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Fin Whale: The Giant Speedster Of The Oceans

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Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


Fin Whale: The Giant Speedster Of The Oceans


 Fin Whale

Onlookers on a boat witness a rare sight. A sleek object darkens the surface of the water from below. It moves rapidly and cuts through the liquid medium. It’s elongated snout cleaving the water apart. The object briefly surfaces and bellows out a plume of water. With a flick of its gigantic tail it submerges and disappears into the depths.

Fin whales dubbed the ‘greyhound of the seas’ really do live up to their billing.

Fin Whale: Speeding Giant Of The Oceans

Fin whales are enormous, after the Blue Whale they are the largest living animal. At 90,000 kg (150,000lbs) and up to 25 metres (82 feet) in length, these creatures belong to a select group of baleen whales called Rorquals. Rorquals are giant baleen whales.

Fin Whale Photo By Lori Mazzuca

Not only are Fin whales large, their sleek-lined bodies propell them at high speeds through the world’s oceans. Sprinting at up to 40 kph hour (25 miles) these creatures are extremely fast. They can maintain speeds in excess of 35 kph (22 mph) for considerable periods of time.

Huge Creatures: Huge Appetites

Because of their vast bulk Fin Whales need to eat a lot of food to maintain their size and to keep alive.

Like all baleen whales, Fin Whales are filter-feeders. They use their plates of baleen which contains tens of thousands of long hairs to trap their prey. The water gets filtered out and the whale uses its tongue to swipe off the food, swallowing it down their throats.

Fin Whales feed on small animals such as krill, fish and squid.

According to a report from the University of British Columbia the whales power through the water  while feeding at about 11 kilometres per hour (seven miles per hour). When eating they can plunge to the depths greater than 200 metres (600 feet).

Once they have targeted their prey the whales open their jaws and lunge after the small creatures. It is estimated that a single lunge can net the whales ten kilogrammes (22lbs) of food. An adult whale can consume over 1,500 kilogrammes (3,300 lbs) of food a day.

Fin Whale Feeding

Remarkable Communicators

Fin Whales communicate with one another over vast distances. They repeat patterns and phrases after intervals and these sonorous displays can last for days at a time.

The sounds can be heard hundreds of miles away. They are able to travel such enormous distances because the sounds they make are incredibly loud and also because water is an excellent medium for the transmission of sound-waves.

At a distance of one metre Fin whales can emit low-pitched grunts that can exceed 185 decibels. To give you an idea of how loud that is a stun grenade only reaches 180 decibels from the same distance of one metre.

Fin Whale Size By Chris Huh

A Shaky Human Relationship

When people began commercial whaling back in the 19th century, whales such as the Fin Whale and Blue Whale were relatively safe as they were so fast. It wasn’t until the invention of more powerful harpoons, together with the exhaustion of other whale species, that the Fin whale became a target.

Throughout the 20th century nearly three quarter of a million Fin Whales were killed. 1987 was the year that finally saw the killing of Fin Whales outlawed. To date, only Iceland, Japan and subsistence hunters kill these animals which has allowed the Fin whale population to painstakingly recover although they still remain on the endangered list.

Nowadays the biggest concern for Fin whales is accidental collisions with ships. The noise-filled oceans are thought to play a significant role in confusing these animals causing the collisions.

Fin Whale Photo By Nancy Heise

Vital Statistics

  • Fin Whales can almost reach lengths of 27 metres (87 feet). Females are much larger than males.
  • They can weigh as much as 70,000 kilogrammes (150,000 lbs).
  • Fin Whales are found throughout the world’s oceans.
  • They can live to be an estimated 140 years.

Recommended Reading

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Whales: Kings Of The Cetaceans for further insight into Whales.

Among Giants: A Life With Whales is the fascinating story of underwater photographer, Charles ‘Flip’ Nicklin. Full of stunning pictures and insightful commentary about the whales this book is stunning.

You can obtain Among Giants: A Life with Whales here from Amazon.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Among Giants: A Life with Whales from here.

For Canada: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

For Germany: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

For France: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

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