The largest creature to have ever lived on planet earth; the magnificent blue whale.
So far the blue whale has alluded me. My visit to the USA’s west coast for my 50th with the prime purpose to see blue whales failed! I’ll have to go again!
The blue whale size is 30 metres (100 feet) in length. They can weigh as much as 200 tons and have a heart that can pump between 200-300 litres (44-65 gallons) of blood with every beat. The largest animal that's ever lived on planet earth can live for over 100 years and has a tongue which weighs as much as a female African elephant.
Why an article on blue whales?
You may be wondering why I chose to write about blue whales on my scuba diving blog. A good question.
Well I figured it's likely that many scuba divers are alike. Which means that if I'm interested in all creatures that live under the waves (which includes the blue whale), then most divers would too.
So when I came across some interesting facts about blue whales, I got sucked in.
I hope like me that you find this article interesting.
If you were to find yourself scuba diving next to a blue whale, this is how insignificant you'd be. From the image below, which I've borrowed from wikimedia on the blue whale size, you'll see how colossal these sea dwelling mammals are.
Blue whale size compared to a scuba diver
Blue whale size myths
Whilst the blue whale is bigger than all of the dinosaurs that roamed the earth and swam in the seas, there are many myths around the size of the internal anatomy of a blue whale.
The first of these myths is in relation to its heart.
Blue whale size myth #1 - their heart is the size of a small car
I heard it said that the heart is the size of a small car similar to a mini or VW beetle. This fact about blue whales is not true.
The truth is they have a heart which is 1.52 metres (5 feet) long, 1.22 metres (4 feet) wide and 1.52 metres (5 feet) tall.
The blue whale's heart weighs around 181kg (400 pounds), which is 181,000 grams (6,400 ounces).
This huge heart is capable of pumping well over 200-300 litres (44-65 gallons) of blood per beat. As a comparison, a beer barrel in the UK holds about 164 litres (36 gallons) and in the US this is 141 litres (31 gallons).
Even with this myth busted about the size of a whale's heart, it's still the biggest heart on the planet.
Compare this to the heart of an elephant, which weighs around 13.61kg (30 pounds).
Your heart is roughly 453 grams (16 ounces). The human heart pumps 60 to 90 mililiters (2 to 3 ounces) of blood out per beat in comparison to a blue whale.
Blue whale size myth #2 - their aortic artery is large enough for a baby to crawl down
The second myth to be busted about the size of a blue whale is the diameter of its aortic artery.
It has been said that the aortic artery is big enough for a baby to crawl along. However, when you watch the video below about 'How big is the blue whale's heart,' you'll see this isn't the case.
How big is a blue whales heart video
Blue whale myth #3 - blue whales aren't actually blue
Blue whales aren't actually blue, but more of a mottled blue-gray colour when they are on the surface. They only look blue when they are underwater, which is where they got the name from.
The size of a blue whales young
Blue whales give birth to calves which are almost as large as the biggest fish in the oceans.
The baby blue whales are huge right from birth. Measuring in at around 7-8 metres (23-26 feet) and weighing in at 3 tons or 2,700kg (5,953 pounds). This is more than the weight of a fully grown hippopotamus!
The largest fish is the whale shark, which can grow as large as 18 metres (60 feet). A fully grown whale shark weighs in at over 21,000 (46,300 pounds). Although this is much larger than a new borne blue whale, the young calf soon catches up. Baby blue whales put on around 441kg (200 pounds) per day.
That means that after about 90 days or approximately three months, the baby whale will be the size of a fully grown whale shark.
Other blue whale facts
Some other interesting facts about blue whales.
Blue whale fact #1 - size of a giant but a gentle giant
The blue whale can grow to over 30 metres (100 feet) in length. This is comparable to the length of a Boeing 737-600 aeroplane, which is 31 metres (102 feet) in length.
Or this is the equivalent of three American school buses, and three times the size of a Triceratops dinosaur.
This is also the equivalent of a ten story building. If a blue whale stood up virtually on its tale, it would stand as tall as a building with 10 stories.
Blue whale fact #2 - weight
A fully grown blue whale weighs up to 200 tons or 82,300kg (181,000 pounds). If you compare this to a female African elephant, which weighs around 3,600kg (7,940 pounds), this is nearly 23 times its size.
