Blubber is a thick layer of vascularized adipose tissue under the skin of all cetaceans, pinnipeds and sirenians.

Whale blubber
Whale blubber


Lipid-rich, collagen fiber-laced blubber comprises the hypodermis[1] and covers the whole body, except for parts of the appendages. It is strongly attached to the musculature and skeleton by highly organized, fan-shaped networks of tendons and ligaments, can comprise up to 50% of the body mass of some marine mammals during some points in their lives, and can range from 2 inches (5 cm) thick in dolphins and smaller whales, to more than 12 inches (30 cm) thick in some bigger whales, such as right and bowhead whales. However, this is not indicative of larger whales' ability to retain heat better, as the thickness of a whale's blubber does not significantly affect heat loss. More indicative of a whale's ability to retain heat is the water and lipid concentration in blubber, as water reduces heat-retaining capacities, and lipid increases them.[2]


Blubber is the primary fat storage on some mammals, specifically those that live in water. It is particularly important for species that feed and breed in different parts of the ocean. During these periods, the animals metabolize fat. Blubber may save energy for marine mammals, such as dolphins, in that it adds buoyancy while swimming.[3]

Blubber differs from other forms of adipose tissue in its extra thickness, which provides an efficient thermal insulator, making blubber essential for thermoregulation. Blubber is more vascularized—rich in blood vessels—than other adipose tissue.

Blubber has advantages over fur (as in sea otters) in that, though fur retains heat by holding pockets of air, the air expels under pressure (i.e., when the animal dives). Blubber, however, does not compress under pressure. It is effective enough that some whales can dwell in temperatures as low as 40 °F (4 °C).[4] While diving in cold water, blood vessels covering the blubber constrict and decrease blood flow, thus increasing blubber's efficiency as an insulator.[5]

Blubber aids buoyancy and streamlines the body, because the organized, complex collagenous network supports the noncircular cross sections characteristic of cetaceans. The buoyancy of blubber could be problematic for bottom-feeding marine mammals such as sirenians and the extinct marine sloths, both of which do or probably did have limited amounts of it for that reason.[6][7]

Research[8] into the thermal conductivity of the common bottlenose dolphin's blubber reveals its thickness and lipid content vary greatly amongst individuals and across life history categories. Blubber from emaciated dolphins is a poorer insulator than that from nonpregnant adults, which in turn have a higher heat conductivity than blubber from pregnant females and adolescents.

Human influences


Uqhuq[9] or uqsuq,[10] ("blubber" in the Inuktitut language) is an important part of the traditional diets of the Inuit and of other northern peoples, because of its high energy value and availability. Whale blubber, which tastes like arrowroot biscuits, has similar properties.[11]

Whaling largely targeted the collection of blubber: whalers rendered it into oil in try pots, or later, in vats on factory ships. The oil could serve in the manufacture of soap, leather, and cosmetics.[12] Whale oil was used in candles as wax, and in oil lamps as fuel. A single blue whale can yield a blubber harvest of up to 50 tons.[13]


Blubber from whales and seals contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.[14] Without the vitamin D, for example, the Inuit and other natives of the Arctic would likely suffer from rickets. There is evidence blubber and other fats in the arctic diet also provide the calories needed to replace the lack of carbohydrates which are found in the diets of cultures in the rest of the world.[15]


