Everyone knows the story of the right whale, the whale the whalers thought was the right whale because… well it was the “right” whale to catch… well I’ll tell you something about this right whale chap… he’s just not right.
He’s certainly an odd looking fellow for starters, his huge mouth starts way above his eye… a gaping maw chock full of baleen to strip the water of tasty shrimp and the like. On that bonce are big bugger off callosities, sometimes appearing white because of the huge lice that congregate on them… though as Mrs Merrick said to her little boy ‘it’s not what is on the outside that counts’ and what shoves this fellow clicking and squeaking into the Proceedings of the Ever so Strange… is what is on the inside.
When you are dealing with whales it’s not exactly a huge leap of the imagination to realise that you are going to be dealing with some big body bits. Though there is one body bit in particular of the right whale that is really rather outsized. You see these chaps have enormous gonads… knackers… family jewels… call them what you will… one thing you can call them is bloody enormous… each one is five hundred kilos… together they weigh the same as a saloon car… though you wouldn’t want to clamber inside one for a family Sunday I’d warrant.
The right whale needs them too as the female right whale is… well something of a strumpet. When it comes to mating season the female right whale will… erm take on multiple partners at the same time. They are tremendously sensuous creatures and it’s said that the pressure of a human finger can give them a knee-trembler… if they hadn’t evolved their knees away. The right whales meet for these watery orgies and the males gather round to nuzzle and stroke the female for hours, then the males will enter her with their eight foot schlongs… it’s true that… how do we put this… she’ll allow them ‘in’ more than one at a time… after which the right whale all agree that they’ve had a merry old time and bimble off in to the big wet to find another orgy to attend.
All salacious gossip, and it’s just one of the reasons that female right whales don’t live in small villages and attend church… but there is also the tricksy laws of evolution here afoot… sexual selection. Postulated by Charlie Darwin… yes you are quite right… it’s the reason that males fight like rutting stags and show off like pompous peacocks. But combat and ornamentation are only two aspects of sexual selection… there are other shadowy goings on… one is sperm competition. Yes one way in which this never-ending tussle for more offspring is to continue the fight on to a microscopic level. As you’d expect nature has come up with a range of strategies to deal with this… the male dunnock bird pecks out his predecessors sperm before mounting the female… whereas dragonfly have evolved a penis that for all intents and purposes looks like a bottle cleaner to scrub out his predecessor’s love goo. Even humans have sperm competition and men will produce more of a type of ‘blocker’ sperm, like a defending footballer, if he suspects his missus is having it away with the milkman. The right whale has a much more simple method… to produce lots of sperm… from enormous testes… put quite simply he’s buying lots and lots of tickets in a lottery. I warned you that these chaps just aren’t right.
There are three species of these not-so-right whales who inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic, their populations spilt by a cold planet warming some millions of years ago. There is a forth… though not currently put in the right whale group… the much larger bowhead whale, a huge leviathan, it uses its great big bonce to smash through thick ice to draw a breath… as I mentioned it’s not usually placed in the right whale group but modern genetic studies have found there is more variation between the three species of right whale than there are betwixt them and the bowhead.
Finally as I mentioned the whalers of yore were said to have given the right whale its name after the fact that it didn’t sink, though the truth is a tad more multifaceted than that. Early whalers were based on the land, lookouts would keep a constant vigil, and when whales were spotted they would give the signal for the other whalers to row out to spear the poor sods. The right whale is also a slow swimmer, so it’s not surprising the right whale was considered right by those having to row out and catch one. Finally these ‘right’ whales are indeed more likely to float than other whales once you’ve stuck a harpoon in the poor sod, at the absolute most only 30% would sink.
While it’s easy to point a finger at these whalers that decimated the right whale populations, it’s these ‘right’ characteristics that means it is still being killed today… they are constantly struck by propellers and crashed into by boats… which means that some species of these rather marvellous creatures are down in their hundreds… Sad news indeed and while it’s debatable whether this whale is right or not… we at The Proceedings can certainly tell you when something isn’t right.