Remember the terrifying whale Moby Dick from Herman Melville’s novel? Well, it seems sperm whales are capable of inducing the same damage to ships by using their heads shaped as battering rams.
Fortunately, sperm whales are quite elusive and avoid spending time close to the surface, as opposed to the angry Moby Dick. Herman Melville was inspired by supposed incident in 1820 involving such a marine animal, but his own work involved a white whale. The head of the 45 tons creature includes two compartments filled with oil, meant for absorbing shock in a natural way. This is the reason they were hunted back in the time since their oil is one of the best natural lubricants.
People used to hunt these whales with special weaponry, and thus every now and then they would meet a specimen that would respond violently. In 1820, a sperm whale managed to destroy completely the vessel that was hunting it, an event that inspired Melville to write one of the most popular American novels.
A recent study suggests that the book is also based on scientific facts. Released in the Peer L journal, the results show that the sperm whale is anatomically built for resisting huge blows, quite similar to a battering ram.
These creatures are the largest mammals on Earth, reaching more than fifty feet in length and a weight of more than 45 tons. The head makes up one-third of the whole whale, and this determined whalers to adapt their ships to resist the beasts.
Sperm whales communicate through acoustic waves emitted and intercepted by their heads. The researchers behind the study find it hard to believe the stories of the nineteenth century about their abilities being damaged by the sailors’ violent behavior.
The accident from the beginning of the 1800s has also inspired a more recent work of art: “In the Heart of the Sea”. The novel was adapted into a big screen movie last year, starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Holland.
In conclusion, it seems not all fiction is unrealistic. Even if a white whale is not capable of destroying a ship, the sperm whales are, with the shape of their heads and their natural bumpers filled with oil. Wouldn’t want to get them angry.
Image Source: International Science Times