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  • There was a very rare sighting of a Cuvier’s beaked whale in 10,000 feet of water 8 miles off Keauhou in 2016. Bo Pardau/Special to West Hawaii Today

Beaked whale shatters record with nearly 4-hour dive

The 1959 movie “Ben-Hur” runs some 3 1/2 hours. A Cuvier’s beaked whale could watch the entire film underwater, never taking a gulp of air, with time to spare.

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“They are remarkable divers,” said Nicola Quick, a marine biologist at Duke University. These pointy-snouted cetaceans, which frequent the world’s deep waters, have clocked the longest and deepest dives of any marine mammal ever recorded, plunging nearly 10,000 feet below the surface of the sea.

Quick’s latest paper, published Sept. 23 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, documents the whales’ most impressive observed descent to date: 3 hours, 42 minutes, trouncing the previous record by over an hour. The new record is nearly seven times longer than scientists expect the mysterious mammals should be able to dive, based on scientific understanding of their body size and metabolic rate.

“This is just so beyond what we’ve seen before,” said Andreas Fahlman, a physiologist at the Oceanographic Foundation of the Valencian Community in Spain and an author on the study. “They’re not supposed to be able to do this, but they do.”

Most people, on the other hand, can’t hold their breath for more than a couple of minutes, although Guinness World Records documented one free diver who went more than 24 minutes without coming up for air.

Keck Observatory announces upcoming astronomy talk

Keck’s next virtual Public Astronomy Talk will be held at 5 p.m. Oct. 21 and will feature Chas Beichman discussing “Keck Observatory and the Ongoing Exoplanet Revolution.”

The exoplanet revolution began in 1995 with the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of a “Hot Jupiter” orbiting the sun-like star 51 Pegasi. Thousands of planets have since been detected in the succeeding two decades, many of them either found by or validated with Keck Observatory. The focus is now on the detailed characterization of known planets and the search for the “Holy Grail,” an Earth-sized planet orbiting within the Habitable Zone of its host star.

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A flotilla of ground and space-based telescopes, with Keck Observatory clearly in a flagship role, will address these challenges in the 2020s and into the 2030s when we might finally find an Earth-analog possibly bearing signs of microbial life. Beichman will summarize new instrumentation coming or planned for Keck Observatory in the context of other telescopes and space missions.

The talk will be streamed online and can be accessed via Keck’s website at https://keckobservatory.org/media/cosmic-videos.

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