Image for Inside the blue whale

Inside the blue whale

Duration: 04:01

With the help of computer graphics, David Attenborough gets right inside the body of the blue whale to show off its amazing mammalian anatomy. Housed in a vast rib cage, its lungs can carry 2,000 litres of air - 500 times the human capacity. A heart the size of a small family car beats 5 or 6 times a minute and drives 10 tonnes of blood through a million miles of blood vessels. All that's left of the back legs are two isolated hip bones buried in a mountain of muscle. David Attenborough rides on a boat next to a whale as it breaches and he remarks that no animal of this size could survive on land as no bone is strong enough to support such huge bulk out of the water. The blue whale has the ability to store oxygen within the tissues of its body as well as in its blood, allowing it to stay underwater without breathing for half an hour or more. It has a thick layer of blubber, in some places 20 inches thick, which helps to insulate it from the chill of the deep water. It collects food wholesale, taking in a tonne of krill-filled water with one sideways gulp. The blue whale's shape is near-perfectly hydrodynamic, uninterrupted by hind limbs, ears or genitals. As it tilts its 100 tonne bulk downwards from the surface of the water, the whale plunges to the black world 500 feet or more below the surface.

Available since: Tue 28 Jul 2009


Key talent
David Attenborough
Neil Lucas
Mike Salisbury
David Attenborough

This clip is from

The Life of Mammals Return to the Water

7/10 David Attenborough looks at marine mammals that have returned to the sea.

First broadcast: 23 Jun 2008

Image for Return to the Water Not currently available on BBC iPlayer

Featured in...

  • David Attenborough's favourites

    David Attenborough's selection of memorable film moments demonstrating the leaps in filmmaking technology in the past 30 years and showcasing the diversity of life on Earth.

  • BBC Nature

    Be captivated, informed and inspired by the world's wildlife.

  • Animal record breakers

    Cheetahs, falcons, elephants and whales - meet the animal record breakers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss