Right Whales: Why not "wrong" whales?!

Early whale hunters called these large marine mammals the 'right' whale to kill, because right whales are slow compared to other species, generally inhabit coastal areas, float when dead and yield large quantities of blubber and oil. There are two species of right whales: Eubalaena australis found in the Southern Hemisphere, and Eubalaena glacialis found in the Northern Hemisphere.

Right whales average 50 feet in length and can weigh as much as 45 tons! Their enormous heads are almost 1/3 the total body length.

Sea lice found encrusting portions of the head of #2030, not at all an uncommon occurrence with Northern right whales.

The head of a right whale has distinctive patches of thickened skin, known as callosities. The right whale is also characterized by the lack of a dorsal (top) fin and a v-shaped spout from two blowholes. Northern right whales have been sighted from Iceland to Florida, breeding in warmer southeastern US waters during the winter, and returning to feed in the nutrient-rich cold water further north in the spring and summer.

Valued for their abundant oil and baleen, right whales were the first whale species to be commercially hunted in the 1600's. The thick layer of fat on a right whale can produce as much as 7000 gallons of oil. The long baleen plates were used in many products, including umbrella ribs, furniture, mattresses, brushes, and stays for women's corsets, brassieres and bustles. The baleen from one whale would pay the expenses for an entire whaling trip. The advent of electricity, plastics, the petroleum industry, and modern technology have produced substitutes for both whale oil and baleen.

Despite over 60 years of protection from a League of Nations ban on hunting right whales, both northern and southern right whale populations are endangered. Nearly one-third of right whale deaths are still from human causes, including ship collisions, entanglements in fishing gear, and habitat degradation. Today there are fewer than 300 right whales in the North Atlantic Ocean.