greenland whale

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The Greenland Whale (Bowhead) - Balaena mysticetus

It turns out bowheads aren’t especially fond of being hunted. Who’d have guessed? 

Bowhead whales are members of the Balaenidae family, and until the early 2000s, were believed to be a right whale (specifically, the Greenland right whale). Morphological and genetic analysis proved that they belong to their own genus. However, they’re still very similar to the right whales. They’re robust, don’t have “chin grooves”, and tend towards colder waters.

The head of the Bowhead is 40% of its body length. Yikes.

The Naturalist’s Library, Vol VII: Mammalia. Sir William Jardine, 1843.

We were wondering what this Bowhead was doing arching its back and flexing its upper jaw next to the ship. If you watch the video carefully at the bottom right as it lifts its flukes all becomes clear! It’s also obvious from this video why people describe them as Elephantine in their movements; that upper jaw looks just like a trunk and the back is so wide!

Edit: It’s called a pre-dive flex! Thank you Encyclopædia of Marine Mammals.

Whale bone fence, Island of Borkum, Lower Saxony, Germany

In the 16th century, the economy of the island relied mainly on whaling. Up to 300 men sailed to Greenland to hunt for whales. Some residents took the whale bones home and set them up as fences around their properties. Only two of these fences are still existing and are listed as historic monuments. As they are slowly decaying, they can not be replaced because whaling and trading with whale items is illegal in Germany.

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WHALE, WHALE, WHALE. WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?

The Narwhal: A narwhals skin has as much vitamin C in one ounce, than oranges of the same amount

The Beluga: In 2009 a beluga whale saved a Chinese divers life after she became paralyzed from cramping. The white savior named Mila, held the divers foot in it’s mouth and pushed her to the surface.

The Humpback: Mother and baby relationships can be very close, as they are often seen touching each other with their flippers when swimming.

(All part of my Greenland project, its exciting stuff, stay tuned for more!)

Cetology #32.22

But it may possibly be conceived that, in the internal parts of the whale, in his anatomy—there, at least, we shall be able to hit the right classification. Nay; what thing, for example, is there in the Greenland whale’s anatomy more striking than his baleen? Yet we have seen that by his baleen it is impossible correctly to classify the Greenland whale. And if you descend into the bowels of the various leviathans, why there you will not find distinctions a fiftieth part as available to the systematizer as those external ones already enumerated. What then remains? nothing but to take hold of the whales bodily, in their entire liberal volume, and boldly sort them that way. And this is the Bibliographical system here adopted; and it is the only one that can possibly succeed, for it alone is practicable. To proceed.

Cetology #32.21

In connection with this appellative of “Whalebone whales,” it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature may be convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales, yet it is in vain to attempt a clear classification of the Leviathan, founded upon either his baleen, or hump, or fin, or teeth; notwithstanding that those marked parts or features very obviously seem better adapted to afford the basis for a regular system of Cetology than any other detached bodily distinctions, which the whale, in his kinds, presents. How then? The baleen, hump, back-fin, and teeth; these are things whose peculiarities are indiscriminately dispersed among all sorts of whales, without any regard to what may be the nature of their structure in other and more essential particulars. Thus, the sperm whale and the humpbacked whale, each has a hump; but there the similitude ceases. Then, this same humpbacked whale and the Greenland whale, each of these has baleen; but there again the similitude ceases. And it is just the same with the other parts above mentioned. In various sorts of whales, they form such irregular combinations; or, in the case of any one of them detached, such an irregular isolation; as utterly to defy all general methodization formed upon such a basis. On this rock every one of the whale-naturalists has split.