National Geographic : 1940 Jan
WHALES, GIANTS OF THE SEA lower jaws are furnished with 20 to 30 heavy teeth (page 63). The Sperm Whale calf. which measures 13 to 14 feet at birth, is suckled by the mother at least 6 months and is weaned after attaining a length of 21 or 22 feet. The female, when suckling her calf, floats on her side, while the calf, which is thus enabled to breathe nor mally at the surface, takes the protruded nipple in the corner of its mouth. Sperm Whales live 8 or 9 years. Requiring a ton of food a day, they feed principally on squids and octopuses, as indicated by circular scars on the head and jaws left by the suckers and claws of these cuttlefish. In "sounding," or diving, the Sperm Whale lifts its caudal flukes high in the air and goes down almost vertically. On coming to the surface after a dive of from 20 to 30 minutes, the instant the end of the snout breaks the water the low, bushy spout bursts forth, directed diagonally forward. Following a pro longed submergence, the Sperm Whale makes about 40 shallow dives. It swims at about four knots, but when frightened can triple this speed. Blue Whale (Sibbaldus musculus) The summer haunts of Blue Whales are near the polar pack ice of both hemispheres, and they seem to avoid the Tropics (Plate II). They depend on small crustaceans for food and their wanderings appear to be correlated with the periodic abundance of these organisms. The Blue Whale is the largest mammal that has ever lived either on land or in the water (page 35). Three females 100 feet in length have been taken in the Antarctic in one season. A Blue Whale 89 feet long and 45 feet in maxi mum circumference weighed more than 119 tons; it yielded 166 barrels of oil. Although this whale's body has a decidedly bluish cast, the shoulders, back, and sides gen erally have a diffused paler mottling of small grayish patches, and the belly, including the area of the throat folds, is unevenly mottled with scattered silver-gray and white spots of irregular shape. A yellowish or sulphur-colored film of diatoms may form on the animal's under surface, giving rise to the name "sulphur-bot tom" used by American whalers. The blades of whalebone are black-blue or coal-black, and from 23 to 41 inches long. A Blue Whale calf, 23 to 26 feet long at birth, is nursed by the mother for about seven months and is weaned when it has attained an average length of 52 feet. The life span ap parently does not exceed 20 years. The Blue Whale feeds on small crustaceans called "krill." The mass of such shrimplike animals in the stomach of one large Blue Whale weighed more than a ton. The Blue Whale generally makes a dozen or more shallow dives of 12 to 15 seconds after coming up from a deep dive. The columnar vaporized spout, which may rise 20 feet, is delivered when the vertex of the head first appears at the surface. At the beginning of a deep dive that may last 10 to 20 minutes, the great caudal flukes rise clear of the water. Pursuing whale-catcher boats have found that the normal speed of a Blue Whale when traveling is 10 or 12 knots, but a frightened animal may exceed 14 knots. Little Piked Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) The Little Piked Whale seems to be partial to inshore coastal waters (Plate II and page 36). Strictly speaking, the name Balaenoptera acutorostrata applies only to the North Atlan tic Little Piked Whale, since the Antarctic form has been named Balaenoptera huttoni, and the one that occurs in the North Pacific has been called Balaenopteradavidsoni. Since their external features are much the same, all will be treated here as one species. On this basis, the Little Piked Whale has a world-wide distribu tion, ranging northward to Spitsbergen, Ice land, Baffin Bay, and Bering Sea, and on the south penetrating Ross, Weddell, and other Antarctic seas. Because of its small size, it has little commercial value. Not only is the Little Piked Whale the smallest of all the furrow-throated whales, but it is readily recognized by the broad white band crossing the upper side of the fore flipper and by the entirely white or yellowish-white whalebone. Its length seldom exceeds 33 feet. Throat folds, from 50 to 70, extend from the chin backwards onto the chest. The bluish-gray, brownish-gray, or grayish black coloration of the head, lower jaws, and back becomes lighter on the flanks. Ordinarily the entire throat, chest, and remainder of un derparts, with the exception of four or five outer folds, are ivory white. Scottish fisher men gave this whale the name "Little Piked" on account of its high and pointed dorsal fin. Probably this whale feeds more on fish than do its larger relatives. It is seen in the colder waters of the Northern and Southern Hemi spheres during the respective summer seasons, but rarely remains there during the winter. Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) For at least 700 years (1100 to 1800) the Right Whale was successively hunted in the Bay of Biscay, along the northwestern coast of Norway, around Iceland, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Newfoundland, and along the coasts of New England (Plate III). Its abundance, slow speed, buoyancy of its carcass, and great yield of oil and whalebone made it an attractive quarry. For these rea sons it was called the "right" whale.