20 November 2009


on this day in 1820, the whaling ship Essex encountered a sperm whale that was much larger than normal. the whale rammed the ship twice and sank it while the crew was hunting and killing other members of the whale's pod (family). the ship sank 2000 miles west of the west coast of south america. of those sailors who escaped in whaleboats, only eight survived.

this incident formed the basis for one of the great novels in american literature, Moby Dick by herman melville. unfortunately, melville turned his fictional whale into an archetypal figure of vengeance which bordered on caricature. in real life, the whale upon which Moby Dick was based, was only protecting his family and himself. my own feeling is that all human hunting should be structured so that there is equal risk to hunter and hunted -- bow hunting or spears only, no GPS tracking, no high-velocity rifles with scopes. i'm just sayin'.

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