What a fascinating article we’ve just discovered in the Times: “When whales attack: the horrific truth about Moby-Dick.”
Just one snippet:
“The sperm whale is no mean adversary. It is the largest predator that ever lived, and although modern sperm whales grow to only 65ft, Melville and his fellow whalers recorded whales 80 or even 100ft long. (Scientists think intensive hunting in the 19th century reduced the number of very large bull sperm whales, thereby affecting the overall size of the population, genetically. Hunting has also reduced the world population from 1.6 million to fewer than 360,000.)
Armed with a lower jaw studded with 42 teeth, it’s a formidable opponent if driven to defend itself. Its tail, as broad as a house, could dash a flimsy whaleboat to smithereens, and often did. The sperm whale is also the only cetacean that can swallow a human being, and, again, has done so, albeit by accident, in the melee of a hunt. (It’s not a nice way to go: its gastric juices are so acidic that sailors cut out of whales have been bleached white by the process.)”
Go read the rest!