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The Skull and Bones Story

November 15, 2017

The Skull and Bones Story

Few years back I was diving in Manado, Sulawesi and during a surface interval the local dive guide told us how the passage outside the dive centre is a migratory route of Sperm Whales. Supposedly many has been spotter there. For further proof he said that few years ago a massive sperm whale carcass washed to the house reef and got stuck there. As it was stinking the place up the guides and the resort staff decided to tow it to deeper waters. So finally, the carcass sunk nearby to about 20m of water.

Intrigued about this I asked if he remembered where it sunk and if they have ever dived it. The guide was sure they can find the place if needed. For the next day we arranged a small boat and the guide took me and the wife to this place where it supposedly laid. After bit of going around they were sure we were nearby and entered the water. After meeting the bottom at about 20m the guide quickly figured out the right direction (not sure how he did that) and we swam after him.

After a 5 to 10-minute swim something extraordinary came to a view. It was a humongous skull of a full grown adult Sperm Whale. Although, I was slightly confused about this in the water, the picture above is of its top jaw with cranial bones. The lower jaw was actually lying next to it, but they were just two thin and long bones with holes in them. Its rib bones were in a random heap and were mostly already swallowed by seaweed. I also saw knuckles of its vertebrae. They were like pieces of a large log. Maybe about 20 cm in diameter. Macabre but fascinating sight all in all. At the end of the dive we moved towards a nearby reef and spotted a beautiful large “teenage” batfish, which was going through its transformation from black and orange juvenile to a silver sided adult.  Another first for me.


Teenage batfish

That evening I had to do some orthopaedical research to comprehend what I actually saw. Only then I fully realised that the big part is the upper jaw plate which carries the massive junk and spermaceti organs. And that the lower jaws are diminutive in comparison. And the holes were the teeth holes as sperm whales only have teeth in the lower jaw. Also, that the two “eye holes” were not for the eyes obviously.

sperm whale skull

Pictures taken with Olympus EPL-7 with Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens and two Inon S-2000 strobes

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