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When a faint puff of condensation shot into the air on the horizon, I thought it was a mirage, an artifact of fatigue and my compromised senses. But when I saw a second, I knew there was only one thing it could be – the exhalation of a surfacing whale. Excitedly, I counted a third, then a fourth, a dozen… no, hundreds!

That’s how I came to witness a phenomenon few have ever seen before.

Skimming over the waves, I stopped the boat a short distance from where I had seen the whales’ last blow and slipped quietly into the sea. I could scarcely believe my eyes.

Hundreds of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) swam to and fro, their huge bodies elegantly twirling and twisting through the water as they socialized. Bumping, jostling, and rubbing themselves against one another, they were exuberantly tactile, their behavior appeared almost euphoric. I felt like a gatecrasher at a wedding, so obvious was their delight in each other’s company.

The whale party he witnessed was an enormous superpod gathering of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals actively engaged in a frenzy of physical contact and biosonar communication. While scientists aren’t exactly sure why these graceful giants gather in such extraordinary numbers, one thing is for sure: It might be one of the most beautiful things on the planet, as evidenced by the photos Wu shot and which can be seen on the following pages.