Blue Whales: the worst dinner guest

By Simon Mustoe

The largest animal that ever lived on Earth would be an awful dinner guest. 

Blue Whales are designed to move quickly and efficiently. Once they’ve hoovered up a vast quantity of food, they would simply leave for another part of the planet.

Apart from being terribly impolite, any conversation would be at a pitch too low for human hearing ... and most likely with a mouthful.  

But while you can see Blue Whales literally anywhere and they are the largest animal that ever lived, they are surprisingly hard to find. There are few spots where they congregate with any reliability. 

In 2014, Western Australian researchers published a paper based on satellite tracking of Blue Whales near Rottnest Island. They found that they moved seasonally into the Banda Sea. The study depicts the migration route and the time spent in certain areas. The red squares are where Blue Whales spent most of their time. 

The satellite tracking equipment fell off by September but we know October / November is a good time of year, as The Pindito has seen Blue Whales consistently in this area at that time of year. These Blues return towards the end of the year back south into our southern Australian waters. 

The reference to ‘pygmy’ Blue Whale almost always causes confusion. The tropical subspecies are smaller than the Blue Whales that occur around Antarctica. They still measure in at a cool 20 metres average adult length and are very broad, strong and muscular. Your first view of a Blue Whale is always a breath-taking moment as you realise the immense size of the animal. 

What’s interesting about the Banda Sea, is how the ocean creates such a predictable source of food for these breakneck balaenopterids. 

Scientists have discovered a huge and seasonal divergence current in the Banda Sea. When currents diverge, the only place water can come from, to fill the gap, is the deep ocean. This colder water is full of all the material that’s rained down from the surface and its resuspension creates the conditions for plankton and krill to flourish - that's why Blue Whales gather here. 

As we’d expect, the coldest water occurs later in the year, when Blue Whales start to appear and the best years are during La Nina.

The Pindito has observed 20 Blue Whales in a single day.      

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