Dienstag, 23. September 2008

In search of Moby-Dick

From a commodity hunted for its bone and blubber to a potent symbol of the environment, the whale has long held value. And the 150-year-old novel Moby-Dick is remarkably prescient about its fate, says writer Philip Hoare.

The whale is perhaps the most mysterious animal known to man. For centuries it inspired awe and fear, and was hunted for its oil, blubber and whalebone. Now it is a symbol of an ecological threat, a barometer for a world out of kilter.

It is even more remarkable that the transition from an age of whale-hunting to an era of whale-watching has happened within living memory.

Ancient myth regarded the whale as an uncanny monster, a creature beyond comprehension. A whale might swallow a single human being, such as Jonah, or an entire city, as one Greek myth imagined. The poet William Blake wrote of a terrifying vision, "the head of Leviathan, his forehead was divided into streaks of green and purple like those on a tyger's forehead... advancing towards us with all the fury of a spiritual existence".


Close encounter
"My own mission is to find the truth behind our relationship with the whale, and I came closer to the object of my pursuit than I had ever thought possible.

In waters three miles deep, I swam towards a school of sperm whales. I've never been so terrified in my life. I could feel my heart beating in my ribcage.

Suddenly, one of the whales began to swim towards me. A sperm whale's eyes are set low on the side of its head. I was sure it could not see me. And it was coming closer. Then I began to feel - rather than hear - its echo-locating sonar in my chest. It was akin to being in an MRI scanner. Just in time it turned, and for a moment, we came eye to eye. Then it dived, perpendicularly, into the profound blue-black, and was gone.

What I learned that day is the vexed shared history between human and whale has yet to run its course. Even now, these creatures remain deeply mysterious. We still have a lot to learn about each other."

See the full article on http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7621592.stm
Thank you Johnnie for the link :)

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