Weapon dates bowhead whale to 1800s

Date: 1/8/2007

A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt more than a century ago. Embedded deep under its blubber was a three and a half inch arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale’s age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old. Calculating a whale’s age can be difficult, and is usually gauged by amino acids in the eye lenses. It’s rare to find one that has lived more than a century, but experts say the oldest were close to 200 years old. The bomb lance fragment, lodged in a bone between the whale’s neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling centre at that time. The 49-foot male whale died when it was shot with a similar projectile last month. Whaling has always been a prominent source of food for Alaskans, and is monitored by the International Whaling Commission. A hunting quota for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission was recently renewed, allowing 255 whales to be harvested by 10 Alaskan villages over five years. The fragment will be displayed at the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow, Alaska.

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