“Is that a fish?”
“No, flat tale, blowhole no gills, that’s a whale, silly.”
Whales are magnificent creatures. Beauty, intelligent, and full of mystery.
It’s interesting how these gentle giants that are seen on Save the Whales T-shirts, since many of their species are now endangered from the result of over-hunting, were once feared and believed to be sea monsters. In 1913, a German liner was reported in a newspaper to have been attacked by a herd of right whales [though unknown to be harmless at the time]; because of their jagged teeth, Sperm whales were known as the Devil of the Sea, hence part of the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick; and killer narwhales were believed to be able to pierce through ships with their tusks, according to monstresmarins.ca.
Cetaceans also play a major role in many legends and folklore as well, such as:
- “In China, Yu-kiang, a whale with the hands and feet of a man was said to rule the ocean.
- In the Tyrol region of Austria, it was said that if a sunbeam were to fall on a maiden entering womanhood, she would be carried away in the belly of a whale.
- The Tlingit people of northern Canada said that the Orcas were created when the hunter Natsihlane carved eight fish from yellow cedar, sang his most powerful spirit song and commanded the fish to leap into the water.
- In Icelandic legend a man threw a stone at a fin whale and hit the blowhole, causing the whale to burst. The man was told not to go to sea for twenty years, but in the nineteenth year he went fishing and a whale came and killed him” (Wikipedia.org).
- (Some believe that in the Biblical account of Jonah, the prophet spent three days in the belly of whale; however, the literal translation from Arabic is big fish, not whale, and even the people back then would be able to identify the distinctions.)
- In the 1940 Disney film Pinocchio, the puppet and Geppetto are eaten by the whale Monstro (while in the book they are eaten by the Terrible Dogfish).
Here’s also a few fun facts about these mammals:
- The Ghanaians and Vietnamese occasionally hold funerals for beached whales.
- 1lb. of whale vomit is worth $5,000!
- Whales have belly buttons.
- Killer whales, also known as orcas, are actually considered to be dolphins. Orcas can also kill great white sharks and may have the intelligence to know how to kill them by preventing ram ventilation–in other words, they know how to drown a shark by immobilizing it.
- Moby Dick was real: “Most people nowadays would consider the idea of a vindictive whale taking revenge upon whalers as a ridiculous fiction. However, Herman Melville based his idea for Moby Dick on real events and a real whale named Mocha Dick. The event, which Melville read about, happened around 1820 when Mocha Dick hit and sunk an English whaling ship. The crew landed on a deserted island where they were forced to resort to cannibalism.
Contemporary descriptions of Mocha Dick pretty much match up with Melville’s. He was a white albino whose spouting sounded like a continuous roar. However, accounts from the time make him sound even more terrifying than his fictional namesake. He was covered in barnacles and was usually sighted still trailing harpoons and rope from encounters with whalers who’d failed to kill him” (ListVerse.com).
- Whales adopt other animals and objects: “Not all whales are as violent as Mocha Dick. Most are usually quite gentle, even to other species. For example, in 2011 a pod of sperm whales adopted a bottlenose dolphin born with a deformed, s-shaped spine. The dolphin’s pod presumably rejected him due to his deformity. Logically, this would make the slower moving whales very attractive to a social animal like a dolphin. Yet, experts are still puzzled as to why the whales so readily accepted it as a member of the group.
Similarly, but on a sadder note, female beluga whales have been known to turn objects into surrogate babies. Belugas in the wild have been seen carrying planks, other small objects, and even complete caribou skeletons on their heads or backs and treating them like calves” (ListVerse.com).
- Whale bones are eaten by zombie worms: “Whales have the biggest bones on the planet. Without someone disposing of them, the sea floor would be cluttered with whale bones forever. Luckily, there’s a creature that handles that job: the zombie worm.
The zombie worm’s scientific name is Osedax mucofloris, which literally translates to “bone-eating snot flower.” It’s an appropriate name: They burrow into whale bones and develop a root system, and the only exposed bits are covered in mucus that looks like, well, snot.
As if that weren’t weird enough, the zombie worm has no mouth, so its skin produces acid to break down bones. It then feeds off the protein and collagen the bones release. But the worm doesn’t have a digestive system or anus either, making it even weirder and deepening the mystery of exactly how it processes the stuff the acid releases. The best guess so far is that the zombie worm absorbs the collagen and protein through a symbiotic parasite that exists within its body.
So, the zombie worm is an acid-throwing spit monster that feeds on bones and has parasitic creatures living inside it. We’ll never complain about spiders again” (ListVerse.com).
- Whales sing:
“Scientists studying humpback whale songs in 2011 discovered something very odd. The rise and decline of an individual whale’s song is very much like that of a pop song.
In any area shared by whales, everyone sings the same song. Over time, the song will change, and if the new song is catchy enough, it will spread to other populations of whales. When a new whalesong comes out, it’s sometimes a sort of remix of the previous song.
And that’s not just a gross oversimplification—a researcher from the university of Queensland who has been analyzing this odd trend described it as “like splicing an old Beatles song with U2.”
Other times, the new song can be completely original. The more popular songs act like chart music, rising in popularity as they’re sung by more whales and then travelling eastward to other whale populations” (ListVerse.com). (Check out other whales facts at ListVerse.com “10 More Ridiculously Weird Facts about Whales and “10 Gargantuan Facts About Whales.”)
Whales. They are magnificent, wonderful, and strange animals, created by the imagination of our Lord.