Meeting the largest animal to have ever lived
The Blue Whale
It is impossible to not launch into a rolling list of mind blowing facts when talking about Blue whales. A heart the size of a small car. Their tongue, the weight of an elephant. Their major artery so big that you could swim down it! We could go on and on…
But none of these facts prepare you for seeing them in real life!
Blue whales can be found in all oceans except the Arctic Ocean. Growing up to 30 metres long and weighing in at around 150 tonnes you expect them to be big, however they are also surprisingly slender. Their mottled blue-grey appears light blue underwater and the colour truly is striking.
Preferring a solitary life, you may have noticed Blue whales popping up in memes on social media recently promoting social distancing during the Covid 19 lockdown. From time to time however, they will aggregate for breeding or foraging. They are among the loudest animals on the planet, emitting a series of pulses, groans, and moans, and it is thought that in the right oceanographic conditions, blue whales can hear each other up to 1,000 miles away. Scientists think they use these vocalizations to communicate and—along with their excellent hearing—perhaps to sonar-navigate the dark ocean depths.
Their surface behaviour is very different to that of a Sperm whale or Humpback whale. Typically they will be on the surface for just 3 breaths before submerging down into the depths for an extended period of time. They are fast swimmers of up to 20 miles per hour, which helped them deter hunters during the early whaling era. However, as time progressed and other whales species number’s depleted, the ships were also becoming bigger and faster and it wasn’t long before they too faced the same fate as their predecessors. Since then, they face threats from large vessels striking them, entanglement in fishing gear, ocean noise, habitat degradation, pollution, vessel disturbance, and long-term changes in climate.
But don’t be blue, recent evidence shows that the Blue whales of the coast of New Zealand and around the globe are beginning to make a great comeback and this can be supported by my sighting data too. plus Blue whales are among Earth's longest-lived animals, their average lifespan is estimated at around 80 to 90 years!
Everyone knows that the Blue whales are the largest animals on earth, but why?
It is likely that the majority of Blue whales I've encountered could in fact be Pygmy Blue whales… a surprising name for something that still reaches around 28m in length, so only a tad smaller than the true Blue.
Whether it’s is a pygmy or a true blue there are definite bonuses to being large! For instance, it can make it easier to travel long distances. When your diet almost exclusively consists of consuming unimaginable amounts of one of the smallest living things on earth, that being krill, then being able to travel from one feeding ground to another is essential.
What can you do
If you are looking to help with the conservation of this awesome species there are plenty things you can do:
Education - show others how amazing this species. \people care about what they love. Educate friends and family to choose responsibly on holiday excursions. Make sure whale watch companies are being responsible when viewing marine life in the wild. Observe all small whales from a safe distance of at least 100 yards by sea or land.
Report - report a sick, injured, entangled, stranded, or dead animal to make sure professional responders and scientists know about it and can take appropriate action. Numerous organizations around the country are trained and ready to respond. Or even better, become a responder many countries have training schemes in the uk you can do the The BDMLR’s Marine Mammal Medic Course.
Buy less - The less that is shipped , the less ships will be striking whales.
Write to your MPS on issues you care about from the effects of sonar testing, pollution, "Scientific" Whaling, ship striking etc.