The whales covered here
are those species most commonly found in Antarctic waters
being the Right, Blue, Sei, Humpback, Minke, Fin, Sperm
and Killer whales.
There are also some other
smaller and rarer species such as the Southern Bottlenose
whale (up to 9.75m long), Arnoux's beaked whale
(to 7.5m) and the southern hourglass dolphin, the smallest
Cetacean in Antarctic waters at 1.5-2m long.
Whale statistics - these
are very variable indeed. If you do any research on
whales on the internet, or in books, you will find that
there are wide differences in the recorded length and
mass of the various species. Lengths are generally more
reliable than weights as it easy to measure the length
of a whale, from whalers records or from photographs
against objects of known size. The weight on the other
hand is very difficult to measure and is based on some
rough measurements and estimates from those measurements
of whales caught by whalers.
Unlike other animals
it is not possible to guide a whale onto a weigh bridge
or to suspend it from a crane to measure the weight.
The only time whales have been available in quantity
for such statistics was during the old whaling days
and then it was most important to get them processed
as quickly as possible before the next one arrived,
so weights are educated guesses at best.
Blue Whale - Sulphur Bottom
Whale - Sibbald's Rorqual
length 25m (males) 26.2 m (females)
body weight 100 -120 tonnes
The largest animals ever to have lived, dwarfing
even the largest dinosaurs. All figures about blues
are awesome. Their circulatory system pumps 10 tonnes
of blood through its body using a heart the size
of a small car. A child could crawl down the whales'
main blood vessel, the aorta. In its development,
a blue whale calf can drink 50 gallons of its mother's
milk and gain 200lbs per day!
The largest individuals have been estimated at being
Blue whales are light grey/blue to dark grey while
at the surface, but seen underwater they are a luminous
Southern Right Whale
Average adult length 20m, Average adult body mass
unknown, but up to a maximum of 96 tonnes
The name was given
by the early whalers because they were the "right"
whales to kill. They have large amounts of oil,
blubber and baleen or whalebone, they are slow swimming
(easy to catch) and float when killed.
Right whales have
a large bulbous head and lack the streamlined shape
of other whales. The head has large callosities
that are home to a whole colony of whale barnacles,
parasitic worms and whale lice.
Average adult body length 16m, average
body mass 13 tonnes
These are among the
more elusive of the larger whales, not coming very
close to land at any time and not forming large
groups or "schools". Sei is pronounced "Say"
They are found like
many whales in both Northern and Southern hemispheres
following the best feeding at different times of
year. Only the larger older individuals tend to
go very far south, they are relatively rare in Antarctica
Average adult body length 12.9 m
(males) 13.7 m (females)
So called because
of the habit of raising and bending the back in
preparation for a dive, accentuating the hump in
front of the dorsal fin.
Probably the best
known of the large whales as they often collect
in groups near to land and draw attention to themselves
by their behaviour. Breaching, lob tailing and flipper-slap
are common and often occur several times in a row.
They are slow swimmers
(allows tourist boats - and whalers - to get close).
Males at breeding time sing the longest and most
complex songs in the animal kingdom.
Average adult length 9m Average adult
body weight 7 tonnes
One of the smallest
baleen or filter feeding whales. Minke numbers are
still quite healthy due to whalers concentrating
on larger, more profitable species.
Minkes are still
hunted for "scientific" reasons by Japan,
though large quantities of the meat turns up in
very expensive restaurants.
Average adult body length 20m. Average
adult body mass 50 tonnes
The second largest after the blue
whale, the fastest swimming of all the large whales
(sometimes called the greyhound of the seas) and
Fin whales can produce
sounds of 75-80dB at around 100Hz which is very
loud for an animal source. In pre-propeller oceans
this sound could travel for well over a hundred
Average adult body length 16m. Average
adult body mass 35 tonnes
The name comes from
the enormous bulbous spermaceti organ in the head.
Only males are found
in Antarctic waters. Sperm whales are toothed whales
rather than filter feeders and are the deepest and
longest of all whale divers catching giant squid
in the dark ocean depths.
Unlike baleen whales,
which form only temporary bonds, sperm whales live
in extended family units that for the females are
Average adult body length 9-10m (male) 4.5-6m
Also known as Orcas
from their Latin name. They are one of the most
well known types of whales thanks to their being
held captive in marine aquariums where they are
taught to perform tricks.
Killer whales are
toothed whales and top carnivores in their
Sometimes referred to as "sea-wolves",
they frequently hunt in packs or "pods".
Their tastes are wide ranging from krill and fish
to penguins, seals and even much larger baleen whales.