Blubber contains polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), carcinogens that damage human nervous, immune, and reproductive systems.[16][17] The source of PCB concentrations is unknown. Since toothed whales are high on the food chain, they likely consume large amounts of industrial pollutants (bioaccumulation); even baleen whales, by merit of the huge amount of food they consume, are bound to have toxic chemicals stored in their bodies. Additionally, there are high levels of mercury in the blubber of seals of the Canadian arctic.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Struntz, D.J.; McLellan, W.A.; Dillaman, R.M.; Blum, J.E.; Kucklick, J.R.; Pabst, D.A. (2004). "Blubber development in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)". Journal of Morphology. 259 (1): 7–20. doi:10.1002/jmor.10154. PMID 14666521.
  2. ^ Kvadsheim, P.H.; Folkow, L.P.; Blix, A.S. (1996). "Thermal conductivity of minke whale blubber". Journal of Thermal Biology. 21 (2): 123–8. doi:10.1016/0306-4565(95)00034-8.
  3. ^ "Bouncy Blubber". Science Update. AAAS. Archived from the original on 2013-09-21.
  4. ^ "Secrets of the Ocean Realm". Archived from the original on 4 May 2017.
  5. ^ Galbraith, Don; et al. Biology 11. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. p. 12.
  6. ^ Horgan, P.; Booth, D.; Nichols, C.; Lanyon, J. M. (2014). "Insulative capacity of the integument of the dugong (Dugong dugon): thermal conductivity, conductance and resistance measured by in vitro heat flux". Marine Biology. 161 (6): 1395–1407. doi:10.1007/s00227-014-2428-4.
  7. ^ Amson, E.; Argot, C.; McDonald, H. G.; de Muizon, C. (2015). "Osteology and functional morphology of the axial postcranium of the marine sloth Thalassocnus (Mammalia, Tardigrada) with paleobiological implications". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 22 (4): 473–518. doi:10.1007/s10914-014-9280-7.
  8. ^ Dunkin, R. C. (2005). "The ontogenetic changes in the thermal properties of blubber from Atlantic bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus". Journal of Experimental Biology. 208 (8): 1469–80. doi:10.1242/jeb.01559. PMID 15802671.
  9. ^ Ohokak, G.; M. Kadlun; B. Harnum. Inuinnaqtun-English Dictionary (PDF). Kitikmeot Heritage Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  10. ^ "Blubber". Asuilaak Living Dictionary. November 2016.
  11. ^ Stefansson, Eero; Adriaensen, Arxontis (1893). Missionärer bland Eskimåer [Missionaries Among the Eskimos]. Uppdrag i Världen (in Swedish). Göteborg: Himmelriket på Jorden Publikationer. p. 138.
  12. ^ Donovan, Greg (2008). "Whaling". Microsoft Encarta.
  13. ^ "Cetacean". Encyclopædia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. 2008.
  14. ^ Kuhnlein, H.V.; Barthet, V.; Farren, A.; Falahi, E.; Leggee, D.; Receveur, O.; Berti, P. (2006). "Vitamins A, D, and E in Canadian Arctic traditional food and adult diets". Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 19 (6–7): 495–506. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2005.02.007.
  15. ^ "The Inuit Paradox" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 June 2011.
  16. ^ Teuten, E. L.; Xu, L; Reddy, CM (2005). "Two Abundant Bioaccumulated Halogenated Compounds Are Natural Products". Science. 307 (5711): 917–20. doi:10.1126/science.1106882. PMID 15705850. Lay summaryScienceDaily (February 18, 2005).
  17. ^ "Japan warned on 'contaminated' blubber". BBC News. 24 January 2001. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  18. ^ Braune, B (August 16, 2005). "Persistent organic pollutants and mercury in marine biota of the Canadian Arctic: An overview of spatial and temporal trends" (PDF). Science of the Total Environment. 351-352: 32. Retrieved 26 February 2018.

External links

Blubber (novel)

Blubber is a children's novel by Judy Blume first published in 1974. The narrator of the story is Jill Brenner, a Pennsylvania fifth-grader who joins her classmates in ostracizing and bullying Linda, an awkward and overweight girl. Linda gives an oral class report about whales and is hence nicknamed "Blubber" by her peers.

Blubber Bay

Blubber Bay is an unincorporated settlement on the northern end of Texada Island at the bay of the same name in the northern Gulf of Georgia on the South Coast of British Columbia, Canada. The ferry from Powell River docks at Blubber Bay, which sits beside quarry offices, pits and workings which stretch up the hill. The north rim of the bay has the disused workings of BC Cement Company with dock, work area, and various pits stretching out to the headland. There is a museum and archives and a small store located above the ferry landing.

