Sunday, July 31, 2016
“Your Republicans have now become our Putinists.” - Konstantin Sivokv
One afternoon in the fall of 2014, Konstantin Sivkov, a well-known strategist in Russia’s military and intelligence circles, invited journalist Simon Shuster out to a Russian eatery in the north of Moscow, the sort of place a salary man might go for a plate of stuffed cabbage and a glass of vodka. He chose a quiet booth with a view of the street and ordered a cup of black coffee that he didn’t seem to need. He was already jittery and excited, like many of Russia’s security wonks were at that time. In Ukraine, the Baltics and elsewhere, they were finally seeing President Vladimir Putin put into practice a long-discussed theory of “hybrid warfare” that relied more on dirty and clandestine tricks than the overt use of force.
Sivkov, who had served as a strategist for the Russian General Staff between 1995 and 2007, was keen to tell me all about the theory, which the chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, had set out in 2013 as a strategic vision for wars of the future. “Hybrid warfare,” Sivkov began, “relies on the use of the enemy’s own internal resources against him.” Against an adversary with “a wobbly political base” and a “fractured moral core,” Russia could use disinformation, cyber attacks and other means of covert political influence to make the enemy “devour itself from within,” Sivkov said.
Russia executed such a strategy in Ukraine — and, much less successfully, in Estonia — in 2014 by using its media channels and local agents to encourage ethnic Russian minorities to rise up against their governments. But could the same sort of strategy work against Russia’s bigger adversaries in the West? “We’ve obviously thought about that,” Sivkov said. In Europe, the resurgence of far-right politics, combined with widespread angst over globalization and mass immigration, had created “a very convenient atmosphere for foreign agents to interfere,” he said. But the U.S. was a harder target. Its political system was too stable, too tightly controlled by the establishment for hybrid warfare to have much of an effect.
That may have been the case in 2014, but a lot has changed since then. Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party has upended the Washington establishment and tilted the axis of the U.S. political system. For the first time, the nominee of a major party has questioned the U.S. commitment to defend NATO allies from a Russian attack. He has promoted the use of torture and called for a ban on Muslims coming into the country. Most recently, during a press conference on July 27, he suggested that he would even “look into” recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and lifting the sanctions subsequently imposed on Russia.
Taken together, these shifts appear to have created the nascent conditions – the wobbly political base, the fractured moral core – that would make the U.S. a fitting target for Russia’s new approach to conflict. And if cyber security experts and U.S officials are to be believed, Russia has already launched one salvo in this war by hacking and leaking a trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee. Trump and his staff dismissed these claims as an “absurd” conspiracy theory. But, the methods and impact of that intrusion seem to fit squarely within the parameters of hybrid conflict: It played on existing political divisions – in this case, deepening the rift inside the Democratic Party and weakening Hillary Clinton’s campaign on the eve of the party’s convention – and it allowed Russia to maintain plausible deniability throughout.
Asked on July 26 whether Russia was behind the DNC hack, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he could not respond without using “four letter words.” But in a half dozen interviews this week, Russian military experts, Putin associates and members of Moscow’s intelligence community told me that Russia has both the means and the motive to carry out such an operation. They just weren’t sure whether it would serve Russia’s interests, or hurt them in the end.
Let’s start with the means. At least since February 2013, when Gen. Gerasimov published his manifesto on hybrid warfare, the Russian armed forces have been pouring resources into what he called “nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals.” That has included the creation of a new cyber warfare directorate two years ago, one of several units within the armed forces working on Gerasimov’s plans for “informational actions, devices, and means that are constantly being perfected.”
On a small scale, Western officials felt the sting of these devices during the crisis in Ukraine. Among the more famous examples came in February 2014 when Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was secretly recorded complaining to the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, that European diplomats were not doing enough to mediate an end to the country’s violent uprising, at one point saying, “F-ck the E.U.” When that conversation was posted online and spread by Russian media, she remarked to the BBC that the “tradecraft [was] really quite impressive.”
Maybe it was but such operations always come with a price for the agents that carry them out, says Alexander Golts, a Russian military expert and visiting scholar at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. “Each time they have to weigh what’s more valuable in any given situation,” he told me. “Do we nail someone to the wall with some kind of revelation? Or do we keep our capabilities a secret? You can’t do both.”
