An Occupied World: The Blue Whale
By Hwaa Irfan
Most of us were born, grew up, and live far removed from much of nature. Even in our growing awareness unless nature pertains to healthy food, we think no more of it, accept maybe, just maybe when we go away on holiday or to decorate our homes or immediate environment. However, everythign was created in balance, and nothing on God’s earth exists without a reason, even those pesky insects that keep harassing us in the hot weather. As it has been established that Sri Lanka has the largest colony of blue whale, let’s take a look at this creature many of us have never seen with our own eyes!
Blue-gray with white spots on the top with a brown/yellow/gray specks over their underbelly, the (Balaenoptera musculus) or Blue Whale is the largest animal on our Earth, and the loudest.
Living at the surface of the world’s oceans, Blue Whales grow up to 29m in length (same as three school buses end-to-end), and can weigh up to 175 tons. Next time one gets into a Volkswagen bug car, think of a Blue Whales heart, becuase that is the size their heart, and a human can crawl through their main blood vessel, the aorta. An average heart weighs 450 kg that pumps 6,400kg of blood around their bodies that are covered by a layer of 30cm of blubber. Two blow holes help them to breathe at the surface of the water.
They tend to do their feeding in the polar summer months around the Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Farallon Islands, and Monterey Bay. In the winter they prefer warmer climes in Mexico, and Costa Rica. They eat as humans should eat, according to what is in season, accept their diet is limited to tiny organisms like plankton, krill, crustaceans, and small fish which is sieved through their baleen (a comb-like fringe), which hangs from their upper jaws. They have pleated throats that allows their throats to swell for their large intake of water which is filtered for food. Their throats run from their throat – the middle of their bodies.
Blue Whales live up to 40 years of age, but they are classified as an endangered specie due to being heavily hunted by man for their meat, oil, etc. The decrease in whaling has helped to increase their population.
They live in small communities we refer to as ‘pods’, or by themselves individually, but they tend to swim in pairs. Their dorsal fins are small compared to the size of their bodies, but their pectoral flippers are long and thin. Their tales and fins help them to propel their huge bodies through water. They can swim up to 30mph if they are in danger, but normally swim around 4mph. They can dive for up to 1 hour, and dive to a depth of 105m.
In certain traditions, the whale representing all whales is symbolic of the power of the sea, and with that intuition, and ancient knowledge.
The females typically are larger than the males. Nine moths pregnancy is long enough for any female, but Blue Whales are pregnant for as long as 12 long months From winter – early spring is their breeding time.
Female Blue Whales give birth every 2-3 years. In labor the calf comes tail first in warm shallow waters, and 10 seconds after being born they swim immediately to the surface. Whereas human toddlers can take two years to learn how to walk, a Blue Whale calf learns to swim within 30 minutes – well it is life or death for them! After 8 months, a Blue Whale calf is weaned off their mother’s milk which is rich in the fat needed for a calf to gain weight after producing 50 liters of milk daily. There is little confusion over puberty. Mother and calf stay together for over a year. As the young cannot dive deep into the ocean, the mothers are the one’s that hunt for food becuase of the pressure of the waters of the deep.
By the time the calf is 10-15 years old they have obtained sexual maturity.
The whale in general are family orientated, like their land counterpart, the elephant. Like most mothers they will defend and protect their young. As humans women have increasingly become los to their true nature, and have taken on the male competitive stance, but the gift of choice given to man is not a problem for female Whale who work collectively by traveling in groups encircling their young to make sure they remain safe while mothers hunt for food.
As the loudest of God’s creatures, the Blue Whale’s voice level goes up 188 decibels – louder than a jet plane at 140 decibels, and louder than humans at 70 decibels. Anything more than 120 decibels is painful to the human ear. However, the sounds of the Blue Whale are at frequencies below the human range of hearing.
