Alaska Whales: Blue Whale

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

There are eight species of whales that frequent the cold and icy waters of Alaska. The Beluga, Humpback, Gray, Orca, Bowhead, Blue, Right, and Minke whales.

Blue whales are a member of the baleen family of whales, which holds the distinction for being the group encompassing the largest of the whale species.

Everything about the blue whale is enormous. It is the largest animal on earth, ever. A big blue whale can be 100 feet long and weigh up to 150 tons. That's as large as a Boeing jet. Its heart is as large as a small car. Fifty people could stand on its tongue. Its spout shoots up at least 30 feet when it surfaces for air. The blue whale is the largest animal inhabiting the earth. There are records of individuals over 100 feet long, but 70-90 feet  is probably average. A good way to visualize their length is to remember that they are about as long as three school buses. An average weight for an adult is 200,000 to 300,000 pounds (100-150 tons). Its heart alone is as large as a small car.

Blue whales get their name from their dark-blue coloring. Cold water diatoms adhere to their skin and sometimes give their bellies a yellowish tinge, giving the blue whale its nickname of "sulfur bottom." Blue whales are long and streamlined. Their dorsal fins are extremely small, and their pectoral flippers are long and thin.

Blue whales migrate away from Alaska in the winter months to warmer waters off Baja California where they mate and give birth to their young. They are long lived, up to 90 years, with an average lifespan expectancy of 35-40 years. Blue whales tend to travel alone or in small pods of two or three. Fin whales, the second largest of the whale species, often travels with Blue whales..

Blue whales mate and calve in tropical-to-temperate waters during winter months and feed in polar waters during summer months. Even at birth, the blue whale is enormous, weighing as much as an adult hippopotamus. The baby blue whale drinks approximately 100 gallons of its mother’s fat rich milk every day for the first seven months of its life. Blue whales in the northern hemisphere move north to Arctic waters to feed.

The blue whale is the loudest whale on the planet. Its sounds consist of trills, moans and pulses, which are short sounds that repeat at regular intervals. Its low-frequency whistles carry for hundreds of miles underwater and are often 40 to 50 decibels louder than a jumbo jet. Humans cannot hear these loud, low frequency sounds with out the aid of special equipment to raise the pitch to a level we can hear. The blue whale sounds can be detected over 700 miles, which means that they may well be a form of communication. The sounds may enable them to find food and a mate.

Blue whales do not have any natural predators due to their large size. The calves can be vulnerable to attacks by killer whales. Blue whales had reached the point of extinction by the 1960’s due to whaling. Currently the International Whaling Commission and the U.S. ban the hunting of the blue whale. Humans can be a threat by modifying the whale’s habitat, vessel collisions and entanglement in fishing gear. Guidelines are available to whale watching boats so that whales remain unharmed and whale watchers enjoy the exciting opportunity to see these giant animals in their awe-inspiring environment.

Blue whales feed almost exclusively on tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans called krill, which it filters from the ocean with modified teeth called baleen. They can swallow one hundred pounds of krill in one gulp. They will eat four tons of food each day. They feed at depths of less than 325 feet where the light can penetrate which increases the production of krill.

The average swimming speed is 13 miles per hour with top speeds of 30 miles per hour if frightened. Blue whales can dive at depths up to 1640 feet. That dive usually lasts for 10-20 minutes. They blow 8-10 times in between dives. The spout can reach nearly 30 feet in height.


blue whales are endangered

great blue whale spotted off the coast of Alaska

Alaska Whales:

There are eight species of whales that frequent the cold and icy waters of Alaska

Learn more about Alaska's whales

beluga whale is now endangered in Alaska nature Alask humpback whale Alaska grey whale
Beluga Humpback Gray Whale
Alaska orca whale also known as a killer whale alaska bowhead whale endangered great blue whale in Alaska waters
Orca Bowhead Blue Whale
endangered right whale in Alaska waters Alaska Minke whale  
Right Whale Minke