In other words, when spies go public with a piece of intelligence they also reveal how they obtained it. Their targets then have a chance to build defenses against another breach of that kind, making the trick a lot harder to repeat in the future. In orchestrating a hack of the DNC’s email system, the risks of this sort of exposure would have been enormous, says Gleb Pavlovsky, who served as Putin’s adviser on political affairs and propaganda between 2000 and 2011. “This is a one-off action that destroys its own usefulness in the future,” he says. “All the intelligence agencies in the world hate to do this, and the Russian ones, which are in their culture inert and risk averse, would doubly hate it.”
That may help to explain why the hackers tried to cover their tracks after the DNC hired a cyber security firm to study the intrusion. But they clearly failed; three investigations conducted by experts in the U.S. have confirmed that the hack seems to trace back to two separate spy agencies working independently of each other: the FSB, which is the main successor to the Soviet KGB, and Russia’s military intelligence service, which is known as the GRU.
In order to proceed with such an operation, these agencies would have needed “approval from a very high level,” says Pavlovsky. “And you would need to be sure that this will work. As is, it merely creates a major scandal, and little else. It does not give any guarantees.”
Partly for that reason, sources in Russia’s intelligence community say U.S. officials are wrong to think that either agency would have gone for it. Not only would they risk exposing Putin to the backlash once the scheme was exposed, they would also come out looking like amateurs. “How would this be perceived? The mighty Russian intelligence services stealing emails? That looks pretty silly,” says Yuri Kobaladze, a retired major general of another of Russia’s spy agencies, the Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR.
The political benefits also look questionable at best, in this case. The DNC emails published so far have mostly confirmed what many in Washington had long assumed to be true: that the Democratic Party was playing favorites in the primaries by trying to undermine Clinton’s rival in that race, Senator Bernie Sanders. Although the specifics of that effort rattled the party’s sense of unity – and forced the DNC chairwoman to resign – it was not the kind of bombshell that would “change the balance of power inside the U.S.,” says Kobaladze. “Yes, they’ll howl about it for a while. But in the end it will not influence the elections in the least.”
That’s not to say the Kremlin has no interest in supporting Trump’s insurgency. If he makes good on his foreign policy pledges, Russia would be able to achieve several of the strategic aims that Putin has been pursuing for years. He would weaken the relevance and resolve of NATO. He would end Russia’s isolation from the club of Western leaders. And he would see the U.S. turn inward, roll back its military and political commitments around the world and create power vacuums for Russia to fill.
All of that sounds pretty tantalizing to observers in Moscow. But there’s just one catch. They don’t have much confidence in Trump keeping any of his promises on Russia. “On the whole, we work on the assumption that our countries are systematically opposed to each other, and that will hold regardless of who’s the head of state,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, the chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, a think tank with close ties to the Kremlin. Around Trump, he says, “there would be people who would determine the course of foreign policy, and his slogan, Make American Great Again, does not foresee any kind of capitulation or compromise with anyone.”
Sivkov is not so sure. The type of isolationism that Trump has been preaching strikes the Russian military strategist as exactly the type of compromise that Russia would like the U.S. to make. For one thing, it would mean an end to the principle that human rights and democracy should be promoted – or as the Russians like to put it, “exported,” – to authoritarian regimes around the world. As Sivkov said when we spoke again on Wednesday, “Your Republicans have now become our Putinists.” And that in itself is a comforting thought to the Kremlin elites.
Trump himself has stoked conspiracy theories he is in league with Putin, in characteristically confrontational style. While insisting on Wednesday, July 28, that he has “nothing to do with Russia,” Trump invited Moscow to release more of Clinton’s emails. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he told a press conference in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Such a leak would have huge influence in the November elections. But would the Kremlin really order their intelligence services to go to bat for Trump in these elections? “There’s no proof of that whatsoever,” says Sivkov. “It can’t be proven in a way that you could hold up in court.” And that, of course, is part of what defines the tactics in a hybrid war. As the U.S. election season rolls along, the Clinton campaign may yet see more of what Gen. Gerasimov called “informational actions.” And if they are embarrassing enough, the leaks might just succeed in shifting the course of U.S. political history.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.
