Meet Mr. Liable, the most famous male sperm whale in the Azores

sperm whale mr liable futurismo

Mr. Liable has been seen on São Miguel island since 2000 and the first photo Futurismo captured was in 2004. As we can see him so often, whether in summer or winter, our biologist’s team named him many years ago “Mr. Liable”, that is, for being very reliable and predictable to see! He is reliable.

We even get the idea that he likes to show off! When diving, he makes a perfect dive, very slow and very elegant so that we can have an extraordinary observation of his large tail. It’s really impressive to see!

He is our most famous sperm whale in São Miguel because he is seen regularly, and his dives are often predictable. It is, in fact, great to see the fantastic end of a dive – the huge and beautiful tail!

Mr. Liable is usually seen in the south of the island of São Miguel. We have sightings of the first moments of this sperm whale, over 15 years ago! And we manage to find him every year, especially during spring and autumn. But we also have records of him during the winter. It seems that he likes the Azores too much to go away!

But it also seems that this magnificent whale, who has a tail that many male sperm whales are jealous of, is enjoying the island of Pico.

Last month, in July, and also this month of August, on the 3rd, he was seen by Futurismo biologist’s team off Pico. In fact, we weren’t sure if he was still in the area since we last saw him, but now we’re sure! Mr. Liable, who became famous for his numerous sightings in São Miguel, also seems to enjoy the south of Pico and it’s not just for the tasty squid!

In Pico, on August 3rd, he was alone and doing deep dives in search of food, but that same day in the afternoon, we were able to observe him in the company of a female sperm whale.

During sightings, we usually find him alone, but also sometimes in groups of female sperm whales, so we suspect that he is the “father” of many sperm whales around the island of São Miguel and possibly also around Pico!

Sperm whales have a great flow between the islands of the Azores. In addition to being an icon of our archipelago, they are the most sighted whales in our waters. However, this male sperm whale is mostly seen in São Miguel and it is not the first time it has been seen in Pico. According to data from MONICET (a platform that aggregates animal records made by cetacean observation companies), Mr. Liable was sighted in Pico, in July 2009 and June 2016. Five years later, here he is again in the waters of the Mountain Island.

“The sperm whales sighted in the Azores can occasionally be found on different islands, not only in the archipelago, but also in other areas such as Canary islands, or even Norway (Steiner et al., 2012: Steiner et al., 2015).”

This male sperm whale is really unique, and more robust than other male sperm whales. The tail is truly impressive in the photos, imagine it live! This dear male sperm whale is one of our favorite sightings!

Male sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) spend most of their time traveling at high latitudes. They are usually solitary individuals, and travel occasionally to low latitudes to breed (Best 1979; Whitehead et al., 1991).

“In the Azores, families of sperm whales formed by females and young animals are regularly sighted throughout the year. Adult males are seen every year, but less frequently (Steiner et al., 2015; van der Linde et al., 2019).”

It is very rare to see large male sperm whales repeatedly in the Azores, and even rarer to see them in different years and at different times so often. But, in fact, Mr. Liable is also unique for this reason! It far surpasses the statistics. With over 20 years of sightings recorded at virtually any time of the year, it is without doubt our most sighted sperm whale in São Miguel.

Only in 2020, a year so atypical due Covid-19 pandemic, we got to see him at least six times.

Video about Mr. Liable.

It is also because of these curious stories that it is so important to do research, collect data during whale and dolphin watching tours so that we can understand more about the species and their behavior.

Curiosities about sperm whales:

• Did you know that sperm whales have the most powerful echolocation sound in the animal kingdom? They use it when looking for food, for example.

• Deep dives for food search take approximately 40 minutes.

• Did you know that sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), like Mr. Liable, spend about 2/3 of their time feeding? Their diving ability is amazing!

• The length of a sperm whale male is about 18 m and the females are around 12 m long.

See here the latest study about Mr. Liable, by Marina Gardoki, a marine biologist who worked at Futurismo and other marine biologists who worked with us too!

Some sightings of Mr. Liable by Futurismo:

September 2013

October 2018

June 2019

May 2019 and another sighting

November 2019

July 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020 and another one

November 2020


  • Steiner, L., Lamoni, L., Plata, M. A., Jensen, S. K., Lettevall, E., & Gordon, J. (2012). A link between male sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, of the Azores and Norway. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom92(8), 1751-1756.
  • Steiner, L., Pérez, M., van der Linde, M., Freitas, L., dos Santos, R. P., & Martin, V. (2015). Long distance movements of female/immature sperm whales in the North Atlantic. Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, San Francisco, USA. December 2015. Poster.
  • Van der Linde, M. L., & Eriksson, I. K. (2020). An assessment of sperm whale occurrence and social structure off São Miguel Island, Azores using fluke and dorsal identification photographs. Marine Mammal Science36(1), 47-65.
  • Best PB (1979) Social organization in sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus. In: Winn HE, Olla BL (eds) Behavior of marine animals, vol 3. Plenum Press, New York, pp 222290
  • Whitehead, H., Waters, S., & Lyrholm, T. (1991). Social organization of female sperm whales and their offspring: constant companions and casual acquaintances. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology29(5), 385-389.    
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like