Whales and Poison

Blue whales

Blue whales on a Faroer Stamp

Okay, this story is a little gross. Or maybe a lot. But because it’s about whales, I really have to share it here.

It’s also about earwax. In the ear tubes of blue whales. Ugh.

But you see, that ear plug, as the scientists call it, is deposited throughout a whale’s life. And it faithfully reflects the hormones, nutrients and poisons such a whale has coursing through its body throughout its entire life. And that’s quite a record, after all, those giants can live for decades.

And now, they have analysed the ear plug of a fairly young whale that was washed ashore after being killed by a ship stike (Luahine, anyone?). And what they found was … well, is a little shocking for me.

Because that poor whale got poisoned as a baby.

You see, heavy metals like mercury and lead acumulate in fatty tissue. So do other chemicals like DDT and PCBs. And when a mother nurses a baby, those metals and chemical enter her milk. (That’s also true for humans, btw.) So that whale, nursing for about a year, got a mouthful of poison at the start of his life. Not fun.

Other poisons continued to accumulate in his body, like mercury. Blue whales eat mostly krill, so they concentrate a huge number of little doses in their bodies during their lifetime. This whale was only 12 years old, a mere youngster. (And yes, DDT was banned 30 years ago, and it’s still accumulating in whales.)

That makes me very thoughtful.

Who are we to poison all creatures on earth? And why are we not stopping it? We know it’ll take several decades if not centuries for those chemicals to be broken down and disappear. And we’re even poisoning ourselves.

I don’t get it.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Here’s the link to the article (with pictures):Blue Whale Earwax Reveals Pollution Accumulated Over a Lifetime

Image souce: Wikimedia Commons, Copyright: Postverk Føroya – Philatelic Office

About Hannah Steenbock

Hannah Steenbock is an author, dreamer, and coach. She has published several short stories in English and German, as well as one novel in German. In 2013 she started self-publishing her work. In 2014, she has won two awards for her short story "Sequoia".
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