Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harpoon may prove whale was at least 115 years old

Alaskans butchering a whale carcass recently found a surprise. An arrowhead was found in the blubber of a Long Bowhead whale caught by the Inuit hunters. It has also given researchers a greater understanding of the species. The weapon, found in the neck of a whale off the coast of Alaska, proves that Long Bowhead whales can live up to 100 years.

The arrowhead was of the type patented in 1879 and replaced in 1885, giving definitive evidence on the longevity of the species, previously a mystery to scientists. Long Bowhead whales can grow up to 27 metres in length and weigh more than 50 tonnes. They live around the Alaskan ice shelf and are protected from the cold by a layer of blubber almost a metre thick.

An article in the Boston Globe titled Harpoon may prove whale was at least 115 years old has some details. It was written by Felicia Mello.

Mello wrote, "A biologist in Alaska spotted the pieces of the projectile as they were being pulled from the whale's blubber by Eskimos who had killed the animal last month. He sent them to Bockstoce, who identified them as parts of an exploding lance made in New Bedford in the late 1800s, when the city was the world's whaling capital. Hunters would spear the animal with the weapon, which would detonate once inside."

Thankfully, only Alaska's indigenous tribes hunt bowheads today. The species is no longer in danger of extinction. I find it amazing that this whale had been around since the 19th century. I wonder how long they can live if old age finally catches up with this species of whale?

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