Exploding whale

There have been several cases of whale carcasses bursting (sometimes referred to as "exploding") due to a buildup of gas in the decomposition process. Actual explosives have also been routinely used to assist in disposing of whale carcasses – ordinarily after towing the carcass out to sea. The most well known case of an "exploding whale" was an event at Florence, Oregon, in November 1970, when a dead sperm whale (reported to be a gray whale) was blown up using dynamite by the Oregon Highway Division (now the Oregon Department of Transportation) in an attempt to dispose of its rotting carcass. The explosion threw whale flesh over 800 feet (240 m) away. This incident became famous in the United States when American humorist Dave Barry wrote about it in his newspaper column in 1990 after viewing a videotape of television footage of the explosion. The event became well known internationally a few decades later when the same footage circulated on the Internet. It was also parodied in the 2007 movie Reno 911!: Miami and in the 2018 Australian comedy Swinging Safari.

The most widely reported example of a spontaneously bursting whale carcass was in Taiwan in 2004, when the buildup of gas inside a decomposing sperm whale caused it to burst in a crowded urban area while it was being transported for a post-mortem examination.

Faroese cuisine

Important parts of Faroese cuisine are lamb and fish, owing to the proximity to the ocean. Traditional foods from the Faroe Islands include skerpikjøt (a type of dried mutton), seafood, whale meat, blubber, garnatálg, Faroese puffins, potatoes and few fresh vegetables.Much of the taste of this traditional country food is determined by the food preservation methods used; brine, drying and the maturing of meat and fish, called ræstkjøt and ræstur fiskur.Animal products dominate Faroese cuisine. Popular taste has developed, however, to become closer to the European norm, and consumption of vegetables has greatly increased in recent decades while consumption of fish has diminished. Fresh and ræst lamb meat remains very popular while traditional meat products, such as various types of sausages, have lost a lot of their appeal with younger generations.


The Fleer Corporation, founded by Frank H. Fleer in 1885, was the first company to successfully manufacture bubble gum; it remained a family-owned enterprise until 1989.

Fleer originally developed a bubble gum formulation called Blibber-Blubber in 1906. However, while this gum was capable of being blown into bubbles, in other respects it was vastly inferior to regular chewing gum, and Blibber-Blubber was never marketed to the public. In 1928, Fleer employee Walter Diemer improved the Blibber-Blubber formulation to produce the first commercially successful bubble gum, Dubble Bubble. Its pink color set a tradition for nearly all bubble gums to follow.

Fleer became known as a maker of sports cards, starting in 1923 with the production of baseball cards. Fleer also released American football (1960) and basketball (1986) card sets through its history.

The company also produced some non-sports trading cards. In 1995, Fleer acquired the trading card company SkyBox International and, over Thanksgiving vacation shuttered its Philadelphia plant (where Dubble Bubble had been made for 67 years). In 1998, 70-year-old Dubble Bubble was acquired by Canadian company Concord Confections; Concord, in turn, was acquired by Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries in 2004.

In late May 2005, news circulated that Fleer was suspending its trading card operations immediately. By early July, in a move similar to declaring bankruptcy, the company began to liquidate its assets to repay creditors. The move included the auction of the Fleer trade name, as well as other holdings. Competitor Upper Deck won the Fleer name, as well as their die cast toy business, at a price of $6.1 million. Just one year earlier, Upper Deck tendered an offer of $25 million, which was rejected by Fleer based on the hope that the sports card market would turn in a direction more favorable to their licenses and target collector demographic. One negative aspect associated with Fleer's Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors is that many sports card collectors now own redemption cards for autographs and memorabilia that may not be able to be redeemed; those fears were somewhat quenched in early 2006 when random memorabilia cards were mailed to the aforementioned collectors.


Flensing is the removing of the blubber or outer integument of whales, separating it from the animal's meat. Processing the blubber (the subcutaneous fat) into whale oil was the key step that transformed a whale carcass into a stable, transportable commodity. It was an important part of the history of whaling. What whaling still continues in the 21st century is largely aboriginal, and the blubber is rarely rendered into oil, although it may be eaten as muktuk.

I'noGo tied

Among some Alaska Natives, the i'noGo tied ("house of spirits") refers to a luck and protection amulet made from blubber encased in seal fur.