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Knowledge Quiz, No. 67
The answers are at the bottom
1. The Linke Scale is used to measure the blueness of what?
2. Who was the pilot in the first fatal plane crash?
3. Whose body was dug up and held for ransom just months after his death?
4. Who invented the chocolate chip cookie?
5. What month is named after the Latin word for ten?
6. What company developed the famous chess-playing computer Deep Blue?
7. What scientist discovered penicillin in 1928?
8. Who wrote the poem The Road Not Taken?
9. What was the original name of The Beatles?
10. What drug was a component of Coca-Cola until 1900?
11. What author wrote Moby Dick?
12. Who holds record for winning the most Academy Awards?
13. What is the proper medical term for the thumb?
14. How many brains does a starfish have?
15. Canada's one dollar coins are known by what name?
16. Where does a Rhodes Scholar study?
17. In what country was the modern game of golf invented?
18. What was the first animal to orbit earth aboard the Soviet satellite Sputnik II in 1957?
19. The Marquess of Queensberry rules apply to which sport?
20. What was the first commercial product ever sold using a bar code scanner?
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1. The Linke scale is used to measure the blueness of the sky. The Linke scale is also known as blue-sky scale. The scale consists of eight shades of blue from pure white to ultramarine blue with black. These eight shades are printed on cards and are held up to the sky. The set of eight cards of different standardized shades of blue are numbered (evenly) 2 to 16; the odd numbers are used by the observer if the sky color lies between any of the given shades.
2. Orville Wright was piloting a plane that crashed causing the first airplane fatality. On September 17, 1908, during a demonstration flight, an aircraft flown by Orville Wright nose-dived into the ground from a height of approximately 75 feet, killing Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge who was a passenger. This was the first recorded airplane fatality in history. One of two propellers separated in flight, tearing loose the wires bracing the rudder and causing the loss of control of the aircraft. Orville Wright suffered a broken left thigh and several broken ribs but eventually recovered from his injuries. Selfridge, who was Secretary of the Aerial Experiment Association, suffered a crushed skull and died a short time later.
The First Fatal Plane Crash
3. Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day in 1977, at the age of 88. Two months later, his body was stolen from a Swiss cemetery. Chaplin’s widow, Oona, received a ransom demand of some $600,000, sparking a police investigation and a hunt for the culprits. Oona had refused to pay the ransom, saying that her husband would have thought the demand “ridiculous.” The callers later made threats against her two youngest children. After a five-week investigation, police arrested two auto mechanics who eventually led them to Chaplin’s body, which they had buried in a cornfield about one mile from the Chaplin family’s home. The men were convicted of grave robbing and attempted extortion. As for Chaplin, his family reburied his body in a concrete grave to prevent future theft attempts.
4. The chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938, who owned the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts. Wakefield wrote a cookbook which was the first to include the recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, which she called the "Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie". As the popularity of the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie increased, the sales of Nestlé's semi-sweet chocolate bars also spiked. Andrew Nestlé and Ruth Wakefield made a business arrangement: Wakefield gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name for one dollar and a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate. Nestlé began marketing chocolate chips to be used especially for cookies and printing the recipe for the Toll House Cookie on its package.
chocolate chip cookies
5. December gets its name from the Latin word decem (meaning ten) because it was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar which began in March. The winter days following December were not included as part of any month. Later, the months of January and February were created out of the month-less period and added to the beginning of the calendar, but December retained its name. The month contains the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year and marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere.
6. Deep Blue was a chess-playing computer developed by IBM. The name "Deep Blue", is a play on IBM's nickname, "Big Blue". Deep Blue is known for being the first computer chess-playing system to win both a chess game and a chess match against a reigning world champion under regular time controls. On May 11, 1997, the machine won a six-game match against world champion Garry Kasparov by two wins to one with three draws. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch but IBM refused and dismantled Deep Blue.
7. Alexander Fleming is credited with the discovery of penicillin; perhaps the greatest achievement in medicine in the 20th Century. In 1928, while studying influenza, Fleming noticed that mold had developed accidentally on a set of culture dishes being used to grow the staphylococci germ. The mold had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. Fleming grew the mold in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of pathogenic bacteria. After calling it "mold juice" for several months, he later named the substance penicillin in March of 1929, paving the way for the use of antibiotics in modern healthcare. The laboratory in which Fleming discovered and tested penicillin is preserved as the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum in St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington.
8. “The Road Not Taken" is a poem by Robert Frost, published in 1916 in the collection Mountain Interval. Frost claimed that poem was based on his friend Edward Thomas. Thomas and Frost became close friends and took many walks together. In Frost’s words, Thomas was “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. The poem was intended by Frost as a gentle mocking of indecision. Frost commented that “The Road Not Taken” is “a tricky poem, very tricky” implying that people generally misinterpret this poem as evidence of the benefit of free thinking and not following the crowd, while Frost’s intention was to comment about indecision and people finding meaning in inconsequential decisions.
