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John Byrne
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Grumpy Old Guy

Joined: 11 May 2005
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Posted: 06 June 2023 at 7:36pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Watching the John Huston MOBY DICK again. The movie freely mixes models and live action for the whale hunts. Deeply disturbing.

But as I watched the boats crowd close in and real harpoons being hurled into the exposed backs of real whales, for the first time I thought if whales are as smart as we like to think they are, why haven’t they been avoiding their hunters for the last several centuries?

Another disturbing thought followed. Scientists have puzzled for a long time over why numbers of whales will inexplicably beach themselves. Some have suggested mass suicide as a form of self imposed population control.

Is that what happens in the hunts?

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Paul Wills
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Posted: 06 June 2023 at 9:55pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

This would be an extraordinary (but remarkably sad) hypothesis
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Kevin Brown
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Posted: 07 June 2023 at 1:35am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

There was a news article a couple of weeks ago about adult Orcas are teaching their young how to tip fishing boats off the coast of Spain.  So maybe they've had enough...
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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 June 2023 at 11:33am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Unless those boats are full of fish…….
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 07 June 2023 at 11:42am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

That would seem a sensible explanation!

I recall in Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World how he recounted killer whales trying to rock the boats of the expedition to try and knock dogs on the deck into the sea.

*Edited to get Cherry-Garrard's name correct.


Edited by Peter Martin on 07 June 2023 at 11:43am
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Wesley Wong
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Posted: 08 June 2023 at 3:01am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The mass suicide theory just doesn't sit well with me. I
wouldn't discount it outright, but the idea that one
whale came up with the idea to have the entire pod
commit suicide and then having to convince all the
members of the pod to follow suit seems cultishly far-
fetched. Whales are very intelligent and have strong
instincts for self-preservation. I've read many examples
of whales struggling to live/survive against the odds.
It would take something catastrophic for those instincts
to collapse so completely.
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John Byrne
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Grumpy Old Guy

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Posted: 08 June 2023 at 12:32pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Decades ago Isaac Asimov wrote an essay in which he largely disputed the popular notions of cetacean intelligence. Whales and dolphins, he noted, had brains much bigger than ours, but they also had bigger bodies. In the case of whales, especially, the all-important brain-to-body ratio was considerably out of balance compared to that of humans. The whale brain was big, but so proportionately small there might not be “room” for higher intelligence. Most of a whale’s brain is dedicated to just running that massive body.
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John Byrne
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Grumpy Old Guy

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Posted: 08 June 2023 at 12:36pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

…the idea that one

whale came up with the idea to have the entire pod

commit suicide and then having to convince all the

members of the pod to follow suit seems cultishly far-

fetched.

•••

I’m not suggesting one whale taking on this role. Dispute what I say if you are so inclined, but dispute what I ACTUALLY say.

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Wesley Wong
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Posted: 08 June 2023 at 5:57pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I wasn't addressing what you said specifically, JB. I've
heard the mass suicide theory before and I was referring
to some aspects of that theory, in general. Sorry for
any confusion. I have had a keen interest in whales for
many years and I never subscribed to the suicide theory,
but I admit, I could be wrong.
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