Jelly blubber

The jelly blubber (Catostylus mosaicus), also known as the blue blubber jellyfish, is a species of jellyfish from coastal regions in the Indo-Pacific. It is the most commonly encountered jellyfish along the Australian eastern coast and large swarms sometimes appear in estuarine waters.

Lion's mane jellyfish

The lion's mane jellyfish, also known as the giant jellyfish or the hair jelly, is the largest known species of jellyfish. Its range is confined to cold, boreal waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic, and northern Pacific Oceans. It is common in the English Channel, Irish Sea, North Sea, and in western Scandinavian waters south to Kattegat and Øresund. It may also drift into the southwestern part of the Baltic Sea (where it cannot breed due to the low salinity). Similar jellyfish – which may be the same species – are known to inhabit seas near Australia and New Zealand. The largest recorded specimen, found washed up on the shore of Massachusetts Bay in 1870, had a bell with a diameter of 2.3 metres (7 ft 6 in) and tentacles 37 m (120 ft) long. Lion's mane jellyfish have been observed below 42°N latitude for some time in the larger bays of the east coast of the United States.

The lion's mane jellyfish uses its stinging tentacles to capture, pull in, and eat prey such as fish, sea creatures, and smaller jellyfish.


Muktuk is the traditional Inuit and Chukchi meal of frozen whale skin and blubber.

Muktuk is most often made from the skin and blubber of the bowhead whale, although the beluga and the narwhal are also used. Usually eaten raw, it is today occasionally finely diced, breaded, deep fried, and served with soy sauce. It is also sometimes pickled.

When chewed raw, the blubber becomes oily, with a nutty taste; if not diced, or at least serrated, the skin is quite rubbery.

In Greenland Muktuk (mattak) is sold commercially to fish factories, and in Canada to other communities (muktaaq).

Muktuk has been found to be a good source of vitamin C, the epidermis containing up to 38 mg per 100 grams (3.5 oz). Blubber is also a source of vitamin D.During growth, mercury accumulates in the liver, kidney, muscle, and blubber, and cadmium settles in the blubber. It also contains PCBs, carcinogens that damage human nervous, immune and reproductive systems, bioaccumulated from the marine food web, and a variety of other contaminants.


Sakalua is an islet of Nukufetau, Tuvalu. In the 19th century whalers established a shore camp on Sakalua where coal was used to melt down the whale blubber. The islet has been known as 'Coal Island'.The island has a large colony of terns.

Seal meat

Seal meat is the flesh, including the blubber and organs, of seals used as food for humans or other animals. It is prepared in numerous ways, often being hung and dried before consumption. Historically, it has been eaten in many parts of the world, both as a part of a normal diet, and as sustenance.

Practice of human consumption continues today in Japan, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, the Inuit and other indigenous peoples of the United States (including the Makah people of the Pacific Northwest), Canada, Greenland; the Chukchi people of Siberia, and Bequia in the Caribbean Sea.

Try pot

A try pot is a large pot used to remove and render the oil from blubber obtained from cetaceans and pinnipeds, and also to extract oil from penguins. Once a suitable animal such as a whale had been caught and killed, the blubber was stripped from the carcass in a process known as flensing. The raw blubber was then cut into pieces and heated in the try pots to extract the oil.

Early on, oil was rendered from blubber in try pots onshore, not on ships at sea. Later, though, whaling vessels frequently included a trywork, a brick furnace and set of try pots built into the deck. In the 18th- and 19th-century New England whaling industry, the use of the trywork allowed ships to stay at sea longer and boil out their oil. The slices of blubber were kept as thin as possible for the process, and on New England whaling ships, these slices were called "bible leaves" by the sailors.The use of an onboard trywork was the major technological innovation that enabled the success of the Yankee whaling industry.


A trywork, located aft of the fore-mast, is the most distinguishing feature of a whaling ship.

It is a furnace, typically constructed of brick and attached to the deck with iron braces. Two cast-iron trypots are set atop the furnace and used to heat blubber from whales for the recovery of oil. The task is similar to the rendering process for producing lard by heating or frying fatty pork. A reservoir of water under the bricks keeps the furnace from scorching the wood of the deck.

