Bottlenose whales, the deep divers of the North Atlantic
Douglas Chadwick joined the crew of the research boat the Balaena.
1 I have joined the crew of the Balaena, a 15-metre research boat, and we are now a few kilometres off the east coast of Canada, sailing over what seafarer call the Gully. Gully means 'narrow channel’, but this it is more like a drowned Grand Canyon, about ten kilometres across and, in places, over a kilometre straight down to the bottom of the sea. The Gully, with its abundant fish, is home to a dozen kinds of cetaceans.
2 We have come in search of bottlenose whales. Hal Whitehead, a whale expert, and his crew are here to study the behaviour of these enigmatic creatures. I am hoping to see at least one today, but I am prepared to be disappointed. I've been told that, as a rule, the first things you see are spouts, the typical jets of water coming out of their heads, which are visible from a distance. When you come closer, though, you may find that they have submerged on a long dive, presumably in search of food.
3 The northern bottlenose and at least nineteen closely related middle-sized whales form the family Ziphiidae. Referred to as 'beaked whales', they account for one in every four species of cetaceans - the marine mammals known as whales, dolphins and porpoises. People love whales, but most of us wouldn't recognise a ziphiid if one surged through the living room. This is not surprising because, even among scientists, these whales probably qualify as the least familiar of all big mammals.
4 Already some three metres long at birth, northern bottlenoses continue to grow in size until the age of twenty, when they may reach ten metres. Adults weigh between five and seven tonnes, roughly the same as African elephants. These strange noises come from four creatures, seven to ten metres long, which have risen from the depths. ‘These are probably among the most intelligent animals on the entire planet, and we hardly know a thing about them,' says Hal Whitehead.
5 It is very quiet and all we can hear is the creak of the ship's masts as it sways. Suddenly, breaths like great sighs sound through the fog. These strange noises come from four creatures, seven to ten metres long, which have risen from the depths. The smallest one swims for the boat and a larger companion cuts it off. Then they rejoin the others to float like swollen logs a short distance away.
6 I can see them well. They have small fins but big, domed heads with imposing foreheads above narrow, protruding jaws. Their heads are two-thirds out of the water now, all pointing our way. These animals aren't just watching us, they are scanning us with rapid clicking noises just above the range of human hearing. We are being studied by northern bottlenose whales, which is only fair, since that is what we came to do to them.
7 If the bottlenoses don't swim too fast, we can keep up and observe them. Their movements are accompanied by grunts, whistles and cheers made by the blowholes. Every so often, one repeatedly lifts its tail to give the water a resounding slap. This display may function as yet another way to be heard. The same holds for leaping skyward and making a huge splash, though they may do this just for fun.
8 The biggest question is what goes on when these animals are not on the surface, which is most of the time. To find out, the researchers attached a time-depth recorder (TDR) to a whale's skin. The TDR stayed on for four-and-a-half hours and surfaced with the first solid data ever obtained about a ziphiid in its submarine kingdom. On one of its dives, the bottlenose had reached a depth of 900 metres. This revelation seems to prove Hal Whitehead's theory that the world's deepest diver is the bottlenose whale - or maybe one of the many other beaked whales yet to be studied.
For questions 31 – 35, find the words in the text that mean the same as these words and phrases.
31. (P1) plentiful, copious
32. (P2) mysterious
33. (P6) impressive
34. (P7) echoing, resonant
35. (P8) disclosure, discovery
For questions 36 – 40, label each statement true or false according to the text.
36. It is difficult to see a whale at once.
37. Bottlenose whales are easily recognized by scientists.
38. Young whales weigh roughly the same as African elephants.
39. People are being studied by northern bottlenose whales.
40. Beaked whales are the world’s fastest divers.
Write a paragraph (150-200 words), giving your point of view on the topic:
Robot – human interaction can easily replace live human communication in the future.