Alaskan and other subsistance hunters in the Arctic still shoot and lance bowhead whales with exploding, brass projectiles fashioned after those of 19th-century Yankee whalers. Recently, they found an example of the real thing.
On May 16 an Inupiat whaling crew captained by Arnold Brower — a bearer of one of the most prominent family names on the North Slope — killed a whale near the town of Barrow. The hunt came under a quota set by the Eskimo Whaling Commission and International Whaling Commission. The modern-day whalers were startled during butchering on the ice when a chainsaw struck metal that they didn’t put there. A state biologist sent the fragment to the New Bedford Whaling Museum for analysis. It is the tip from a bomb lance of a type patented in the 1880s and used only a short while. Thus scientists have hard evidence that these whales can live a long, long time — by some estimates, up to 200 years.
It is nice to see breaking news with a good narrative arc. One idly imagines, in some sympathy, that the whale’s last thought was, “again?”. Its blubber, meat, baleen, and other remains presumably, by law and custom, were distributed free within the Inupiat community.
This article was originally published on Boston Globe, AP, etc: Old bomb lance found in bowhead — whale was first shot more than a century ago.