Sperm Whale
Family: Physeteridae
Genus: Physeter
Species: Macrocephalus

Also known as cachalot or Spermacet Whale

The Sperm Whale is distributed worldwide in temperate waters. Bull Sperm Whales also appear in polar regions.

Males can grow up to 70 feet long from head to tail, but females are significantly smaller, up to around 30ft; Males are 45-70 tons in weight; females are 15-20 tons.

Dark gray, with white marks. May also sport circular scarring from giant squid suckers.

Mainly - 80 percent - of the Sperm Whale's diet is made up of squid, with the remainder being made up of fish & crustaceans.

Gestation & Longevity:
14-15 months & up to 70 years, respectively.

Immortalised in Melville's classic (depending on who you talk to ;-)) "Moby Dick", the Sperm Whale is the largest of all of the toothed whales.

The first thing that you notice about the Sperm Whale is the size of its head in comparison to the rest of its body. Around one third of the body length is accounted for by the head alone.
This vast space is taken up by the spermaceti organ, a hard, waxy organ that is said to help focus sound used in sonar, as well as an aid to controlling the buoyancy of the whale when diving.

This organ is vital when the Sperm Whale is hunting in the pitch-black of the deep ocean, where echo-location is used to find their prey.

These dives to the ocean floor are possibly the most remarkable of all the Sperm Whale's traits.
Descending at around 500 feet per minute, the whales have been recorded reaching depths of 10,000 feet where they will hunt for anywhere between one and two hours before returning to the surface. Amazingly, it takes only a few minutes before the whale is ready to dive again, and they can perform several of these dives before they reach their physiological limit.

As mentioned above, the Sperm Whale is a very social animal, unlike the rogue bull portrayed in "Moby Dick".
They form different schools depending upon a number of factors, such as age, sex & location. For example, in polar waters, you will only find bull whales, but in warmer climes, as many as five different types of school have been observed, ranging from the so-called "bachelor schools" of young bulls, to "nursery schools" of calves & juveniles, accompanied by mature females.
These schools can vary greatly in size, from as few as 4-5 to as many as 100 animals, and once the bonds within these school are formed, they appear to persist for life - a tagged female was found with the same school ten years after it was first marked.

Unfortunately, these powerful bonds can sometimes do harm to the whales.
When one of their number is injured, the rest of the pod will gather around the wounded whale, supporting it & encircling it, in what's dubbed the "marguerite formation".
This defensive stance was recognised & quickly exploited by whalers hunting the Sperm Whale, as it made it remarkably easy to pick off an entire pod with little trouble.

See also...

Pygmy Sperm Whale
Dwarf Sperm Whale

Bassist Joe Preston has been in his fair share of bands over the course of the 90's and 00's (Melvins, Earth, Sunn O))), and High on Fire, to name the more prominent ones), but through it all he has maintained his solo music career, in which he is known by the stage name Thrones. Listening to the music he's had a part in creating over the years, you might think you're starting to get a sense of what Thrones' mission statement might be. And you'd be mostly right, but the actual music will probably surprise you nonetheless.

Thrones is weird. The one-man music machine of Joe Preston consists of three basic parts: electric bass, tuned lower than Hell and distorted until every note has a wet squelch to it; a drum machine that sounds like it was programmed in equal proportions by an adept musician and an aluminum baseball bat; and Preston's voice, a fearsome bellow often contorted in cruel, unusual ways by a vocoder. This is the basis of Sperm Whale, Thrones' second EP, which I consider to be the perfect distillation of Preston's music.

Sperm Whale, despite being four tracks long, gives a good demonstration of the extent of Thrones' vision. "Oso Malo" starts out with thunderous smacks of the bass and a couple funky synth beats which preface a tirade of alternately creaking, croaking, bubbling, and scraping vocals. It's as if Preston took the technology of the vocoder into consideration and tried to devise the best way to cause evil with it. "Nuts and Berries" is a bit more of the same, but slightly restrained. "Ephraim" seems to be holy or ancient, or both. It builds heavenwards slowly and quietly, with a massive thrumming like sliding tectonic plates accelerated to move like ocean waves. It's perhaps meant to be calming, but you only end up humbled, silenced, and powerless. "The Anguish of Bears" takes advantage of that, crashing into existence and stirring up whirlwinds of angst and terror. It's everything "Ephraim" was without the calm, and is arguably the best song of the four.

1. Oso Malo (4:28)
2. Nuts and Berries (3:08)
3. Ephraim (4:16)
4. The Anguish of Bears (4:11)

So, what can we make of Thrones' mission statement now? The music is certainly heavy. Joe Preston's aim is apparently to write music that is able to crush your bones so forcefully that your spinal fluid erupts from the top of your head like mercury out of a cartoon thermometer. And yet the ridiculous digitally-altered voices almost counteract that. You find it comical, and that makes you uncomfortable because you're not sure whether that was the intent. It's somewhat like cracking jokes at the funeral of a buddy who would have laughed at the sight of you mourning in that suit you've worn only twice before. I've seen Joe Preston play. He had a short beard, Willie Nelson-style braids, a rainbow guitar strap, and an obvious sense of humour. He's covered The Residents. You can laugh, it's okay.

Sperm Whale was released on the indie label Kill Rock Stars. At the same time a full-length album was also released, called Sperm Whale + White Rabbit. This compilation album contains all tracks from Sperm Whale as well as those from the 1999 EP White Rabbit.

Sperm Whale - Thrones - 2000 - Kill Rock Stars

Sperm" whale` (?). Zool.

A very large toothed whale (Physeter macrocephalus), having a head of enormous size. The upper jaw is destitute of teeth. In the upper part of the head, above the skull, there is a large cavity, or case, filled with oil and spermaceti. This whale sometimes grows to the length of more than eighty feet. It is found in the warmer parts of all the oceans. Called also cachalot, and spermaceti whale.

Pygmy sperm whale Zool., a small whale (Kogia breviceps), seldom twenty feet long, native of tropical seas, but occasionally found on the American coast. Called also snub-nosed cachalot. -- Sperm-whale porpoise Zool., a toothed cetacean (Hyperoodon bidens), found on both sides of the Atlantic and valued for its oil. The adult becomes about twenty-five feet long, and its head is very large and thick. Called also bottle-nosed whale.


© Webster 1913.

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