You’ve probably heard of Moby Dick. If you haven’t, you’ve probably at least seen the trailer for the upcoming semi-adaptation of the story. That wondrous nautical yarn was written in 1851 — back in the age of harpooning, when 50,000 whales were pulled ashore each year to feed the thirst for whale oil far and wide.
Thankfully, those times are gone. In 1941 the International Whaling Commission stepped in and put a halt to all that (with certain exemptions) in favor of letting these brilliantly majestic creatures continue to roam our waters.
Recently, Eskimo hunters (who hunt under IWC approved quotas), discovered at least three bowhead whales (not sperm whales like in Moby Dick) that were more than a hundred years old, with antique harpoons in their bodies to prove it.
At a time when certain whale populations were reduced to 10% of their previous numbers, these animals raged against the dying of the light. The findings seem to confirm Indigenous knowledge, which tell of the bowhead’s living “two lifetimes.” Through dating of the harpoons and amino acids found in the animal’s eyes, scientists have discovered bowhead whales as old as 211 — meaning they were born 47 years before Moby Dick was written.