Unicorn Of the Sea

It’s back to nature for today’s great thing:

48. Narwhals

I saw a Narwhal horn once. The owner of the restaurant I worked at was dating this marine biologist guy–you know, the book-writing type, not the working at Sea World and jumping off of a dolphin’s forehead type. Anyway, in their fantastic New York City apartment, they had a narwhal horn hanging over the mantle in the study. It was impressive. Mythical even…it set such an ambiance that when I walked into their room I thought I was going be offered mead, listen to some pan flute and then challenged to complete god-like tasks with the help of the Argonauts. It was like that.


And in no way am I advocating that you go out and kill one so that you can have one on display. I’m just sayin’…he was a lucky guy to have that.

Twisted in a helix and pointed at the end, the horn looked like a ten foot long dull-grey version of one of these.

Except it wouldn't taste like candy!

Yeah, it would probably be a little saltier than your average candy-shop delight. And calimari-er.

Those horns, which, technically are tusks, are found usually (though not exclusively) on male narwhals. And yes, I spelled that right. Narwhals are so bad-ass that they don’t even have to put an ‘e’ on the tail of their name. They are the official sea mammal of rap sensation Chingy.

Anyway, sometimes they even grow two tusks, though it is quite rare. You better believe that’s even more bad-ass. In fact, when they have two tusks they’re just called narwha. They get to drop two letters.

Truthfully, the etymology of their name comes from the Norse. ‘Nar’, meaning ‘corpse’, refers to their pale goth-like coloring. They are also sometimes referred to as ‘moon whale’ or ‘polar whale’.

The great thing is, science has not yet figured out why they even have their tusks. Isn’t that terrific? I love a good mystery solved, but isn’t it nice to NOT know answers every once in a while? Like, the sun is pretty amazing… until you start talking about it from a factual standpoint. Then it’s not so great because that’s when lots of physics and maths come into play. Yawn.

Watch this dentist almost take the fun out of the whole thing.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Anyway, for as much as that guy has learned, they still don’t know for sure why narwhals are so lucky. There are, however, several interesting theories about why they might have tusks. They include the following:

–They use it to pierce the Arctic ice (I’d assume so that they could reach oxygen every once in a while).

–That it plays some role in courting

–They use it as a sort of pick-axe to forage for food with

–That it plays some role in their sonar communication

–That it’s connected to nerves which may help determine a variety of qualities in their environment from pressure to salinity to temperature (what the dentist said).

These are all very interesting, but it begs the question, why don’t all female narwhals have horns then? I mean, I’m assuming that the girl ones need to:




–the rest

So, I’d like to posit my own theories:

–playing horseshoes

–donut stabbing


–fighting elephants

Naturally, the Inuit have their own folklore for what they call ‘the one that points to the sky’. I was going to recount it here but I just can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s like one of those stories that a five year old would make up. It’s so incoherent that even after reading it three times I still don’t know what the hell happens in it. Something about some old witch being mean to her son who is blind and then the daughter tells him that their Mom is being a liar and then the guy gets his sight back or something and chucks her into the sea and she’s still holding on to a harpoon or something and then that’s how the narwhal was born. Because some blind guy threw his heavily armed mother into the ocean. I dunno. It’s not one of their better efforts. If you’d like to have a go, however, be my guest. It’s on this excellent website. Narwhals

Narwhals are a social animal. They hang in pods of between 5 and 10 and prefer to stay close to the surface–like the cast of The Hills !

I think my favorite media depiction of a narwhal is from the Will Ferrell movie Elf.


I hope you feel like you’ve gotten to learn our friend in the north, the narwhal a bit more. In closing, here is a fun image of them as the jedis of the sea.

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