They have different ‘songs’ with a pattern that is repeated at low frequencies with each community having their own song. Like any other of God’s creatures, they communicate with each other, and sometimes that communication is about food, and sometimes it is about attracting or finding a partner either way they are known for their ability to communicate using sound, vibration, as well as songs. Their hearing and their vision is acute.
When one thinks about it, human communication is dependent on what we can see, i.e. body language which represents a minimum of 60% of human communication. However for whales, they are communicating in the dark ocean, and hence, sound is an extremely important means of communication for whales. Without an external ear, whales in general detext sound waves through their fat, which is between their mandibles, and their middle ear. However, what that means for them in an increasingly noisy world impacts negatively on their way of life with mass beachings taking place after military tests that involve sonar. Beached whales have been found with hemorrhaging in their ears, and suffering from decompression sickness ( gas bubble in their blood vessels).
Echolation which serves as a means of navigation.
Whales as well as elephants, are the only God’s creatures that have brains larger than humans. They are sensitive to emotions the signature of which is their watery environment, and they are sensitive to all kinds of emotions, both positive and negative. They will mourn the loss of their partner, their young, and even their friends.
It seems that only the males sing! Researchers found that Blue Whale songs have become deeper within the last 40 years, which takes us back to the late 60s. A study found that the voices of the Blue Whale of the Coast of California have become deeper by as much as 31%, but the phenomon is worldwide. Collecting data from the military that go back as far the 1950s, ocean acoustician Mark McDonald had analyzed recordings of 7 of the 10 known different Blue Whale songs with each song representing a different Blue Whale community over the last 50 years.
McDonald could not ascertain the cause and found the theory that Blue Whales are getting larger due to reduced whaling did not tally with the evidence. Bigger whales mean bigger throats, and a deeper ‘voice box’ so to speak, but Blue Whales in general do not keep growing after age 8.
Blue whale song, Great Barrier Island New Zealand, 1997, seafloor hydrophone, 80 Hz frequency limit. Just one of the eleven blue whale song types known worldwide.
Relationship to Environment
“Be One With Us.”
Voyaging from Northern waters
We flow trenches equatorial.
Having eaten to our full,
We migrate winter sanctuaries.
Navigating by sonar sight
From oceans cold to tropical,
Vision clarifies as temperatures
Increase these phosphorescent blues.
Soaring like gull wings in air
Beyond steep peaks and chasms
Our soundings penetrate below
Where molten fires burst the grounds.
Apexed from sea crusts
Volcanos fire underwater
Spawning land for Whales and Humans
To mate and feel together.
Islands swell above foundations
To higher magnitudes,
Rising pinnacles to clouds
Still further upward . . . . .
Beyond our sights,
Winter storms rain fiercely,
Headwinds cool our skins.
Of nights we sing
Into the whole reality.
O Humankind, awaken from our dreams
And be One with us at sea.
– By Paul Lloyd Warner
Lessons from the Blue Whale
They are considered teachers through Experience, a lesson that many humans have yet to learn, as we look at the struggles of the Occupy World Movement in the West. If we learn unconditionally from experience, we learn more about who we are, our potentials, and our weaknesses.That experience includes, the signature of the whale: travel, emotions, intuition, communication, familihood, devotion, sacrifice, nobility, cooperation and living in harmony with ourselves and our environment. As such, we are then more able to be self- confident, and to move towards our true potentials and therefore make more informed and intelligent choices.
“Blue Whale Song.” http://www.whaleacoustics.com/audiobaleenwhales.html
Karbani, Z. “The Whale Totem.” http://www.manizone.co.uk/whale-totem-a-7.html
Roman, J. “Whale Communication And Culture.” http://www.eoearth.org/article/Whale_communication_and_culture
Sohn, E. “Blue Whales Voices Getting Deeper.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34447438/ns/technology_and_science-science/
Warner, P. L. “Be One With Us.” http://www.plw.org/The_Oracle_of_Whales/Oracle_Directory_of_Poems/Be_One_With_Us/be_one_with_us.html