In the 18th and 19th century New England whaling industry, the use of tryworks on whaling ships allowed them to stay at sea longer. Since they could boil out their oil during the voyage, they did not have to carry unprocessed blubber home. Slices of blubber were cut as thinly as possible for the process, and on New England whaling ships, these slices were known as "bible leaves" by the sailors. The ability to use tryworks at sea thus enabled the Yankee whaling industry to flourish.

Wacky Races (1968 TV series)

Wacky Races is an American animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The series features 11 different cars racing against each other in various road rallies throughout America, with each driver hoping to win the title of the "World's Wackiest Racer".

The cartoon had a large number of regular characters, with 23 people and animals spread among the 11 race cars. Wacky Races ran on CBS from September 14, 1968, to January 4, 1969, and in syndication from 1976 to 1982. Seventeen episodes were produced, with each episode featuring two different races.


Whales are a widely distributed and diverse group of fully aquatic placental marine mammals. They are an informal grouping within the infraorder Cetacea, usually excluding dolphins and porpoises. Whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the order Cetartiodactyla with even-toed ungulates and their closest living relatives are the hippopotamuses, having diverged about 40 million years ago. The two parvorders of whales, baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti), are thought to have split apart around 34 million years ago. The whales comprise eight extant families: Balaenopteridae (the rorquals), Balaenidae (right whales), Cetotheriidae (the pygmy right whale), Eschrichtiidae (the grey whale), Monodontidae (belugas and narwhals), Physeteridae (the sperm whale), Kogiidae (the dwarf and pygmy sperm whale), and Ziphiidae (the beaked whales).

Whales are creatures of the open ocean; they feed, mate, give birth, suckle and raise their young at sea. So extreme is their adaptation to life underwater that they are unable to survive on land. Whales range in size from the 2.6 metres (8.5 ft) and 135 kilograms (298 lb) dwarf sperm whale to the 29.9 metres (98 ft) and 190 metric tons (210 short tons) blue whale, which is the largest creature that has ever lived. The sperm whale is the largest toothed predator on earth. Several species exhibit sexual dimorphism, in that the females are larger than males. Baleen whales have no teeth; instead they have plates of baleen, a fringe-like structure used to expel water while retaining the krill and plankton which they feed on. They use their throat pleats to expand the mouth to take in huge gulps of water. Balaenids have heads that can make up 40% of their body mass to take in water. Toothed whales, on the other hand, have conical teeth adapted to catching fish or squid. Baleen whales have a well developed sense of "smell", whereas toothed whales have well-developed hearing − their hearing, that is adapted for both air and water, is so well developed that some can survive even if they are blind. Some species, such as sperm whales, are well adapted for diving to great depths to catch squid and other favoured prey.

Whales have evolved from land-living mammals. As such whales must breathe air regularly, although they can remain submerged under water for long periods of time. Some species such as the sperm whale are able to stay submerged for as much as 90 minutes. They have blowholes (modified nostrils) located on top of their heads, through which air is taken in and expelled. They are warm-blooded, and have a layer of fat, or blubber, under the skin. With streamlined fusiform bodies and two limbs that are modified into flippers, whales can travel at up to 20 knots, though they are not as flexible or agile as seals. Whales produce a great variety of vocalizations, notably the extended songs of the humpback whale. Although whales are widespread, most species prefer the colder waters of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and migrate to the equator to give birth. Species such as humpbacks and blue whales are capable of travelling thousands of miles without feeding. Males typically mate with multiple females every year, but females only mate every two to three years. Calves are typically born in the spring and summer months and females bear all the responsibility for raising them. Mothers of some species fast and nurse their young for one to two years.

