National Geographic has posted a remarkable five-minute video of
a newborn baby blue whale to promote the its new television
production “Kingdom of the Blue Whale” on National Geographic
Channel. It’s the first time that such a sight has have been
captured on video.
By now, you may have heard of the remarkable discoveries by
whale researchers, including John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective
in Olympia. National Geographic helped fund the venture, which
followed blue whales on a migration route to a social gathering
point known as the Costa Rica Dome.
National Geographic magazine features a story by Ken Brower
about the adventure, which includes this description:
The Costa Rica Dome is an upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water
generated by a meeting of winds and currents west of Central
America. The location is not fixed; it meanders a bit, but the dome
is reliably encountered somewhere between 300 and 500 miles
offshore. The upwelling brings the thermocline — the boundary
layer between deep, cold water and the warm water of the surface —
up as high as 30 feet from the top. Upwelling with the cold,
oxygen-poor water from the depths come nitrate, phosphate,
silicate, and other nutrients. This manna, or anti-manna — a gift
not from heaven but from the deep — makes for an oasis in the sea.
The upwelling nutrients of the dome fertilize the tiny plants of
the phytoplankton, which feed the tiny animals of the zooplankton,
which bring bigger animals, some of which are very big indeed.
The blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, is the largest creature
ever to live. Linnaeus derived the genus name from the Latin
balaena, “whale,” and the Greek pteron, “fin” or “wing.” His
species name, musculus, is the diminutive of the Latin mus,
“mouse”—apparently a Linnaean joke. The “little mouse whale” can
grow to 200 tons and 100 feet long. A single little mouse whale
weighs as much as the entire National Football League. Just as an
elephant might pick up a little mouse in its trunk, so the
elephant, in its turn, might be taken up by a blue whale and
carried along on the colossal tongue. Had Jonah been injected
intravenously, instead of swallowed, he could have swum the
arterial vessels of this whale, boosted along every ten seconds or
so by the slow, godlike pulse.
Calambokidis tells of his personal experience in an interesting
radio interview by Boyd Matson on
National Geographic Weekend.
I’m eager to see the documentary in high definition. Reviews of
the program have been over the top. A collaborative review on
“Biochemical Soul” offers this praise: “For those of you who
don’t want to read the whole review, here is all you need to know:
‘Kingdom of the Blue Whale’ is stunning! It’s beautiful. It’s sad.
It pisses you off. Then it wows you some more. Then it saddens you
again. Then it’s uplifts you and then leaves you thinking, ‘We’ve
got to save them!’”
Here are some “fast facts” condensed from information taken from
Web site of this production.
Blue whales are the largest animals ever known to have lived on
Earth. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant.
They reach these mind-boggling dimensions on a diet composed
nearly exclusively of tiny shrimplike animals called krill. An
adult blue whale consumes about 4 tons of krill a day.
Blue whales live in all the world’s oceans, occasionally
swimming in small groups but usually alone or in pairs. They often
spend summers feeding in polar waters and undertake lengthy
migrations towards the Equator as winter arrives.
Blue whales are among the loudest animals on the planet. They
emit a series of pulses, groans, and moans. It’s thought that, in
good conditions, blue whales can hear each other up to 1,000
Blue whale calves enter the world already ranking among the
planet’s largest creatures. After about a year inside its mother’s
womb, a baby blue whale emerges weighing up to 3 tons and
stretching to 25 feet. It gorges on nothing but mother’s milk and
gains about 200 pounds every day for its first year.
Between 1900 and the mid-1960s, some 360,000 blue whales were
slaughtered and nearly became extinct. Since coming under
international protection, they’ve managed a minor recovery to
between 10,000 and 25,000 in the world today.
Blue whales have few predators but are known to fall victim to
attacks by sharks and killer whales, and many are injured or die
each year from impacts with large ships.
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