The wrecked and beached boats shown in this post once broke important connections in Nature. They killed whales. The boat’s purpose could be easily switched from a whaler to a sealer. So, they killed seals as well. These and other boats worked from the whaling stations at South Georgia Island some 800 miles east of the Southern tip of South America. The boats and their crews came close to causing the extinction of the Southern Right Whale and the Blue Whale in the Southern Ocean.
Boats like this, along with other whale killing methods, harvested some 1.4 million individual whales in the first half of the 20th century. It is estimated that the Antarctic Blue Whale population was once 239,000 individuals. The current population estimate is about 4,500 individuals. The carnage figures for other whale species show similar trends. Some 60 years after the practice of whaling ceased, the Blue Whale, the Fin Whale, and the Sei Whale are still considered endangered.
Most of the great whales migrate annually to the nutrient rich Southern Ocean to feed. Here, they become an important part of the food chain as they consume large amounts of krill. The Southern Right Whale and most other large whales are at the top of the food chain – exceeded only by man.
The great whales are an important connection in Nature. They are part of the food chain, serving as predators of plankton, krill, salmon, tuna, squid and many fish in between. They are also food for sharks, other whales and even the tiniest sea life as their bodies decay after death.
Because of their huge appetites, whales play an important role in stabilizing the aquatic food chain and reproduction of other species. When algae (phytoplankton) die, they sink and strip iron from the ocean’s surface. Krill eats the algae and whales eat the krill. Whales then excrete the iron back into the water. It is estimated that the iron concentration of whale feces is about 10 million times that of Antarctic seawater. So, whales recycle iron into the surface waters. Their feces become an important fertilizer for new algae growth. Thus, while whales are at the top of the food chain, they have an important connection in Nature with the bottom of the food chain.
Whale feces plays a large role in helping to offset carbon in the atmosphere. Estimates state that as much as 400,000 ton of carbon are extracted from the air due to these whales each year. Studies have shown that the nutrients in sperm whale feces help stimulate the growth of phytoplankton which, in turn, pulls carbon from the air providing a cleaner and healthier breathing environment for all animals.
The good news is that, with international treaties now in place, whaling practices are minimal. Consequently, the great whale populations are gradually recovering.
Worth Your Extra Attention : A Wonderful Newsletter About Nature And The Environment
Recently, I came across a wonderful online newsletter that I want to share with you. It has the interesting name “paper.li”. This daily edition is called “The Natural View”. It is a daily compendium of all things about nature and the environment that are posted on Twitter. Daily references to my posts are included in the list. If you are a busy person, and want to quickly review recent online offerings about nature and the environment, I strongly recommend that you subscribe.
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.