9. The Quarrymen was British skiffle/rock and roll group, formed by John Lennon in Liverpool in 1956, which eventually evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Originally consisting of Lennon and several school friends, the Quarrymen took their name from a line in the school song of Quarry Bank High School, which they attended. Paul McCartney joined the band in October 1957. George Harrison joined the band in early 1958 at McCartney's recommendation, though Lennon initially resisted because he felt Harrison (still 14 when he was first introduced to Lennon) to be too young. The group moved away from skiffle and towards rock and roll, causing several of the original members to leave. This left only a trio of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison, who performed under several other names, including Johnny and the Moondogs and Japage 3 before returning to the Quarrymen name in 1959. In 1960, the group changed its name to the Beatles.
10. Originally marketed as a health drink, Coca Cola was said to cure many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. And no wonder because for its first 17 years of existence, Coca-Cola actually contained cocaine. When launched, Coca-Cola's two key ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the "K" in Kola was replaced with a "C" for marketing purposes). Coca-Cola once contained an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. (For comparison, a typical dose or "line" of cocaine is 50–75 mg.) In 1903, it was removed.
11. Moby Dick is a novel by writer Herman Melville. It was published in 1851 during the period known as the American Renaissance. A sailor known as Ishmael tells the story of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale which on an earlier voyage destroyed his ship and severed his leg at the knee. The novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but during the 20th century, its reputation as a Great American Novel was established. About 3,200 copies were sold during the author's life. Following his death in New York City in 1891, he posthumously came to be regarded as one of the great American writers.
12. Walt Disney was an entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. As a film producer he received 22 Academy Awards from 59 nominations and has won more individual Oscars than anyone else in history. He was presented with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and one Emmy Award, among other honors. Disney was also an innovative animator and created the cartoon character Mickey Mouse. He is famous as a pioneer of cartoon films and as the founder of theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
13. The medical for the thumb is the pollex (compared to hallux for your big toe). The thumb is the first, most lateral digit on the radial side of the hand, classified by most anatomists as one of the fingers because its metacarpal bone ossifies in the same manner as those of the phalanges. Other anatomists classify the thumb separately, noting that it has a much different articulation with the metacarpal bone and is composed of one metacarpal bone and only two phalanges.
14. Starfish have no brains and no blood. Their nervous system is spread through their arms and their “blood” is actually filtered sea water. While a starfish lacks a centralized brain, it has a complex nervous system with a nerve ring around the mouth and a radial nerve running along the region of each arm. This nervous system helps them gather information, make decisions, and survive. Although starfish live underwater and are commonly called "starfish," they are not fish. They do not have gills, scales, or fins like fish do and they move quite differently from fish. Beyond their distinctive shape, sea stars are famous for their ability to regenerate limbs, and in some cases, entire bodies.
15. The Canadian one dollar coin, commonly called the loonie, is a gold-colored one-dollar coin introduced in 1987. It bears images of a common loon, a bird which is common and well known in Canada, on the reverse, and of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. Because of the appearance of the common loon on the back of the dollar coin that replaced the dollar bill in 1987, the word "loonie" was adopted in Canadian parlance to distinguish the Canadian dollar coin from the dollar bill. When the two-dollar coin was introduced in 1996, the derivative word "toonie" ("two loonies") became the common word for it in Canadian English slang. The term "loonie" has since become synonymous with the Canadian dollar itself.
16. The Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award for non-British students to study at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. The award is widely considered to be one of the world's most prestigious scholarships. The Rhodes Scholarships are administered and awarded by the Rhodes Trust, which was established in 1902 under the terms and conditions of the will of Cecil John Rhodes, and funded by his legacy. There have been nearly 8,000 Rhodes Scholars since the inception of the Trust. Each year 32 young students from the United States are selected as Rhodes Scholars.
17. Golf in Scotland was first recorded in the 15th century, and the modern game of golf was first developed and established in the country. Scotland is widely promoted as the 'Home of Golf', and along with whisky and the long list of Scottish inventions and discoveries, golf is widely seen as being a key national cultural icon throughout the world. The first golf courses and clubs were established in the country. The first written rules originated in Scotland, as did the establishment of the 18 hole course. The modern game was spread by Scots to the rest of the world. To many golfers, the Old Course at St Andrews, an ancient links course dating to before 1574, is considered to be a site of pilgrimage.
