January 18, 2013
That whale is out there
by Ellie Robins
Did you know that there are whales alive today that were born before Moby-Dick was written?
Being an acute cetaphobe I’ve had to conduct my research from halfway beneath my desk, but luckily you don’t have to take my word for it. Alaska Dispatch and the Smithsonian report the latest findings of Dr. Craig George, Senior Wildlife Biologist in Alaska’s North Slope Borough: since you ask, bowhead whales are doing very nicely indeed. George and his colleagues have been observing their migration past North Slope Borough for thirty-four years, and sightings have tripled in that time.
Which is all very nice if you like that sort of thing, but here’s the cool part: George discovered that the whales could live for longer than two hundred years when he found an old stone harpoon point in a whale: a harpoon point that must’ve been lodged there since the early days of Yankee commercial whaling, back in the earlyish nineteenth century. Moby-Dick, meanwhile, was published 162 years ago, in 1851. That whale is out there, man — and so’s the fucking harpoon you lost.
Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.