Can you name the second largest animal in the world? My guess was elephant, and I was wrong.
God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life! Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!” God created the huge whales, all the swarm of life in the waters. And every kind and species of flying birds. God saw that it was good. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean! Birds, reproduce on Earth!” It was evening, it was morning— Day Five.Genesis 1:20-23
The Second-Largest Animal in the World isn’t an Elephant?
“The ocean swell has increased to the point where it won’t be safe to approach any of the islands I wanted to show you on the way back to Seward,” Captain John announced. “We’ll head back to the harbor now but stop if we see anything interesting.”
We gave him a thumbs up and settled back in our seats, binoculars up, trying to find any interesting birds. Not an easy task on a bouncing boat. After about 20 minutes, Captain John cut the engine.
“Fin whales!” he called out, pointing to the right.
I grabbed my camera and focused on the spot where he’d pointed. He saw a whale fin, right? I wondered what kind.
Just then, the surface of the water broke, and I could see the sleek back of a whale. Another one popped to the surface nearby, and they both went under again.
“Wow! We’re so lucky,” Captain John said. “Fin whales are the second largest animal on earth, but we rarely see them.”
Huh. I’d never even heard of a fin whale. I’d need to do some research when we returned to town.
Facts About Fin Whales
Most people can’t name the second largest animal in the world because the biggest animal gets all the press. Everyone knows about blue whales (the largest animal anywhere) and elephants (the largest land animal).
Blue and fin whales share a spot on the endangered species list. During the mid-1900s, whalers killed over 725,000 fin whales in the Southern Hemisphere. Evidently, no one kept track of how many died in the Northern Hemisphere.
Unlike their whale cousins, fin whales can travel up to 23 MPH. Not bad for something that weighs the same as 11 elephants and is the length between first and second base. Like a blue whale, a fin whale uses baleen to filter krill out of ocean water. Their efficient system can take in almost two tons (that’s like eating 1,666 Taco Bell bean burritos) a day.
Fin whales also sport different colors on their faces. The left side of their lower jaw is dark, while the right side of their lower jaw is mostly white. I watched a documentary by Dolphin Dom on YouTube that shows fin whales feeding. They always rolled to the right as they fed. The narrator speculates that the different colors help them disguise themselves from their prey.
Fin whales get their name from their dark dorsal fin near their tales and rarely show their tales when they dive.
In all the superlatives describing the second largest animal, it’s easy to forget how few remain. I feel blessed to have seen two.
But God, who counts the number of hairs on our heads, knows about the problem. I wonder how he feels about the gifts of Creation he’s given us to take care of. The ones we squander, ignore, exploit, or fail to give thanks for.
Father God, thank you for the incredible things you have created. Show me ways to steward your gifts. Keep my heart thankful and inquisitive about what I don’t understand.