Captain Ahab, in Hermann Melville-s novel, Moby Dick, was in pursuit of the white whale. The metaphorical whale in Moby Dick was, in reality, a sperm whale. It is one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and majestic creatures living in the ocean.
What makes the sperm whale unique is the fact that it has the largest brain of any mammal. The brain of a sperm whale is said to weigh 20 pounds. The sperm whale is a toothed whale; it has a box-shaped head, a single blowhole that measures 20 inches long, and is considered to be a social mammal. The sperm whale often swims in pods; a pod is a loosely organized group if whales that bond together to protect their young, hunt, or nurture other sick sperm whales. Sperm whales are found on the open ocean; they live at the surface of the water, but dive deep into the sea to catch their prey. Sperm whales live in both cool and tropical waters, and have a life expectancy of over 70 years.
The sperm whale takes its moniker from the oil-like substance that it creates in a special organ in its head. The spermaceti organ produces spermaceti, and during the height of the whaling industry this oily, wax-like liquid was valuable. It was often used as fuel for lanterns. Other than creating a once valuable natural resource, it is believed that the spermaceti organ may assist with a whale-s buoyancy, or contribute to its ability to communicate through echolocation.
Sperm whales are known for their intelligence. This intellect is illustrated in how the sperm whale communicates. It uses a form of communication called echolocation. Echolocation enables the sperm whale to hunt for its prey in the depths of the ocean, as well as keep track of its young.