Ten Astounding Whale Facts

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Ten Astounding Whale Facts

From Philip Hoare, author of The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea

  1. The blue whale and the fin whale are the loudest animals on earth. Their subsonic calls were mistaken for the sound of earthquakes when scientists first heard them. A fin whale on one side of the Atlantic can be heard on the other.
  2. The bowhead whale is the longest-lived animal. Inuit harpoons more than two centuries old have been found in hunted bowheads off Alaska—one dating to 235 years old. These same animals were alive when Melville wrote Moby-Dick.
  3. The sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal, weighing 17 pounds. Its complex cortex is capable of intelligence exceeded only by primates and humans.
  4. The humpback whale undertakes the longest migration of any mammal, traveling 10,000 miles from its breeding ground in the Caribbean to feed in the Antarctic.
  5. The narwhal’s tusk was claimed to be the horn of a unicorn and an antidote to poison. Queen Elizabeth I was given a narwhal tusk worth £10,000, the price of a new castle.
  6. The North Atlantic right whale is the world’s most endangered mammal. Only 350 remain. Slow-moving and blubber-rich, the whale floated when killed, and was therefore the ‘right’ whale to hunt.
  7. The right whale also possesses the largest testes in the animal kingdom. Mating may last many hours, and females may allow more than one male enter at the same time.
  8. The whaling port of New Bedford was once the richest city in America, although American whaling began on the island of Nantucket.
  9. Until the discovery of petroleum in 1859, whale oil was used to light the western world’s cities, from London and Paris to Washington and New York.
  10. Whalebone is not actually bone, but the flexible blades from the mouths of baleen whales, used to strain their food. It was used for corset stays, carriage suspension, venetian blinds, brooms and many other household objects.