Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The bowhead whale weighed 50 tons when it was caught in waters off Alaska. Embedded in its neck was a small piece of metal -- an arrow-shaped weapon that was made, and fired, more than 100 years ago.

The Associated Press reports:
Calculating a whale's age can be difficult, and is usually gauged by amino acids in the eye lenses. It's rare to find one that has lived more than a century, but experts say the oldest were close to 200 years old.

The bomb lance fragment, lodged a bone between the whale's neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling center at that time, said John Bockstoce, an adjunct curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

It was probably shot at the whale from a heavy shoulder gun around 1890. The small metal cylinder was filled with explosives fitted with a time-delay fuse so it would explode seconds after it was shot into the whale. The bomb lance was meant to kill the whale immediately and prevent it from escaping.

The device exploded and probably injured the whale, Bockstoce said.

"It probably hurt the whale, or annoyed him, but it hit him in a non-lethal place," he said. "He couldn't have been that bothered if he lived for another 100 years."
Researchers say the captured whale was probably 115 years old. Just a kid when it was shot.

1 comment:

Busplunge said...

Somehow, it seems to me that the whale did ok for 115 years except for his two encounters with humans.
There's got to be a lesson here somewhere.