VICTORIAN HARPOONS IN TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY WHALES. Nick and his friend Jane went to the whaling museum in New Bedford recently and were struck by the fact that whales are being found today that are carrying harpoons that were fired in the 1800’s. These articles (here and here) point out that the harpoons provide a new way to estimate the age of the whales. Indeed, they support the conclusion that bowhead whales are the longest living mammals. The bowhead that is the subject of the articles is estimated to have lived 130 years, based on the date of manufacture of the harpoon. Previously, scientist used levels of an amino acid in a whale’s eyes to estimate its age. Presumably, the harpoon information would be helpful in confirming the amino acid method.
The real interest for me is the romance of the find—the reminder that we are not so far in time from the world of Moby-Dick.