# What is the maximum size of a tribe living off of one whale per year?

A small village of ice miners has popped up in the Northern Territory. They are a mix of southern workers who integrated with the native tribes. The group subsists on the meat of a single humpback whale per year. They worship the giant fish creatures as gods, and preform ritualistic sacrifice to justify the killing of a whale. How many people can survive off of a single whale? Some money is made from selling ice, but most of it goes into improving the tribe's houses and buying new supplies for the diggers.

• What new supplies do the diggers need if they don't buy food? Would think a pickaxe and shovel would last a long time – Kilisi Apr 28 '19 at 12:51
• @Kilisi They pull the whales from the ocean to their village center, needing sturdy and long lengths of hemp rope. So maybe the ropes? I haven’t fully developed the villiage tbh I was just looking for the size to start. – Alex Apr 28 '19 at 13:44

My calculations are very rough. The average weight of a humpback whale is about 25-30 tons, according to Wikipedia.

I didn't manage to find any sources for this, but I've seen the estimates of whale bone being about 20% of its weight, leaving us with around 22 tons of muscles, internal organs and blubber. And if they do not eat anything but whale, they are going to need the icky stuff, maybe some of it even raw, to be supplied with vitamins and microelements.

Now the hardest part is estimating the calorie value of a whale. I didn't manage to find exact figures for a humpback. (Here is the data for other whale kinds: Whale Meat in Nutrition)

As you can see, it ranges from 110s for lean meat to 400-500 for blubber and some internal organs. I would try averaging that to 190-200 kcal per 100 of 'average' whale product. That would give us about a kilo of edible whale meat and other icky stuff per person to keep them alive and active enough to hunt the next whale.

Dividing 22 tonnes per 365 days we get about 60 kilos of whale per day. So, with all the allowances I've made at the every step of the calculation, it seems that an average whale would be able to feed 60 (possibly less, if I overestimated the mass of edible portions or average caloric value) people per year, if they are ready to eat it whole.

UPD: if you are basing them of indigenous Arctic people, most of their societies are busy looking for food all year round. They, most likely, won't rely on one risky hunt per year - they will gather berries and roots, even edible lichens, hunt for birds, seals and whatever land animals there are (white bears, different kinds of deer), fish almost constantly. If they live that way, you can adjust the estimate upwards for at least 2x.

• Thanks, looks really good to me. I suppose the rough estimate is fair, a whale one year might be significantly smaller then the next year’s, so an average is what I was looking for – Alex Apr 27 '19 at 1:59
• storage will be by far the hardest part, many storage techniques degrade the nutritional value. that and of course figuring out how to transport the whale, even colonial whalers did not use hte entire whale. – John Apr 27 '19 at 2:07
• @John you are right, the estimate may be adjusted even further down. I was going rather by the reindeer herders meat consumption pattern. But it's much easier to eat whole reindeer fresh then do the same with whale. On the other hand, they may try supplementing it with at least something - fishing, gathering berries and lichen. They are going to live on the very edge of survival in any case. – Cumehtar Apr 27 '19 at 2:13
• Using Inuit might be better they have a fish and marine mammal rich diet. note the liver of many marine animals cannot be eaten, the vitamin A levels are toxic. however the marrow from bones can be eaten. – John Apr 27 '19 at 2:35