Once relentlessly hunted for their products, whales are now protected by international law. The North Atlantic right whales nearly became extinct in the twentieth century, with a population low of 450, and the North Pacific grey whale population is ranked Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Besides whaling, they also face threats from bycatch and marine pollution. The meat, blubber and baleen of whales have traditionally been used by indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Whales have been depicted in various cultures worldwide, notably by the Inuit and the coastal peoples of Vietnam and Ghana, who sometimes hold whale funerals. Whales occasionally feature in literature and film, as in the great white whale of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Small whales, such as belugas, are sometimes kept in captivity and trained to perform tricks, but breeding success has been poor and the animals often die within a few months of capture. Whale watching has become a form of tourism around the world.

Whale meat

Whale meat, broadly speaking, may include all cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) and all parts of the animal: muscle (meat), organs (offal), and fat (blubber). There is relatively little demand for it, compared to farmed livestock, and commercial whaling, which has faced opposition for decades, continues today in very few countries (mainly Iceland, Japan, Norway), although whale meat used to be eaten across Western Europe and colonial America. However, wherever dolphin drive hunting and aboriginal whaling exist, marine mammals are eaten locally as part of the subsistence economy: in the Faroe Islands; in the circumpolar Arctic (the Inuit in Canada and Greenland, related peoples in Alaska, the Chukchi people of Siberia); other indigenous peoples of the United States (including the Makah people of the Pacific Northwest); in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (mainly on the island of Bequia); in a couple of villages in Indonesia; in certain South Pacific islands.

Like horse meat, for some cultures whale meat is taboo, or a food of last resort, e.g. in times of war, whereas in others it is a delicacy and a culinary centrepiece. Indigenous groups contend that whale meat represents their cultural survival. Its consumption has been denounced by detractors on wildlife conservation, toxicity, and animal rights grounds. Whale meat can be prepared in various ways, including salt-curing, which means that consumption is not necessarily restricted to coastal communities.

Whale oil

Whale oil is oil obtained from the blubber of whales. Whale oil was sometimes known as train oil, which comes from the Dutch word traan ("tear" or "drop").

Sperm oil, a special kind of oil obtained from the head cavities of sperm whales, differs chemically from ordinary whale oil: it is composed mostly of liquid wax. Its properties and applications differ from those of regular whale oil, and is sold at a higher price when marketed.

Whaling in the Faroe Islands

For industrial whaling in the Faroes, see: History of whaling

Whaling in the Faroe Islands takes the form of beaching and slaughtering long-finned pilot whales, a type of dolphin drive hunting. It has been practiced since about the time of the first Norse settlements on these North Atlantic islands, and thus can be considered aboriginal whaling. It is mentioned in the Sheep Letter, a Faroese law from 1298, a supplement to the Norwegian Gulating law. It is regulated by the Faroese authorities. Around 800 long-finned pilot whales and some Atlantic white-sided dolphins are slaughtered annually, mainly during the summer. The hunts, called grindadráp in Faroese, are non-commercial and are organized on a community level. Anyone who has a special training certificate on slaughtering a pilot whale with the spinal-cord lance can participate. This was not necessary earlier, but because of constant criticism from animal welfare organizations, the Faroese people try to improve the slaughtering methods in order to make them more humane. The Grind law was updated in 2015, where one of the regulations demanded that the whalers followed a course on how to slaughter a pilot whale with the spinal-cord lance. The police and Grindaformenn are allowed to remove people from the grind area. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales into a bay or to the bottom of a fjord. Not all bays are certified, and the slaughter will only take place on a certified beach.

Many Faroese consider the whale meat an important part of their food culture and history. Animal rights groups criticize the slaughter as being cruel and unnecessary. In November 2008, Høgni Debes Joensen, chief medical officer of the Faroe Islands and Pál Weihe, scientist, recommended in a letter to the Faroese government that pilot whales should no longer be considered fit for human consumption because of the high level of mercury, PCB and DDT derivatives. However, the Faroese government did not forbid whaling. On 1 July 2011 the Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority announced their recommendation regarding the safety of eating meat and blubber from the pilot whale, which was not as strict as the one of the chief medical officer. The new recommendation says only one dinner with whale meat and blubber per month, with a special recommendation for younger women, girls, pregnant women and breastfeeding women. From 2002 to 2009 the PCB concentration in whale meat has fallen by 75%, DDT values in the same time period have fallen by 70% and mercury levels have also fallen.

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