Film still from Le Grand Bleu aka The Big Blue, 1988
French drama film directed by Luc Besson (French, b. 1959, 15th Arrondissement of Paris, France). The film is inspired by the life of Jacques Mayol (French, 1927-2001, b. Shanghai, China) and Enzo Maiorca (Italian, b. 1931, Syracuse, Italy), two free-diving champions.
The sperm whale is the largest of all the toothed whales, with animals growing up to 60 feet in length and weighing up to 51000 kilograms. They are also highly sexually dimorphic, with males being 30% to 50% longer and three times larger than females. This is very unusual among whales, and the sperm whale is the most sexually dimorphic of all cetaceans. There is some speculation that overhunting has caused the sperm whale to become smaller; there are records from the 18th century of male sperm whales reaching 67 feet and 57000 kilograms, but animals this large are never seen today.
Conceived in the open sea, tiny spaceship-shaped sea urchin larvae search the vast ocean to find a home. After this incredible odyssey, they undergo one of the most remarkable transformations in nature.
Sperm whales breed slowly, with females having their first calf when they reach nine years old. Pregnancy lasts from 14 to 16 months, and the newborn calf is 13 feet long and weighs 1000 kilograms. These babies will stay with their mothers for over a decade, and suckle for over three years. There have been some records of sperm whale calves nursing from their mothers (and other lactating females in the group) for up to 13 years. The milk produced by the mother whales is incredibly rich; sperm whale milk is 36% fat, compared to 4% fat in raw cow’s milk. This means the milk has a consistency closer to that of cottage cheese than to liquid milk, which has the added bonus of keeping the milk from dissolving and being lost in the water as the calf feeds.