Whale of a question

17 June 2007


A giant bowhead whale caught off northern Alaska recently had a surprise in store for the fisherman who landed it - embedded in its flesh was a piece of a "bomb lance" used by whalers back in the 1880s.  And because the weapon was patented it was easy to date, confirming claims that whales can live for 130 years or more.  The find joins other "evidence" of whale longevity which has accumulated over the years, including stone harpoon tips thought to be over 100 years old.  It was handed over to scientists by native Alaskan Inupiat fisherman who, although commercial whaling is banned, are permitted to carry out a traditional subsistence whale hunt.  The meat they catch is shared amongst the residents of their villages.


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