planet as it is. Were all only tenants here at the end of the day. My personal opinion is the worst thing to ever happen to this planet, was the evolution of mankind.

  17. that's so nuts how powerful they are… it's funny, head on they look like aliens.
    why isn't this common knowledge? this was one of the most fascinating things that i have learned lately

  18. Whales, apart from the Orcas, are so incredibly gentle. The only explanation I can think of, for the lack of injuries to humans, despite all the close contact by us, is that they are trying really, really hard not to hurt us. This is incredibly decent of them. I think they are highly moral creatures.

  19. I was fortunate enough to get to spend a total of 12 hours in the water with a pygmy sperm whale. It was a wonderful experience. I found that the whale was very intelligent, and also had feelings. He used body language to communicate some things, and actually got mad at two people, and he let them know it. He liked me though, and on two occasions I was able to coax him to go to the feeding station. Instead of a bunch of people coming to steer him there. He actually pushed me twice across the lagoon while I was in front of him with my hands on his head. What an awesome and highly intelligent creature he was. I guarantee you that I could have taught him to do tricks.

  20. Fantastic, much more complete description of the power of their clicks than I've yet seen. 240 decibels (dB)……. best comparison I can come up with is what that's like compared to a REALLY loud concert……. Santana is probably the loudest band I've seen out of very many; I recall 140 dB (which also depends on venue), just a bit louder than the average on an aircraft carrier flight deck during takeoffs 🙂 240 dB is MUCH higher than 140 dB….. like more than twice, the way the scale works.
    Great video….. I recall a Cousteau diver describing it being like a shotgun blast, and can feel like a horse kicking you in the chest. With frequency response so limited by small camera microphones it's hard to reproduce effectively even the loudest sounds.

  21. Tell the whales we need to know how to cure cancer. Give them some beakers and test tubes, see what they come up with.

  22. My brain feels like it had a satisfying meal. Imagine if one day we could speak to them. We could ask them about unknown animals. Like if megalodon exists still.

  23. This is incredible….part of me would love to dive with whales but at the same time the thought alone terrifies me. Such majestic creatures…

  24. That’s why I spend more time in the water than I do on land, being under water and seen what beautiful life we have under there really shows what we’re missing out on, and sadly destroying it before giving everyone the chance to explore it, cool video,

  25. Anyone else get that feeling you just want to protect them? I wonder if this is how we'd feel about aliens and vice versa…

  26. Does anyone know good literature on this? Because this was highly interesting. (ok only just found the link in the description)

  27. Don't know what to say. Just fascinated. Thank you and ❤💙💛💞💖💔💕💚💜💙💞💖💚💖💕💙💙💙

  28. For anyone interested I found a nice list online…

    Decibel Equivalent Table (whats how loud)

    10dB Absolute silence

    13dB Incandescent light bulb hum

    15dB Pin drop from a height of 1 centimetre heard at a distance of 1 meter

    30dB Totally quiet night time in desert

    40dB Whispering

    60dB Normal conversation

    85dB Beginning of hearing damage range, earplugs should be worn

    100dB Normal average car or house stereo at maximum volume

    110dB Car stereo with two 6 x 9” speakers and 100 watts

    116dB Human body begins to perceive vibration from low frequencies

    120dB Front row at a rock concert

    125dB Drums, at the moment of striking

    130dB Typical professional DJ system

    127dB Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) begins. Permanent hearing loss

    128dB Loudest human scream

    130dB Marching band of 200 members

    132dB Eardrum vibration noticeable

    133dB Gunshot

    135dB “Very loud” street car stereo. Bass only

    140dB Threshold of pain, all frequencies

    140dB Hearing protection required (definite long term damage)

    140dB human throat and vocal cord resonance occurs

    141dB Nausea felt after a few minutes

    144dB Nose itches due to hair vibrations

    145dB Vision blurs due to eyeball vibration

    147dB Formula 1 race car full throttle drive bye

    149dB Human lungs and breathing begins vibrating to the sound

    150dB Loud rock concert, at speakers

    150dB Sensation of being compressed as if underwater

    152dB Vibration is painful and felt in joints

    153dB Throat vibrating so hard it is impossible to swallow

    154dB Compression will burst child’s balloon

    155dB Experience cooling from excited air movement, up to 15 degree C perceived cooling

    158dB Inside of a rock concert speaker bin with 5000 watts power

    160dB Flashlight exhibits electromagnetic pulsing (dimming during tone)

    163dB NHRA Top Fuel Dragsters- 5000 to 7000 horsepower

    163dB Possible glass breaking level

    164dB Internal sound pressure of a large jet turbine

    165dB Jet airplane, Example: Boeing 727, at take off

    170.75dB = 1 pound per square inch

    172dB Fog is created, depending on the temperature, dew point and humidity

    174dB Air begins to heat up due to compression

    175dB Quarter dynamite stick, very close pressure may exceed 210 db.

