Surviving The Deep: Are Sperm Whales Aggressive?

are sperm whales aggressive

Sperm whales are notorious for having the largest brain of any creature known to have lived on Earth and their deep-diving feeding habits of hunting giant squid.

These fascinating whales will dive to record-breaking depths of up to 2992 meters, breaking the record for diving mammals.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at these amazing creatures and answer a question that often comes up when entering sperm whale territory. Are sperm whales aggressive?

No, sperm whales are not aggressive sea creatures in modern times. They mainly feed on squid and have no interest in causing harm to people or fishing boats like they once did.

Are Sperm Whales Really Aggressive?

There is no need to panic if you see a sperm whale in the ocean as they are not aggressive animals and have no interest in harming humans.

There is a misunderstanding that sperm whales are aggressive animals because many years ago they were known to occasionally ram boats, but in modern times this is not the case.

Whilst whaling is no longer a threat to the sperm whale population, they are a rare species that are unlikely to come into contact with humans due to their preferred depths for hunting.

That said, it’s always important to be vigilant around marine animals, especially large whales. They should be treated with respect and admired from a distance.

Will A Sperm Whale Attack A Human?

In today’s modern times it is incredibly unlikely for a sperm whale to attack a human, but try to harpoon this species or take its young away, then you might be in with a rude awakening.

Whilst sperm whales are generally non-aggressive animals, they will defend their young fiercely and will not hesitate to ram boats if threatened or provoked.

With that said, there is no need to panic around a sperm whale provided you are not doing any of the above.

In fact, it’s rare that you would even come into contact with a sperm whale as they are often found in the depths of the ocean hunting for large squid and krill.

Do Sperm Whales Attack Boats?

Back in the 19th century whaling was a real problem for many marine species, including the sperm whale.

These magnificent whales were decimated throughout the 1800s and early 1900s by commercial whalers that wanted to harvest these whales for their meat and to make whale oil.

Whaling refers to the hunting and killing of whales that was prevalent during this time. This thriving industry wreaked havoc on the animals living in our oceans at the time.

Sperm whales were listed as endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, the predecessor to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Sailors would take down whales with harpoons attached to heavy ropes. Dead whales would be tied to the ship until they reached the shore, where they would then be skinned and the whale’s blubber would be peeled off in strips and boiled to make the oil.

Hal Whitehead, a research professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University found that sperm whales taught each other how to attack whalers by using their heads to ram into boats.

Sperm whales of the 19th century would not go down without a fight, and within a couple of years when attacked by whalers the sperm whales would swim fast upwind and deep dive out of range.

They would even begin attacking whalers directly in their boats by ramming their huge heads against them.

Due to the size of sperm whales and their large jaws and teeth, they would sometimes manage to smash the flimsy whaling boats into pieces.

This behavior was different from how sperm whales would protect themselves against predators and was a display of their aggression towards whalers specifically.

In modern times it’s incredibly rare for a sperm whale to attack boats, but some believe that these whales remember the horrific whaling times and still to this day may act aggressively toward boats that come too close.

Is It Safe To Swim Around A Sperm Whale?

Whilst it’s generally safe to swim around a sperm whale, I would advise extreme caution around these animals in the wild.

They are giant and with a simple tail flick have the ability to kill a human in an instant.

Sperm whales are the loudest whales in the ocean, they have clicking sounds that can reach 230 decibels and are used to detect prey such as giant squid in the depths of the ocean.

Many researchers believe that a sperm whale’s vocalization is actually powerful enough to vibrate a human to death.

They have the most precise and powerful form of biosonar ever discovered on earth, and can detect squid from up to 1.6km away!

That said, if you are lucky enough to encounter a sperm whale in the wild you should not panic. They are gentle giants that are curious about humans.

Whilst it’s crucial to stay vigilant around any species of whale, it’s generally safe to be in the water around sperm whales, providing you don’t get too close or threaten these beautiful creatures.

Final Thoughts

Are sperm whales aggressive? No, not particularly. However, they have been known to be aggressive in the past due to extreme commercial whaling of the species.

Nowadays sperm whales are peaceful animals that have no interest in being aggressive unless you’re a giant squid or krill that is.

These stunning whales dive down deep into the ocean and use their incredibly strong biosonar ability to locate prey.

Whilst humans should stay vigilant around sperm whales, and any other whale for that matter – there’s generally no cause for concern provided you are not being hostile towards the whale.

Hopefully, this post has provided a clear and concise answer to your question and you now know why sperm whales are some of the most impressive whales in our oceans.

Feel free to stick around to learn more about sperm whales and the many other types of marine wildlife that we discuss here.