One of the largest of the dolphins, reaching 6 metres in length and weighing several tons, pilot whales are social animals. Often travelling in superpods, they most often make the headlines after running aground. The reasons for this are not understood. Encounters with pilot whales underwater are uncommon. Their behavior towards divers varies around the world. In some of these images, the pilot whales may seem to have a big, cartoonish grin, but these toothed predators can become aggressive. In the Straits of Gibraltar, where these image were taken, pilots are often curious and will approach to within less than a metre. Around divers pilots are noisy, with the clicks, chirps and whistles of echo location and communication clearly audible.

“I was with the expert Captain Nicky Balbain. His job was to keep us alive whilst diving in between the large cargo ships in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world – the Straits of Gibraltar. Strangely this tight confluence of waters harbours a plethora of cetacean life who harvest the vast quantities of squid in the deep water below.”

I have also included my scariest moment with a whale. A large bull gave me a huge warning by landing a tail slap centimeters from my fisheye lens. Let’s just say I got out of the water pretty quickly after having hidden behind my camera housing for that shot. The warning was given to be heeded….

  • Project Type: Photography
  • Project Year: 2010-2013
  • Supporting: Tethys Research Institute
  • Website: