Belated Beluga Day

Beluga blowing bubble rings

This is an announcement. Yesterday was Beluga Day. Today is therefore Belated Beluga Day.

The beluga (name drawn from the Russian for ‘white’) is a species of small arctic whale (also an unrelated species of sturgeon fish, but we won’t go into that). It is, by and large, larger than a dolphin but smaller than other whales (with some exceptions – the orca or killer whale is larger, and technically a dolphin).

As well as ‘beluga’, it is also known as the white whale, though not to be confused with the ‘great white whale’, Moby Dick, who was an abnormally coloured sperm whale. Incidentally, sperm whales are actually, as you may have suspected, named because people in the past thought they were full of cum. Actually, they have a ‘spermaceti’ (whale-cum) organ inside their big bulbous heads, filled with a white waxy substance. Its function may involve bouyancy, sound focusing, or even as a shock-absorber to allow whales to competitively ram each other. This ramming idea is borne out by documented cases of sperm whales ramming into and sinking whaling ships many times their size. Good for them.

Mother and Baby Beluga - note that baby is grey

Belugas though have little prospect of sinking anything, and are hunted by approximately four predators: polar bears, modern whalers, traditional arctic peoples, and orcas. Another of their names, based on their great range of noises, is ‘sea canary’. Of course, canaries are named after the canary islands, the ‘islands of dogs’, but nobody knows what those dogs were (they seem to be gone now). Many people speculate that they were actually monk seals (in latin, ‘sea dogs’). Hence, whales named after birds named after islands named after seals mistaken for dogs.

Belugas are highly sociable, very playful, may possibly use their blowholes to blow water to blast sand away from hidden crustaceans, and are the only whale that can swim backwards.

In conclusion, belugas are whales.

5 Responses to “Belated Beluga Day”

  1. Terrorism and Communism: Don’t be Moral « Directionless Bones Says:

    […] way it can plausibly, perhaps, be seen as betrayal of those other victims. To take an example from today’s earlier post, who did more to undermine whaling as a safe, profitable enterprise, the whales who were easily […]

  2. RedSonja Says:

    I know those whales! (I used to volunteer at the Shedd…) I heart my belugas. And their personalities are fascinating – one of the ones at the Shedd will spit on guests as they walk by to see them squeal!

  3. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    Awesome. Out of interest, I remember reading once that when a whale’s been underwater for ages, the exhalation from its blowhole can burn off human skin because it’s got so much carbon dioxide in it, which makes it acidic. Presumably doesn’t apply to a beluga in a shallow pool, but is that true?

  4. RedSonja Says:

    I don’t know about their exhalation being that acidic after a long dive – I’ve never heard it, but that doesn’t mean its not true. I do know that they’re waaaaaay more efficient at using oxygen than us land mammals are, for what that’s worth.

  5. Alix Says:

    I am trying to study Beluga whales and can’t find any information on HOW do beluga whales swim backwards. Everyone has the same copy of wikipedia info. Do they have special fins?


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