The oldest whales on the planet are more ancient than 'Moby-Dick' and have the harpoons to prove it.

You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale. (Get your mind outta the gutter.) There's this dude named Captain Ahab who really really hates the whale, and he goes absolutely bonkers in his quest to hunt and kill it, and then everything is awful and we all die unsatisfied with our shared sad existence and — oops, spoilers!

OK, technically, the narrator Ishmael survives. So it's actually a happy ending (kind of)!


"Moby-Dick" mural. Photo by BJorn/Flickr.

Basically, it's a famous book about revenge and obsession that was published back in 1851, and it's really, really long.

It's chock-full of beautiful passages and dense symbolism and deep thematic resonance and all those good things that earned it a top spot in the musty canon of important literature.

There's also a lot of mundane descriptions about the whaling trade as well (like, a lot). That's because it came out back when commercial whaling was still a thing we did.

A non-albino mother and baby sperm whale. Photo by Gabriel Barathieu/Wikipedia.

In fact, humans used to hunt more than 50,000 whales each year to use for oil, meat, baleen, and oil. (Yes, I wrote oil twice.) Then, in 1946, the International Whaling Commission stepped in and said "Hey, wait a minute, guys. There's only a few handful of these majestic creatures left in the entire world, so maybe we should try to not kill them anymore?"

And even then, commercial whaling was still legal in some parts of the world until as recently as 1986.

Whale's tail pale ale GIF via GoPro/YouTube

And yet by some miracle, there are whales who were born before "Moby-Dick" was published that are still alive today.

What are the odds of that? Honestly it's hard to calculate since we can't exactly swim up to a bowhead and say, "Hey, how old are you?" and expect a response. (Also that's a rude question — jeez.)

Thanks to some thoughtful collaboration between researchers and traditional Inupiat whalers (who are still allowed to hunt for survival), scientists have used amino acids in the eyes of whales and harpoon fragments lodged in their carcasses to determine the age of these enormous animals — and they found at least three bowhead whales who were living prior to 1850.

Granted those are bowheads, not sperm whales like the fictional Moby Dick, (and none of them are albino, I think), but still. Pretty amazing, huh?

This bowhead is presumably in adolescence, given its apparent underwater moping. GIF via National Geographic.

This is a particularly remarkable feat considering that the entire species was dwindling near extinction.

Barring these few centenarian leviathans, most of the whales still kickin' it today are between 20 and 70 years old. That's because most whale populations were reduced to 10% or less of their numbers between the 18th and 20th centuries, thanks to a few over-eager hunters (and by a few, I mean all of them).

Today, sperm whales are considered one of the most populous species of massive marine mammals; bowheads, on the other hand, are still in trouble, despite a 20% increase in population since the mid-1980s. Makes those few elderly bowheads that much more impressive, huh?

Southern Right Whales hangin' with a paddleboarder in the Great Australian Bight. GIF via Jaimen Hudson.

Unfortunately, just as things are looking up, these wonderful whales are in trouble once again.

We might not need to worry our real-life Captain Ahabs anymore, but our big aquatic buddies are still being threatened by industrialization — namely, from oil drilling in the Arctic and the Great Australian Bight.

In the off-chance that companies like Shell and BP manage not to spill millions of gallons of harmful crude oil into the water, the act of drilling alone is likely to maim or kill millions of animals, and the supposedly-safer sonic blasting will blow out their eardrums or worse.

This influx of industrialization also affects their migratory patterns — threatening not only the humans who depend on them, but also the entire marine ecosystem.

And I mean, c'mon — who would want to hurt this adorable face?

BOOP. Photo by NOAA Photo Library/Flickr.

Whales might be large and long-living. But they still need our help to survive.

If you want another whale to make it to his two-hundred-and-eleventy-first birthday (which you should because I hear they throw great parties), then sign this petition to protect the waters from Big Oil and other industrial threats.

I guarantee Moby Dick will appreciate it.

Heroes
True
The Wilderness Society
Facebook / Amazinggracie.ga

A disabled dog with no front legs can now run and play thanks to a 12-year-old volunteer at an animal shelter who built her a wheelchair out of Legos.

One-year-old Gracie was dumped at a veterinary clinic when she was a baby. She was covered in maggots and was missing hair under her eyes and on her feet and tail. She was also missing her two front legs due to a birth defect.

The vet reached out to a local rescue called Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue, in Kennesaw, Georgia, who took Gracie in to help her find a new home. The Turley family, who runs the shelter, loved Gracie so much, they decided to adopt her for themselves.

Gracie loves to play with her fur siblings, including a dog who is paralyzed in his hind legs and likes to pull her around, and on who has three legs. While Gracie can get around OK on her own two hind legs, her mom, Tammy, was worried about her getting injured so they enlisted the help of Dylan, 12, a volunteer at the shelter.

RELATED: This adorable Twitter thread captures a woman's surprise reunion with her foster dog

Amazing Gracie Intro- 12 year old builds LEGO wheelchair for 2 legged puppy www.youtube.com

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Vaping 360

A young doctor has taken to TikTok, the new social media app popular among Gen. Z, to share information about important health issues, including the negative side effects of vaping.

Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, 29, is a second-year family resident at the University of Minnesota Physicians Broadway Family Medicine Clinic.

When she first joined the platform six months ago, she initially started sharing videos about her hectic life as a resident. But whenever she'd share videos with medical facts, she noticed more comments and likes.


Dr. Leslie on TikTok www.tiktok.com


Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Gina Rodriguez doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to talking about black representation. There was that time when she (incorrectly) said that Latina actresses are paid less than black actresses. Or that time when she interrupted an interviewer for saying her co-star, Yara Shahidi, was a role model to black women. Or that time when she tried to make "Black Panther" about her. Now, Rodriguez is under heat again, this time for rapping the n-word and being "sorry, not sorry" about it.

Rodriguez posted an Instagram story of herself singing along to "Read or Not" by the Fugees while getting her hair and make-up done. In the short video, she can be seen singing the lyrics, including the n-word, and laughing. Rodriguez deleted the video quickly, but not quick enough. Twitter was, to say the least, not pleased.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

There's nothing like a good reunion story to get you misty in the ol' tear ducts. Kate Howard, the managing editor of Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, shared a story of randomly running into the dog she used to foster on Twitter. You know all those dog reunion movies? The ones with names like A Dog's Hope and A Dog's Sloppy Kiss? The ones that make you cry buckets no matter how hard you think your heart is? Well, this is that, but in real life.

Keep Reading Show less
popular