The Slaying of the BearWhale

Origin of the BearWhale

In 2014, Bitcoin was still a relatively new and untested cryptocurrency. The market was highly volatile, and price swings were common.

There were also many more big bitcoin holders as a proportion of the total than there are today.

Some of these investors had purchased or mined tens of thousands of coins on a lark at very low price points.

This was a fun hobby they didn’t expect to become rich from.

But many of these investors now found themselves notional millionaires, but led very normal lives and were not professional traders.

And once they came into all of this money, they looked to offload large stakes in their holdings.

This seems to have been the case for one very famous seller in particular - the ‘BearWhale’.

What is ‘The Slaying of the BearWhale’?

The BearWhale was a anonymous trader who held (at least) an estimated 30,000 BTC.

The trader was known for his aggressive (and frankly amateurish) selling tactics.

On October 6, 2014, the BearWhale began selling his 30,000 Bitcoin on the Bitstamp exchange for a mere $300 per coin.

And those were the first two signs that the BearWhale was an amateur:

  • He was attempting to sell all 30k coins in one big trade
  • He was asking for $35 below the Bitstamp spot.

The price of Bitcoin dropped from $335 to $300 in just a few hours.

The BearWhale continued to sell, and the price of Bitcoin dropped even further, reaching a low of $275.

The unexpected decline in price stunned Bitcoin traders and enthusiasts.

While some believed it to be the beginning of Bitcoin’s demise, others saw it as a purchasing opportunity.

One trader, however, recognized a chance to destroy the BearWhale and raise the price of bitcoin.

This unknown trader, dubbed “the Whale Killer,” started accumulating significant amounts of Bitcoin on the Bitstamp exchange.

They put in a sizable buy order for 40,000 BTC at $300 per coin, more than enough to stave off the BearWhale’s selling pressure. The order was referred to as the “Great Wall of Bitcoin” because of its size.

First, traders were skeptical of the Whale Killer’s order because they thought it was too big to be filled.

However, the order began to fill, and the Whale Killer continued to buy up Bitcoin on the exchange.

Other traders started to get involved as the price of Bitcoin started to soar, buying up Bitcoin and driving the price even higher.

Whale Killer sets buy order for 40000 bitcoins
The big candle downward signifies the massive sell order placed by the BearWhale. The upward candle signifies the corresponding buy order set by the Whale Killer and other bitcoiners hitting the buy button.

The BearWhale continued to sell, but the Great Wall of Bitcoin held strong.

Eventually, the BearWhale ran out of Bitcoin to sell, and the price of Bitcoin began to rise once again settling at around $321.

The Whale Killer had successfully taken down the BearWhale and restored the market’s confidence in Bitcoin.

You can watch the entire sell and buy orders executing over time in the time-lapse video below.

Slaying the Bear Whale.


In the hours that followed the slaying, the event had already began to heavily memed by bitcoiners celebrating victory.

Perhaps the most famous of these memes is this image from artist Christopher Steininger:

Christopher Edwin Steininger BearWhale painting
​Image credits: The Slaying of Bear Whale by Christopher Edwin Steininger.

Here is another famous one:

Matt Habel BearWhale Painting
​Image credits: BearWhale by Matt Habel.

Most notably, someone claiming to be the BearWhale on reddit made a post to r/bitcoin telling the reasons he tried to sell so many bitcoins.

He also signed a copy of the message from a bitcoin wallet that had, in fact, held tens of thousands of bitcoins at one time.

You can read the full reddit post as well as read the signed message on pastebin.

Below are the important parts:

Hello. I am the BearWhale. After a series of bad experiences with the banking system, I invested most of my life savings into bitcoin when the price was fairly low, around $8. For years…I was holding when Trendon Shavers ripped everyone off. I was holding when the price was over a thousand, and I held after MtGox imploded. I believe strongly in Bitcoin’s decentralized promise of displacing immoral national currencies. The price kept drifting downwards until finally at a little over $300(.) I had enough. I sold off everything, based on an accumulation of information I gathered mostly from social media such as and reddit.

He then goes on to explain that he was tricked by Roger Ver and others into thinking that bitcoin would fail if it didn’t increase its block size.

For more on that, read our article on the New York Agreement and Bitcoin Independence Day, which were events happening around the time this reddit post was posted.

Finally, he summarizes:

My reason for this open letter (i)s simple: I want the community to know that I fully support the core developers. I am strongly in favor of UASF…(and) I support SegWit as a sensible technology for moving Bitcoin forward. I reject a block-size increase hard fork…. And I especially resent and reject a consortium of suits coming to an “agreement” on what source-code base will be named “bitcoin”….

Why Was This Day Important for Bitcoin?

A turning point for Bitcoin occurred with the killing of the BearWhale. It highlighted the market’s strength and Bitcoin’s fortitude in the face of difficulty.

It also demonstrated the existence of traders who were prepared to stand up for Bitcoin and its worth in the face of a significant sell-off.

Although though Bitcoin is considerably more well-known and traded in modern times, the lessons from the BearWhale’s demise are still applicable.

The cryptocurrency market will be volatile, therefore traders and investors need to be ready for it and be willing to defend Bitcoin when it is under attack.

The killing of the BearWhale serves as a reminder of the power and potential of Bitcoin and the overall cryptocurrency market.