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The Whales
 
   


blue whale

The Blue whale is the largest mammal, possibly the largest animal, to ever inhabit the earth.  The longest blue on record was a 108 foot (32.9 meters) female caught in Antarctica.

More typically blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere are 90 to 100 feet (27.4 to 30.3 meters) long with their Northern Hemisphere counterparts somewhat smaller at 75 to 80 feet (23 to 24.5 meters). 

Blue males can weigh over 100 tons (90,900 kg) and the larger females as much as 120 tons (136,360 kg). Despite their immense size they are thought to feed almost exclusively on tiny shrimp-like creatures called Krill, consuming an astounding 4 tons (3,640 kg) per day. 

blue whale 

25.5" Long x 5.5" High
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The large calves are 24 feet (7.3 meters) long and weigh 3 tons (2,722 kg) and gain about 200 lbs (91 kg) a day while nursing on their mother’s fat rich milk. 

Though they may be found singly or in small groups, it is more common to see blue whales in pairs.  Rarely groups as large as 50 to 60 have been sighted.  They are fast, strong swimmers, capable of reaching 30 mph (48.3 km/hr) when alarmed, but they usually cruise at 12 mph (19.3 km/hr). 

Because of their enormous size and great speed blue whales were safe from early whalers, in open boats with hand harpoons.  With the introduction of the exploding harpoon gun and steam (later diesel) powered factory ships and catcher boats in the 1870’s no whale was safe, and by 1900 the industry began to focus on blues. 

A single blue whale could yield up to 120 barrels of oil and the peak year of 1931, 29,000 were killed in one season.  They had become scarce by the time the International Whaling Commission banned all hunting of blue whales in 1966.  Recovery has been slow.  Pre-whaling population estimates were over 350,000 but over 99% were killed.  Presently there are estimated to be only 8,000 to 14,000.

 

 

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