Sunday 1st October – in search of a sperm whale- day one



In June I finally read Philip Hoare’s Leviathan. It’s been on my shelf since I was given a copy back in 2012 when Laura Harrington and I were hot on the mysterious  trail of the wild salmon. Within fifty pages I’d realised I have to go find a sperm whale. The central character of Moby Dick, slaughtered in their thousands for their oil, the oil that fills their massive heads which also houses their massive brain, and yes they’re also the largest carnivore ever to have existed on earth and also spend much of their lives diving to 300 or 600 or even 2000m for food.  I was hooked. This creature needs to be met.  It’s the next portal to my further understanding of our 71% water covered planet. This massive thing – monster? – evolutionarily young next to sharks,  is a mammal, is warm blooded. They went back to the sea from land. They live in groups of females and young, the males alone, each group with its own sophisticated culture (well we don’t really know do we), and audio language that spreads fast for thousands of miles and accurately locates through waters deep.  And they are still here.  Maybe as many as two million. So it’s simple. First stop, go find them.

Within a couple of days I’d discovered that Iceland has a brand new whale museum, whales are still legally hunted, whale meat is eaten by tourists and whales abound in the seas surrounding, even in October. Margareth Kammerer is inspired to join me so now here we are. In Reykyavik, and we walk into the whale museum.


We are immersed in an underwater world.  The darkened air is full of underwater sounds and huge silicone life size models of most species of whale hang from the ceiling. We are encouraged to walk under and around and have a squeeze. To hold bones and a sperm whale tooth. No they’re definitely not monsters. They don’t tear their prey limb from limb. More likely suck them in and swallow whole. These teeth are only along the bottom jaw and slot into holes in the top jaw to clamp shut once something’s swooped inside. No wonder Jonas couldn’t get out.



NOTE : message the Natural History Museum, London ref. their current whale exhibit. Come get immersed in this.

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