August 21, 2010

Whale Watching

Today, we actually saw whales as opposed to the black and white dolphins known as 'orcinus orca.' Whales and dolphins are classified according to two things; their size, with porpoise being the smallest, dolphins being mid sized and whales being the largest, with the Blue Whale being the largest mammal ever known to exist. The other thing they are classified according to is their feeding apparatus. The only whale that has teeth is the Sperm Whale. So if it has teeth and it's not a Sperm Whale, its a dolphin or a porpoise. All dolphins have perfectly conically shaped teeth, so even though a Sperm Whale has teeth, they are not the same as a dolphin's. The smallest of all actual whales is the Minke Whale, also notoriously shy and affectionately known as 'Stinky Minke.' That's the one we saw today. Minke Whales use the sound of sqwauking birds at the surface to locate bait balls; balls of yummy, yummy herring.  Sound travels two miles per second in an underwater environment. So the Minke Whale can hear the noisy birds from miles away. When we're watching them, they often won't surface for 10 minutes at a time. The best way to locate where they're going to reappear is by watching the crowds of birds. Suddenly the Minke's disproportionately small dorsal fin will pop up, scattering a few of the birds who know they could accidentally become lunch.

Lauren Sands

Naturalist