18. Laika was a Soviet space dog who became the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957. The experiment aimed to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight. She died within hours of takeoff from panic and overheating, according to the BBC. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for five months, then burned up when it reentered the atmosphere in April 1958. In 2008, Russian officials unveiled a monument to Laika built near the military research facility in Moscow that prepared Laika's flight to space.
Laika, the Dog
19. The Marquess of Queensberry rules are a code of generally accepted rules in the sport of boxing. The Marquess of Queensberry rules have been the general rules governing modern boxing since their publication in 1867. They were named so as John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry publicly endorsed the code, although they were written by a sportsman named John Graham Chambers and published in 1867 as "the Queensberry rules for the sport of boxing". As the code of rules on which modern boxing is based, the Queensberry rules were the first to mention gloves in boxing. There were twelve rules in all, and they specified that fights should be "a fair stand-up boxing match" in a 24-foot-square or similar ring.
John Douglas, The Marquess of Queensbury
20. The very first scanning of the now ubiquitous Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode was on a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum in June 1974. The bar code was scanned at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974 at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The pack of gum wasn't specially designated to be the first scanned product. It just happened to be the first item lifted from the cart by shopper Clyde Dawson. The cash register rang up 67 cents. The pack of gum and the receipt are now on display at the National Museum of American History.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Brendon Stanton, the photographer behind the wildly popular Humans of New York Facebook page has written an open letter to Donald Trump that has gone widely viral — the post has received about 200,000 shares as of now, about an hour and a half after he published the open letter on the HONY Facebook page.
Brendon Stanton takes the entire first paragraph to note how hard he tries to be nonpartisan in his work, and indeed, Stanton photographs his subjects and presents them with little-to-no editorializing, a feature which has made his work so popular for allowing the subject to speak their own story.
But Stanton also offers a powerful rationale that opposing Trump “is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.
Below is Stanton’s open letter in full:
An Open Letter to Donald Trump:
I try my hardest not to be political. I’ve refused to interview several of your fellow candidates. I didn’t want to risk any personal goodwill by appearing to take sides in a contentious election. I thought: ‘Maybe the timing is not right.’ But I realize now that there is no correct time to oppose violence and prejudice. The time is always now. Because along with millions of Americans, I’ve come to realize that opposing you is no longer a political decision. It is a moral one.
I’ve watched you re-tweet racist images. I’ve watched you retweet racist lies. I’ve watched you take 48 hours to disavow white supremacy. I’ve watched you joyfully encourage violence, and promise to ‘pay the legal fees’ of those who commit violence on your behalf. I’ve watched you advocate the use of torture and the murder of terrorists’ families. I’ve watched you gleefully tell stories of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pig blood. I’ve watched you compare refugees to ‘snakes,’ and claim that ‘Islam hates us.’
I am a journalist, Mr. Trump. And over the last two years I have conducted extensive interviews with hundreds of Muslims, chosen at random, on the streets of Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. I’ve also interviewed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees across seven different countries. And I can confirm— the hateful one is you.
Those of us who have been paying attention will not allow you to rebrand yourself. You are not a ‘unifier.’ You are not ‘presidential.’ You are not a ‘victim’ of the very anger that you’ve joyfully enflamed for months. You are a man who has encouraged prejudice and violence in the pursuit of personal power. And though your words will no doubt change over the next few months, you will always remain who you are.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Whales are the biggest creatures on Earth.
There are four distinct species of whales that scientists have come up with to identify them. While there are plenty of subgroups and breakdowns within them, this gives us a basic framework for the process.
Types of Whales
Blue Whale: The Blue Whale belongs to the baleen category. Blue Whales are very large whales that can measure up to 108 feet and weight about 190 tons.
Gray Whale: The Gray Whale is one that people seem to be able to identify when they are looking into the ocean. They have some characteristics that make them quite familiar in various ways.
Fin Whale: The Fin Whale is the second largest animal in the world, and that is no small accomplishment. You have likely heard them called the razorback which is a common nickname.
Humpback Whale: The Humpback Whale is one of the most recognized of them all because of the hump over the dorsal fin.
Minke Whale: The smallest of the baleen category is the Minke Whale. They are not likely to be more than 30 feet long or to weigh more than 7 tons.
Narwhal Whale: One type of toothed whale is the Narwhal Whale. It fits in about the mid range when it comes to sizes of whales.
Pilot Whale: Pilot Whales are dark black in color most of the time. Some of them are a dark gray. There are two species of the Pilot whale, but it is often very hard to tell them apart.
Right Whale: There is no denying the sheer size of the Right Whale. They can weigh up to 100 tons as well as be up to 60 feet long.
