Blue Whales are not only the largest whale in the world today, they are also the biggest animal that has ever lived on our planet. These magnificent sea mammals are larger than any dinosaur that walked the earth. They were once numerous in our oceans, but were hunted to the verge of extinction in the nineteenth century. Today they are still an endangered species, but they have so far survived, and they can be seen on whale-watching tours in certain parts of the world at certain times of the year.
Blue Whale Facts
Although Blue Whales live in the ocean they are not fish. They belong to a group of sea-dwelling mammals called 'cetaceans', which include whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Blue Whales are the largest animal that has ever lived. An adult male can grow up to 30 metres (100 ft) long - that's longer than a public swimming pool. They can weigh in excess of 200 tons.
Blue Whales were drastically depleted by whaling during the 19th and early 20th century when they were killed for their meat, bones and their blubber which was used as oil for lamps. Numbers today are estimated to be around 10,000, spread out over all the oceans of the world (except for the Mediterranean sea) which makes sightings rare except in certain places I'll talk about below.
Blue Whales are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Blue whales were given complete protection in the North Atlantic in 1955 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling; although Iceland did not recognize their protected status until 1960.
Despite their enormous size, Blue Whales do not hunt large sea animals. They feed mainly on a a small shrimp-like creature called krill. Blue Whales do not have teeth, instead the 'baleen' in their large mouth and throat cavity allows them to filter huge quantities of krill from the ocean water. The greatest threat to the survival of Blue Whales today comes from rising ocean temperatures which are killing off the krill on which Blue Whales depend.
Blue Whales tend to travel alone or in pairs. They are rarely seen in large groups except at certain times of year in certain places where there is a seasonal and plentiful supply of krill. They communicate by means of a kind of sonar 'song' - which can you can listen to in the video at the end of this article.
There is still much that scientists do not understand about the lives of blue whales, such as where they go to breed and what they communicate with their 'song'. For example in late 2009 scientists recognized that blue whales were singing with ever-deeper tones each year but so far they have not arrived at a convincing explanation for this phenomenon.
Where (and when) to see the largest whale in the world
Blue whales live in oceans all round the world but don't often come in near shore.The North-east pacific is one of the preferred habitats for blue whales but not necessarily the easiest place to see them on a whale-watching trip.
These are the best places to take a whale-watching trip if you want to see the rare and beautiful blue whale...
California is one of the best places in the world to spot blue whales. They are regularly seen during whale watching trips off the central coast of California, especially in summer and early Autumn. At this time of the year there is a population of blue whales in the waters off California of up to 3000 whales. Blue whales are often spotted in Monterey Bay, Botega Bay and Gulf of the Fallarones.
For more information try:
Monterey Bay Natioanl Marine Sanctuary: www.montererybay.noaa.gov
Montery Bay Whale Watch: www.montereybaywhalewatch.com
Monterey County Convention and Visitors Centre: www.montereyinfo.org
Baja California Sur in Mexico is another excellent place to look for Blue Whales.The Loreto Bay National Park is an important wintering and calving area for Blue whales. Other species in the area include Minke, Fin and Gray whales.
For more information try:
Baja adventure company: www.bajaecotours.com
An informative website on Baja California: www.baja-web.com
St Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada is also a great place to see Blue Whales as well as Fin and Minke whales, Belugas and Harbour Porpoises. The conjunction point of the St Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers creates a special microclimate favouring marine life. The best season for seeing whales here is June - November.
For more information try:
Useful website with info on whales in St Lawrence: www.whales-online.net
Info on visiting Quebec: www.bonjourquebec.com
Song of the Blue Whale
Five largest whales in the world.
1. Blue Whale. These whales can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh up to 200 tons. They are truly giants of the seas.
2. Fin Whale. Adults can grow up to 26 metres long (85 ft). Closely related to the Blue Whale, and some cross-breads between the two have been seen.
3 and 4. (Jointly) Sei Whales and Bowhead Whales can both grow up to 20 metres long (66 ft).
5. Sperm Whale. Adult males can reach 18 metres (59 ft) in length.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on November 11, 2012:
Glad you enjoyed! Thanks for the feedback.
Evan Eulie on November 10, 2012:
Great hub! I love going on whale watches and I have always wondered where the best places are for blue whales since they are so elusive.
SilverGenes on March 26, 2011:
They are such magnificent animals and yes, we need to protect them as best we can. Very informative article, Marie. Thank you.
Marie McKeown (author) from Ireland on March 26, 2011:
I agree - I think we need to do everything we can to protect these creatures.
Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on March 26, 2011:
Beautiful videos. Thanks for sharing. Whales are indeed beautiful.Commercial whaling must be stopped to save these from extinction.