Have you ever seen a whale asleep?
Imagine being a creature that size, moving slowly through the ocean, feeding and mating. You can’t roll into a rock crevice to nap away in safety – you’re both enormous and a mammal, so you need to sleep while remembering to breathe.
Nature teaches you with patience and love how to use your tail to act as an anchor, submerged on the surface as your body falls down into the water, bobbing up and down as you snooze away. Every hour or so you awaken; in need of air you rise up and take a deep breath: don’t forget, you can only remain underwater for a few hours at the most.
While you sleep only half of your brain is allowed to float off into the dream world; your when you sleep, half your brain rests and then they swap over.
Whales were not always the large creatures you are right now. The ocean was once filled with ancient reptilian creatures, all now extinct. Your ancestors walked the Earth on four legs, with a long tail and a long sharp toothed snout.
These four legged whale ancestors ranged from deer-like creatures, to small racoon-shaped scavengers. They ran, walked, grazed and lived in a similar way to present-day mammals.
All animals evolved out of the water, making their way onto the earth and developing working limbs many hundreds of millions of years ago.
But whales went back. Your more recent ancestors instead they found themselves moving closer to the water, morphing into creatures similar to crocodiles or alligators, spending more and more time in the water.
Then, from what scientists can tell, those ancestors seem to have evolved remarkably quickly to get up to speed with underwater living – to avoid falling prey to creatures that had been there for thousands of years already.
But you are a mammal, not a fish. You cannot stay underwater for hours and hours, and are warm blooded.
But evolution sorted you out. You developed a thick layer of blubber around your body to work as a giant puffy down jacket, keeping you toasty warm.
Then the next problem: when you go for a laborious swim, chase after some fish to munch on, you soon find yourself perspiring from the heat of that puffy jacket.
Again evolution has your back, massive arteries run through the blubber to pump blood to the outer skin where the ocean water can step in and act as a coolant. With all of this ingenuity your body can constantly acclimatise to the waters temperature as you go from this location to that location.
You also have a high number of red blood cells, which are the cells that hold oxygen, and as you dive deep down into the ocean your heart rate slows down to only a few gentle beats per minute. This slowing of the heart beat minimises the amount of oxygen you use. Your muscles also hold oxygen.
If humans had any of these handy tools at their fingertips they would be able to be way better at diving and sea living. But evolution didn’t deem such utilities necessary to them and left them blubbering about on the Earth’s hard surface.
While living on the land mammals range from small to medium-sized; land mammals don’t get any larger than the African elephant.
But once in the water, your ancestors quickly grew in size, largely due to your fellow competitor, sharks. You see, when whales began living in the seas, sharks had been evolving in the ocean of millions of years. So you really had to get going quicker than normal. Not only did sharks prey on you in the beginning, they also competed with you for the same food sources.
Some, like those baleen whale, began to eat only small plankton, which sharks have no interest in, thus an end to being competitors. But you and most of the others decided to just became really really big. Once you had that sorted out it was humorous to watch the first round of sharks trying to have a go at you – like watching a chihuahua going for a Great Dane.
Of course, now humans have worked out how to become that which you’ve never had: a predator.
In the beginning it was almost a fair fight, groups of them attacking one of you. Often you would best them and kill them in turn. It was horrifying and distressing when they won, but you rallied together and cared for the survivors.
But now, with their machines that blow you up from within, the arms bigger than you have ever seen. They manage to drag you in one quick tug onboard their vessels, where you can see them ripping apart your family.
There is no besting these new contraptions; there is no winning. There is only running away as fast and hard as you can. Running until they stop, or until nature once more has your back.