Whaling Behaviour


This is the page I had the most difficulty writing. Comparing two highly emotional events quickly becomes depressing, but it must be done. Too many have used a false argument to place an upper limit on whale intelligence, and letting it stand unchallenged becomes dangerous Their argument goes as follows…

Imagine an animal so dumb that dozens, in family groups, can be lead to their death by just a few exterminators over a period of days. How do I put this sensitively… any animal that shows that ‘deficiency’ is displaying a human trait – except that with us it can be thousands to their death in hours. If you even try to use that argument then, by analogy, you have completely misread the complexity of human family bonding that can lead us to act as if mentally paralysed into compliance when faced by the possibility of ultimate disaster.


If you skipped the above references, you may have assumed that they refer to the Holocaust in the west, with which most are more familiar. Not so! The Holocaust in the east was different. There, columns of victims were guarded sparsely. In some cases, escape was prevented by a few men armed with nothing but whips. Its victims could hear the death screams and shooting ahead, but still kept coming. Through trail and error, these death squads had found their fellow humans reluctant to run and abandon the rest of their families – even when they knew the consequences.

Would it be such a surprise then, to find that behaviour turned out to be a mark of a high intelligence, not a low one. Anything simpler and genetics should dictate a panicked fleeing response or catatonic ‘playing dead’ one. And don’t think that only humans can panic humans into being killed with such ease. There have been about ten maneaters (mostly big cats) who have racked up three figure scores of human victims before their terror stopped. Sometimes they gain a protective aura of invincibility in our minds where resistance becomes futile. The ability to create stories, and thus myths, is another mark of intelligence… I think we are now ready for comparison with sperm whales.

Whalers had worked out a way where, by first skewering the youngest calf without killing it, they could slaughter an entire pod with ease, and with few even attempting to take flight. Even though this has known parallels to human behaviour, and few, if any, among the rest of the animal kingdom, some experts have used this as evidence of their lack of intelligence – and to back their claims site nothing but common sense. While sitting in their armchairs they imagine so much that could have been done but wasn’t – at least not every time. But here’s the rub: sometimes those whales who were less emotionally attached did respond in precisely that way.

Many species of whale thrashed about and occasionally damaged boats once harpooned, but only sperm whales were recorded to actually fight back. Some of these reprisals didn’t even come from the members of pods that the whalers were targeting. The term ‘whaling’ seems so benign that I will use it in the pages ahead. The words ‘genocide’ and ‘murder’, I will try not to use as it is hard to prove that any sperm whale cultures were destroyed, and I acknowledge their sapience as not yet confirmed.

Whaling of sperm whale


CONTINUE to find evidence that the most famous whaleship sinking was no accident

or SKIP ahead to meet the most successful whale involved in their fight against whalers

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