Inadvertently brought into existence by Arthur Dent when he turned on the Infinite Improbability Drive during a missile attack from the lost planet Magrathea. (This action also brought into existence a rather frustrated bowl of petunias.)1
This particular whale happened to be a sperm whale, but unfortunately did not have much time to come to grips with this fact as it met with a rather untimely death moments after having been called into existence.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this record of its thoughts from the moment of its "birth" to the moment of its death:
Ah! What's happening? it thought.
Er, excuse me, who am I?
Why am I here? What's my purpose in life?
What do I mean by who am I?
Calm down, get a grip now . . . oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It's sort of . . . yawning, tingling sensation in my . . . my . . . well, I suppose I'd better start finding names for things if I want to make headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let's call it my stomach.
Good. Ooooh, it's getting quite strong. And hey, what about that whistling roaring sound going past what I'm suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that . . . wind! Is that a good name? It'll do . . . perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I've found out what it's for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What's this thing? This . . . let's call it a tail - yeah, tail. Hey! I can really thrash it about pretty good, can't I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn't seem to achieve very much but I'll probably find out what it's for later on. Now, have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?
Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I'm quite dizzy with anticipation . . .
Or is it the wind?
There really is a lot of that now, isn't there?
And wow! Hey! What's this thing suddenly coming toward me very fast? Very, very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide-sounding name like . . . ow . . . ound . . . round . . . ground! That's it! That's a good name - ground!
I wonder if it will be friends with me?
And the rest, after a sudden wet thud2, was silence.3
Douglas Adams explained he created the whale out of frustration with the arbitrary killings that peppered a TV detective show called "Cannon." It wasn't so much the violence that perturbed Adams but rather the fact that "nobody ever seemed to care about it one way or the other." So:
"I thought I'd have a go at this. I'd write in a character whose sole function was to be killed for the sake of a small detail in the plot, and then damn well make the audience care about it, even if none of the other characters in the story did. I suppose I must have succeeded, because I received quite a number of letters saying how cruel and callous this section was - letters I certainly would not have received if I had simply mentioned the whale's fact incidentally and passed on. I probably wouldn't have received them if it had been a human either."4
When promoting the Hitchhiker's stage show, a twenty five foot whale was thrown off of Tower Bridge in London as a publicity stunt. It didn't seem to work very well, as the show flopped.
1. Fit the Third, Hitchhiker's Radio Series (recorded 13 December 1977); Chapter 18, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
2. In the original radio show, this sound was made partly by using a batter pudding splat. Incidentally, a lot of potential friendships end this way.
3. Pages 90-91 of the More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide.
4. Page 70, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts.