Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water, and we know less about what lies beneath it, than we do of the surface of the moon. Below the waves there is a magical world of strange creatures, as alien as anything from science fiction. Presiding over it all are the kings of the deep. The majestic whales. The largest creatures to ever inhabit the earth. It is difficult to study whales because they are fast and far ranging, spending most of their time under the surface. But after centuries of encounters and scientific study, we have learned many interesting things about cetaceans.
- Whales Aren’t Friendly, They’re Indifferent: Hollywood and television programs always paint whales in a good light. The gentle, friendly giant that would never hurt a human. But this is a misinterpretation. Whales rarely see a human, and when they encounter a diver in the water. The divers are so small that to the whale they are irrelevant. And most whales are unable to eat humans because their mouths are designed for much smaller prey. But if a human resembled food, there would be reason to worry. In the days of whale hunting. Whales sometimes attacked whaling ships. Encountering a whale should be done with caution as some people have gotten into trouble by being between a whale and his food. In Sydney, whale watching is safest from a professional tour boat.
- Whales Can Hold Their Breath for 2 Hours: The actual record for a whale staying under water is 138 minutes, by a Cuvier’s beaked whale. The average amount of time whales spends underwater is around 20 minutes though.
- Whale Puke is Highly Valued: Ambergris is a mysterious product produced in a sperm whale’s digestive tract. It is a strange material that is used in perfumes to make the scent last longer. Ambergris is an extremely rare substance, a piece the size of an ostrich egg can fetch 70,000 USD or more.
- Whales Sleep with Half Their Brain: Whales do not become fully unconscious, but instead, sleep with one half of their brain at a time. This is because they must return to the surface to breathe, and it wouldn’t be good if they overslept.
Whales are one of the most amazing creatures on the planet, and they are an indicator of marine habitat health. Protecting the whales is good for all species, even man. Fortunately, many species of whales are recovering from over hunting, but they are still at risk from habitat destruction.