The Intrepid Moby Dick Meets Oily End!
Fabric covered canvas board-assemblage: collage, sea shells, sand, miniature resin Sperm whale, acrylic paint.
11″ x 14″ x 1″
Natural maple finished wood.
15″ x 17½” x 2″
The Gulf of Mexico 2008 oil spill caused the death of three sperm whales.
Sources: Than, K.: Oil Spill to Wipe Out Gulf’s Sperm Whales, National Geographic News, May 21 2010. Cornwall, W.: Deepwater Horizon After the Oil, Science Magazine, April 3, 2015.
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THE DEATH OF MOBY DICKDRAFT
THE INTREPID MOBY DICK MEETS OILY END.
Thomas Shadwell (c.1642-1692) coined the phrase II A fish out of water.” 1. A fish (cold blooded) and a whale (warm blooded) will both die when out of water. In 2008 when the Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded it polluted the Gulf of Mexico with toxic crude oil that caused the death of some three sperm whales (Physeter microcephalus) and thousands of other sea birds, dolphins, turtles, etc. 2.
The sperm whale is a mammal that breathes through a blowhole when surfacing for air. If the blow hole takes in toxic oil this will compromise the lungs as will fumes incapacitate the whale and cause death by drowning. Should a weakened sperm whale become beached it will eventually become dehydrated and suffocate from its own body weight. The American poet laureate Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) experienced a beached whale in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. At low tide he approached the stranded whale and found it making, “terrifying noises, rumbling and groaning,” dying an ignoble death. 3.
Historically, the sperm whale was persued for its spermaceti, a waxy substance located in the cavities of the whale’s head. When processed it provided a form of oily wax that resisted freezing temperatures and in the making of candles was valued for a low melting point and burning odorless. Herman Melville’s 1851 novel of the sperm whale Moby Dick survived from being fatality harpooned by the revengeful captian Ahab. In 2008 actual sperm whales met their demise not from being harpooned, but ironically from an oily death.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature globally red listed the Sperm Whale’s (Physeter microcephalus) population as vulnerable.
Image: Engraving of a sperm whale stranded on a beach by Jacob Matham; 1598.