The reason why a blue whale is able to sustain its enormous size is because of the buoyancy of water. Whereas land animals are restricted by gravity to what their skeletons can support.
Blue whale fact #3 - One of the loudest sounds of any animal
Blue whales have one of the loudest calls in the animal kingdom. The sound of their call registers at 188 decibels.
To put this into perspective, a jack hammer is around 100 decibels and a jet engine is about 140 decibels.
Their loud calls have been record from as far as 800 kilometres (500 miles) away. But blue whales can hear each other for up to 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) away.
The sounds they use are used for communicating with each other, as well as being used to sonar-navigate the oceans.
Blue whales fact #4 - age they live to
The age of a blue whale can be determined by its earwax. This is because about every six months a new layer of earwax forms inside its ear canal.
This earwax helps to protect the ear and helps to carry sound waves to the ear too.
This earwax can be used in the same way as counting the rings on a tree to determine a blue whale’s age. The average lifespan of a blue whale is around 80-90 years.
However,the oldest one found was about 110 years old.
Blue whale fact #5 - diet
Blue whales can eat around four tons or 3,600kg (7,940 pounds) of food every day. This is more than the weight of a female African elephant.
Despite the blue whale's size, they actual eat one of the smallest animals in the oceans, which is a crustacean called krill.
They feed by scooping up the krill in their large mouths and then filter out the water using baleen bristles which line their month.
Blue whale fact #6 - size of their tongue
The tongue of a blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant.
Blue whale fact #7 - Speed of a blue whale
Blue whales travel great distances from their summer feeding in polar regions, to making the long trip to the Equator when winter sets in.
Blue whales generally cruise a speed of about 8KPH (5MPH) per hour. But have been known to swim at speeds of up to 32KPH (20MPH) too.
The future for the blue whale - now a protected species
Once hunted for their baleen and other body parts, the blue whale is now a protected species.
The whalers discovered that blue whales held valuable oil and until 1967 they were killed in large numbers each year.
It's estimate by the WWF that between 1904 to 1967 more than 350,000 were killed in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1931, during the heyday of whaling, an astounding 29,000 blue whales were killed in a single season.
The blue whales are recovering, but very slowly. It's estimate that around 25,000 are alive in the oceans today. There is an estimated population of around 2,000 blue whales off the coast of California.
The best place to spot blue whales
Although I was unlucky and didn't see any blue whales when I visited California, this is one of the best places in the world where it's likely to see one.
Between the months of June-July through to early October these magnificent creatures are spotted swimming along the Californian coast.
My trip to see blue whales was from Monterey California.
The website I used to work out the best time to visit was this one Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Although in the end my research didn't pay off, as I didn’t see one, but that’s nature.
2018 saw a spike in sightings of blue whales, as reported in SF Gate.
My friend, who lives in Del Mar (near San Diego) California reported seeing many blue whales just off the coast. He could see them from the shore near to his home. He was trying to encourage me to go back out, as he knew I'd missed them the previous year. But unfortunately the timing didn't work for me.
Pico Island, The Azores
The Azores is a volcanic archipelago of 9 islands in the Atlantic ocean.
The Azores is a place to go scuba diving as well as whale watching. Whales that are seen around the Azores includes blue whales and sperm whales. The best time to visit for the chance to see blues is February to March.
That being said, if you want to swim with a blue whale you may wish to visit Sri Lanka instead.
Mirissa, Sri Lanka - swim with blue whales
Sri lanka is one of a handful of places in the world where swimming with blue whales is permitted.
Seeing a blue whale is on many scuba diver's bucket list (in fact not just scuba divers).
Imagine not only seeing a blue whale, but then having the opportunity to get into the water with the largest animal that has ever existed.
To have this experience, you must go swimming with an experienced and competent guide and always be respectful by keeping your distance from the whales.
But this would be amazing and is on my bucket list. Seeing and swimming with blue whales in Sri Lanka is best done between March and April.
Blue whale found of the coast of Newfoundland
The above video about the blue whale and it's heart was taken from a blue whale found in Newfoundland in 2014.
Although the death of this magnificent creature was tragic on the one hand, on the other hand it provided a useful scientific reference point.
I hope you enjoyed this article about blue whale size
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or types of scuba diving (or specifically about blue whale size), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.
Have fun and be safe!