Blue whales are only gentle giants if you aren’t their food


Big Whale claims that the blue whale is all serene majesty, a harmless, gentle giant cruising the oceans in search of whatever it is whales do for fun. Mechanically persecuted during the 20th century, these whales are both a symbol of the shattering vastness of the ocean and mankind’s ability to pervert even that. Despite their actual diets, they’re treated as honorary herbivores, the Innocents of the ocean.

This is bullshit.

Blue whales are giant killing machines, destroyers on a vast scale. They are designed for mass slaughter, to hoover up whole generations of tiny critters at once. Note “tiny.” It’s the size of the critters they eat which leads us to discount the scope of the carnage big whales inflict, and therefore which stops us from appreciating them properly as the monsters they are.

A blue whale’s favorite food is krill, a small shrimp-like crustacean which swim around in the billions. Your average krill is some fraction of an inch long, but since they like to swarm together, you can fit a lot of krill in a cubic yard of water. And then you can fit a lot of cubic yards of water into a blue whale’s mouth.

That mouth is designed as a gargantuan food strainer. To feed, a baleen whale opens up its mouth as wide as it can and lunges through the water, taking in whatever happens to be swimming in that water, filtering it through the hundreds of keratinous plates (baleen) that line their mouths. The whale spits the water out; the plates catch the food.

A blue whale can suck in around, oh, 200 cubic meters of water per mouthful, and they tend to target krill densities of around 100 per cubic meter. The math here is not difficult: a decent size blue whale mouthful consumes 20,000 krill. And there are many mouthfuls in a day.

Any creature capable of eating 20,000 whole-ass animals at once is a force to be respected and feared. Sure, for humans, whales are harmless, friendly giants, but that’s a parochial view. What about from the krill’s standpoint?

Noted racist H.P. Lovecraft loved playing with the idea of creatures which exist so far beyond our human understanding that they’d break our brains to even think about. His Great Old Ones are capable of annihilating whole civilizations without noticing or caring. They are malevolent, super-elemental forces, inscrutable and so horrible that they transcend terror itself.

Basically, my contention is that your average blue whale, happily munching its way through the Southern Ocean, is actually the krill version of Cthulhu. They wipe out millions of them (editor’s note: krillions) a day, coming out of nowhere to destroy whole unsuspecting swathes of the poor bastards. Their motives are utterly inscrutable. They arrive from a realm beyond the krill’s admittedly-minute understanding. They come, they annihilate, they are gone, leaving behind void where there once was life.

Isn’t this version more fun?

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