Whale, whale, whale…
It’s almost here, February 16th, a day set aside to celebrate one of the most magical and fascinating group of mammals on the planet – Whales!
Now if you are anything like me, and when life gets over-whale-ming you just want to put on your whale onesie and watch Free Willy – this is the perfect day to do just that!
Happy World Whale Day!
The annual commemoration was founded in Maui, Hawaii, back in 1980, to honor the majestic humpback whales. It’s these humpback whales that swim off its coast and is the main showcase of the Maui Whale Festival.
If for some reason you aren’t able to get to Maui on this date, you Whaley don’t need to worry. Ocean Scuba Dive have highlighted some of our favorite facts about these mystical beasts that roam the watery deeps for you to enjoy this World Whale Day!
1. Unlike Sharks, Whales are Mammals
This is a mistake that many people make, that because they have a body shaped like a torpedo, fins and flippers, whales must be fish. Wrong. Unlike sharks, that are fish, whales are actually mammals. Don’t worry though because even the writer of the most famous work of fiction about a whale, Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, thought they were fish too.
However, they share the basic traits of mammals, that live in the water and on land, in that they grow hair (some!), produce milk to feed their children and also breathe air!
2. There are Two Groups of Whales
Scientists studying the mammal over the years have categorized whales into two groups, baleen and toothed. Baleen whales do not have teeth and instead, their mouths have fringes made from keratin, which is similar to human fingernails.
This is why they are known as baleen and they are also referred to as filter feeders because draw in large volumes of water and use the baleen to force the water out, swallowing whatever small fish, krill, shrimp etc. they may have in their mouth. As you’d imagine, toothed whales are very self-explanatory and have teeth that they use when feeding.
3. Beluga Whales Use a Complex Range of Noises to Communicate
Not only do Beluga whales have incredibly flexible necks that enables them to move and turn their heads in amazingly diverse ways, but they also have a very complex range of noises they use to communicate with.
It is not for nothing that they are referred to as the ‘canaries of the sea‘ by some people. They use chirps, clicks, and whistles to chat away to eachother.
4. Sperm Whales use Echolocation When Hunting
Similarly, to dolphins, sperm whales use sonar or ‘echolocation’ to hunt their prey and understand the world. They produce sound waves that are so powerful that human divers in the Vicinity of these awesome creatures have felt the pulsations.
These sounds are sent out across the water and hit against an object. When they bounce back to the whales, they are then able to visualize perfectly where prey is.
5. Sperm Whales Almost Became Extinct
Sadly, sperm whales, like many other animals and mammals, almost became extinct because of commercial whalers who wanted them for their spermaceti organ and its unique oil. These organs are found in the whale’s huge heads and are an integral part of the echolocation system.
6. Blue Whales are the World’s Largest Animal of All Time
Although they stretch to around 100-feet long, 20-feet shorter than the longest dinosaur that ever lived, blue whales are still the largest animal that ever lived on our planet.
They can weigh up to as much as 200-tonnes, which is around two times more than what the largest dinosaur weighed. To put what might be quite an incomprehensible size into perspective, it is a similar weight to that of 24 elephants!
7. Orcas Travel in Groups and are Highly Social
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are glorious hunters that actually travel around in groups referred to as matrifocal, meaning they are family units that revolve around a mother whale. So, these so-called killers still have a respect for their mothers that is very similar to humans.
8. Many Whale Species Are the Longest Living Animals on the Planet
Speaking of killer whales, they can actually live over 100 years, while the bowhead whale is thought to live over 200 years. Greenland sharks take the win though, as one was found to be over 400-years old! Holy Whale!!
Koi fish and Red Sea urchins are also part of the 200 club.
9. Appropriately, Dwarf Sperm Whales are the Smallest Whales
The name is a big giveaway really, isn’t it? But, it’s true, the dwarf sperm whale is normally measuring under 8.5-feet in length and can weigh a modest 300-pounds. The next smallest in both weight and length are the narwhal and white beluga, which both weigh around 3,500-pounds and 18-feet.
10. They are the Deepest Divers in the World
Whales can dive deeper than any other creature on the planet. When they are on the hunt for squid, sperm whales can dive over 3,000-feet down, for up to an hour at a time. At that depth, the pressure is over 1,400-pounds-per-square-inch and temperature 36-degrees Fahrenheit.
That, as staggering as it is, is nothing compared to the Cuvier’s beaked whale, which has been observed diving as deep as 10,000-feet for 138-minutes!
Whale, there you have it! Happy World Whale Day my friends.
All these whale puns are krill’n me.