    177dB = 2 pound per square inch

    180dB 1 pound TNT at 15 feet

    181.6dB Loudest extreme SPL car in the world

    183dB = 6 PSI. On large scale would result in total destruction of all structures, and particle velocity of 180 miles per hour.

    191dB 1 lb. bomb or grenade at blast epicentre

    193.979dB 1 bar pressure, 14.504 pounds per square inch

    195dB Human eardrums rupture

    202dB Death from sound wave (shock) alone.

    210.6dB Earthquake Richter scale equivalent 2.0

    213dB Sonic boom generates approximately 1.2 gigawatts power equivalent

    215dB Space shuttle launches exhaust, approximately 3 miles per second

    215dB Battleship New Jersey firing all 9 sixteen inch guns

    216dB Equivalent to a piston engine cylinder with a 9 to 1 compression ratio

    235.19dB Earthquake Richter 5.0 or 31,624 tons of TNT

    243dB Largest non-nuclear explosion ever, 1947 explosion in Nazi u-boat pens used 7100 tons of explosive

    248dB Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, August 6th & 9th, 1945. Total disintegration of 16 square miles, wind was around 300 miles per hour, destroyed 28” thick concrete walls at 1 mile distance. Leaving a crater 633 feet wide and 80 feet deep.

    286dB Mt. Saint Helens volcanic eruption

    310dB Krakatau volcanic eruption 1883. Cracked one foot thick concrete at 300 miles, created a 3000 foot tidal wave, and heard 3100 miles away, sound pressure caused barometers to fluctuate wildly at 100 miles indicating levels of 190db at that distance from blast site. Rocks thrown to a height of 34 miles.

  29. God I wish I could figure out what they're talking about there's definitely a high intelligence there I mean think how long those animals have evolved all the way back from their prehistoric ancestors those things have a giant brain amazing my favorite animal next to the rhino animal

  30. Subhan’Allah! Thank you for sharing this video. Makes me want to look into marine biology so I can get the chance one day to meet these beautiful creatures! Insha’Allah!

  31. Incredibly intelligent animals by sounds of it. Perhaps we can get their input on how to proceed with Brexit? Pointless if evolution designed such incredible intelligence for it not be fully utilised.

  32. John C. Lilly was the original pioneer, taking lsd with dolphins and whales, granted by the us gov.
    Should read some of his notes. Very very fascinating. He described once how they made the ocean floor disappear, and he could see the stars through the Earth. Wow

  33. Makes me realize how small and insignificant us humans really are. They'll be here clicking long after we're gone.

  34. I do love that audio clip of the bells or chimes at the end of the video. Do you know where I can find more of that?

  35. Danger in anthroposing ideas like "welcoming into the pod" . These animals have no human morality and could kill a diver without any reflection. My question is…Why don't they?

  36. 1000 dislikes… But… why?? It's kind of video you can either like or skip. What could be a reason for dislike it?

  37. I started out watching videos on how to sharpen a chain on a chainsaw I recently purchased, now I am here learning about how sperm whales can kill a person. Crazy how YouTube works late at night

  38. I am curious if other sea mammals understand the 'speech' of other sea mammals from different species than themselves.

  39. Not shocking to me that they could have a language. Radio telecommunication fits with in the system being much like this. Creating a series of waves that analog or digital devices are designed to pick up at a distance. If they do have a language it would be possible to design a system to translate it and allow for responding. I think it could be rather funny and refreshing in the end to find out they are all talking about their "Weather" in the water. "Hey Fred, hows the water over there? Is there any good eats?" "Oh hi there Chad, the water is a warm here. I'm staring at these land mammals in the water again. Hold on, I'm gonna make his limb go numb."

  40. I remember reading something about how one of the trainers in Blackfish fell off of one of the orca's snout when doing one of their dumb (human) tricks. He broke a couple of ribs and his arm, and could not swim very well. One of the female orcas was in front of him. sounding, and he said that he hadn't heard that before, but he could feel his body being pelted by the sounds. They theorized that the orca was checking to see if he was hurt or not, by kind of creating a x-ray of sorts with her echolocation…. amazing.

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