Sperm Whale: The Sperm Whale is the largest of all toothed whales, and many people immediately think of the story of Moby Dick when they see one.
Beluga Whale: The Beluga Whale offers a whitish color and you will notice it has a type of formation to the head that is sticking out somewhat.
Bowhead Whale: Today the Bowhead Whale is also called with several other names including Greenland right whale, Arctic whale, polar whale, steeple-top and Russian whale.
Facts about Whales
Blue whales are pregnant for 10-12 months. The newborn calf is about 7.5 meters long and weighs about 5.5 – 7.3 tons. A baby blue whale drinks about 225 liters (about enough to fill a bath) of its mother’s fat-laden milk (it is 40-50% fat) a day, gaining 3.7 kilograms an hour, until at age 8 months they are 15 meters long and 22.5 tones! The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer, until the calf is about 13 meters long. Blue whales reach maturity at 10-15 years.
are also champion divers. Adults can stay underwater for almost two hours and dive to depths of 2,000 meters or more. They eat squid, which can live very deep in the ocean, so sperm whales have to dive down into the deepest parts of the sea to catch them.
The huge head, which is up to a third of its overall body length, houses the heaviest brain in the animal kingdom - up to 9kg. The head also consists of a cavity large enough to park a car inside that contains a yellowish wax called spermaceti that was much sought after by whalers.
The , which lives exclusively in the Arctic, has the thickest blubber of all whales. It can reach a whopping 70cm in thickness. These whales also have the longest – the comb-like structures hanging down from their upper jaws used as a sieve to filter food from the sea-water. These baleen plates can reach up to 5 meters in length.
The male has two teeth. The left one pierces the animal’s lip and grows to an incredible 2 to 3 meters. In Europe, these tusks were once sold as the horns of the mythical unicorn.
The North Atlantic and North Pacific right whales are among the most endangered of all whales. Only around 400-500 individuals currently exist with fewer than 100 North Pacific right whales remaining. The Western Pacific gray whale may be down to the last 150 individuals but perhaps the most endangered whale lives in the Gulf of Mexico. Here, a genetically distinct population of has recently been discovered that may have fewer than 50 individuals remaining.
In the wild whales live for a long time - generally the larger species living longest. spend their lives in cold Arctic waters. They may be the world’s oldest mammals and are the longest lived of all whales – possibly over 200 years.
are known as the "canaries of the sea" because they make chirping sounds like the little yellow birds.
are the loudest creatures on Earth! Their call reaches levels up to 188 decibels and can be heard hundreds of miles away. The blue whale is louder than a jet, which reaches only 140 decibels. Sounds over 120-130 decibels are painful to human ears.
Male sing the most complex songs and have long, varied, eerie, and beautiful songs that include recognizable sequences of squeaks, grunts, and other sounds. The songs have the largest range of frequencies used by whales, ranging from 20-9,000 hertz. Only male humpback whales have been recorded singing. They sing these complex songs only in warm waters where they breed and give birth. In cold waters, they make rougher sounds, scrapes and groans, perhaps used for locating large masses of krill (the tiny crustaceans that they eat).
The that feed in Antarctic waters and swim north to breed off the coasts of Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica make one of the longest confirmed migration of any mammal.
also migrate huge distances and some may even rival the humpback for distance travelled. Some travel a round-trip of between 16,000–20,000 km (10,000–12,400 miles) every year between their winter calving lagoons in the warm waters of Mexico and their summer feeding grounds in the cold Arctic seas, however a female grey whale has recently been recorded as having made an even longer round-trip of 22,500km (14,000 miles) migrating between the east coast of Russia and the breeding grounds of Mexico. To put this into perspective, the continent of Africa is approximately 8,000 km (5,000 miles) from north to south.
Whale's Tooth Nantucket Scrimshaw
In its lifetime (about 40 years) a gray whale travels a distance that is equivalent to going to the moon and back.
Despite their size, the , the second largest whale, is known as the "greyhound of the sea" and can reach speeds of up to 20mph (32kph),
Communication among whales is achieved in several ways. They create sounds, make physical contact and use body language. Large whales can communicate over huge distances (across entire ocean basins) using very low frequencies.
An individual fin whale pees about 970 liters per day. That’s enough to fill up more than 3 bathtubs.
The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered whales. Only around 400-500 individuals survive, living along the east coast of North America. A few hundred right whales also live in the North Pacific while the Western Pacific gray whale may be down to the last 150 whales.