There's a story behind every photograph -- some are inspirational, some are harrowing, some others are just downright crazy. Drone and underwater photographer Keri Wilk's recent encounter with a defecating sperm whale falls squarely into the last of those three.
You might know Keri from the beautiful sperm whale and dolphin drone footage that's been making the rounds online. But you should know that Keri doesn't just fly above the whales, he has years of experience diving with them as well.
Unfortunately, all his years of experience diving with and photographing undersea creatures could not have prepared him for the strangely epic 'poopnado' he found himself in (literally) off the coast of Dominica in March of 2014.
While leading a group on an underwater whale photography expedition off the coast of the Carribean island, Keri and four others were approached by what appeared to be a perfectly calm whale.
The whale approached them, stopped, pointed straight downward, and then in Keri's words, "the storm began."
"At first, it seemed like a regular bowel movement... sperm whales are often seen defecating, especially while diving, so we didn't think much of it initially. It pointed itself down, but then, rather than continuing its dive, it remained at the surface, continuing the bowel movement for a startling length of time," explains Keri.
"The 4 of us looked at each other with confusion, then back at the whale, expecting that any second its call from nature would be ended, and that it would descend to the depths for another meal as they usually do. Instead, the whale bobbed up and down, spun around in circles, and waved poop in every direction for several minutes while 4 of us in the water sat back and watched!"
All of a sudden a free-dive in crystal clear water turned into a confusing swim in what Keri describes as "chocolate milk."
"I couldn't see my hand when I held it in front of my face," says Keri. "It was easy enough to swim out of it though, so after getting a few shots within ground zero, I exited the cloud, and got some photos of the whale moving in and out of it."
Fortunately for us, he uploaded all of those photos on 500px in a 'Poopsplosion' set that will either gross you out, make you laugh, or a little bit of both. Fair Warning: Be prepared for lots and lots of poo.
Apparently this sort of poopsplosion is a sperm whale defense mechanism -- sort of like a cephalopod releasing an ink cloud -- but both Keri's captain and his guide (who collectively have over 50 years observing sperm whales in Dominica) had never seen anything like this before!
Of course, if you're going to experience a very rare natural phenomenon, it'd probably be best if it didn't leave you covered in whale poop... Then again, Keri remembers the experience with a certain fondness:
When I tell people this story, the first thing that they think is "wasn't that horrible?!". And my answer has always been "Not at all!". I've experienced lots of interesting natural phenomenon underwater, all over the world, but this was is near the top of the list! As long as you didn't take your mask off, you couldn't really smell anything (taste is another matter...), and as soon as it started happening, I knew it was an extremely unusual occurrence. It was a very exciting event to see unfold underwater - despite the fact that it essentially boils down to a whale throwing sh** at us.
And, just in case you're still wondering what this looked like in person, Keri was kind enough to share the following GIF:
Like we said: some stories are inspirational, some are harrowing, and some others are just downright crazy. If this wasn't the second, it was definitely the third.