When students from the educational program Master Mint went on a field cruise in waters off of Portugal's Azores Islands a few years ago, they had no idea that they were about to witness an historic first.
"A small inflatable boat stopped in blue calm deep waters near the coast of the Azores," Natacha Aguilar de Soto of the University of La Laguna and the University of St. Andrews told Seeker. "Suddenly, four beaked whales appear from nowhere and swim slowly around the boat, with deep blows, allowing the teacher to film them from the boat with a small underwater camera."
She continued, "Nobody on board recognized which species of beaked whales they were watching at just 5 m (16.4 feet) from the boat, and nobody knew that they were filming an historical first: underwater video of True's beaked whales!"
Aguilar de Soto and her team recently identified the secretive whales in the unprecedented footage as part of a new study published in the journal PeerJ. The study compiled sightings in the Azores and Canary Islands, as well as stranding data, in order to better document True's beaked whales.