The Real Moby Dick

In 1741, a Danish-Norwegian missionary named Hans Egede published what became a famous account of “a most dreadful monster” that appeared off the coast of Greenland. “The case is interesting,” the modern scientists write, “in that Egede had drawn and described a number of large northern whale species in his book, so he obviously felt the ‘dreadful’ monster was something different.”Paxton says that most historians have relied solely on a bad translation of Egede’s book. He and his colleagues apply modern biological insights to the case. Egede’s animal had a serpent-like tail that appeared out of the water when the rest of the beast had disappeared.But rather than a tail, Paxton et al say, this was most likely a penis. They present photographs of well-endowed male whales, and also a drawing from Egede’s book, in which we see the sea monster’s serpent-like tail. The latter is remarkably similar to what we see in the photographs.The case is not proved definitively, but it should be an inspiration to both biologists and whale-watching tourists.LinkThose Greenpeace chaps are mighty brave buzzing around whales in their little dinghies when there’s a chance they’ll get slapped upside the head with one of these![Link via The Huge Entity. Good stuff here, go check it out.]

2005.11.10