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In Search Of Moby Dick

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 26th, 2009

Moby Dick


Migaloo, the albino humpback.

MonsterQuest: THE REAL MOBY DICK
Wednesday August 26th 2009 at 9PM Eastern / 8PM Central and Thursday August 27th 1AM E/2AM C on HISTORY

There have been stories for centuries about huge, aggressive albino sperm whales. They were immortalized by the classic novel “Moby Dick.” These stories told of whales targeting ships and ramming them with their huge heads. Could stories like this be true? MonsterQuest heads to the world’s oceans to investigate whether there is any truth to the theory that these white whales have become more aggressive.


Migaloo, the pure white humpback whale, seen off Australia, near Coffs Harbour with another whale, Tuesday, June 15, 2005. (Sea Experience Charters, Greer Atkinson).

Earlier, they repeat…

MonsterQuest: Boneless Horror
Airs on Wednesday August 26 08:00 PM & Midnight
Throughout history there have been sightings of a massive Octopus big enough to attack and sink boats. Could such a creature really exist? Our divers probe the depths of the North Pacific where the world’s largest known species of octopus lives. Could these octopuses be a food source for a monster? The investigation will use various underwater camera systems, including a tiny camera small enough to probe inside octopus lairs. Deep waters, rough currents, freezing temperatures and the prospect of encountering a 20-ton boneless horror make this a dangerous expedition.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


16 Responses to “In Search Of Moby Dick”

  1. Lee Murphy responds:

    I have a book from National Geographic titled WHALES, DOLPHINS and PORPOISES. Inside is a photo of a baby white sperm whale alongside his non-white mother.

  2. MattBille responds:

    Lee,
    I was going to say the same thing, only I remember an article in the magazine with several photos of the animal. I think that was near the Azores. I have wondered why there’s been no followup. You’d think the animal would have been spotted again, unless something happened to it.
    In an old Reader’s Digest book (part of a collection of articles they put out in hardcover in collections sutiable for younger readers) was an article from the 1950s by a harpooner who claimed to have killed a 90-foot white sperm whale. (No, the length is not a typo, though it casts doubt on the fellow’s story). Apparently the makers of the film Moby Dick did a little publicity at the movie’s opening and “introduced me as the man who killed him.” I no longer have the book, and no one else I’ve talked to, including Richard Ellis, had ever heard that story, but I have an almost perfect memory for stuff I read a long time ago.

  3. CalebKitson responds:

    That Humpback is beautiful!

  4. norman-uk responds:

    On 14 8 09 migaloo was traveling off the east coast of New Zealand expected next off Queensland Aus. Generating excitement and interest all the way! Must have been a wonderful sight for those who managed to see him in daylight!

    I dont think there is any news about him being aggressive but a request was made to give him space.

    In some ways hes just a another whale but he is iconic for all the other whales and does redirect and focus attention, thoughts and hearts. Maybe this will help Migaloo and all the other whales survive and survive better. If it does it will help us all.

  5. springheeledjack responds:

    In my recollection there was more than one story rolling around about whales attacking ships in Melville’s time. His story was inspired by such accounts.

    AS to whether it really happened…I think it probable. Whales are intelligent creatures, and as such quite possible capable of human emotions (elephants are another known mammal that are very intelligent and have sophisticated social structures and capabilities). Personally, I wonder if whales understood that they were being hunted by ships and sooner or later one got ticked off enough to go turn the tables. Doesn’t seem that far fetched to me, and again, that’s my perspective and opinion, but that is my theory on the accounts.

  6. David-Australia responds:

    Latest sighting of “Migaloo”.

  7. praetorian responds:

    Not a bad episode, but I wonder sometimes if “MonsterQuest” should spend less time on looking at the strange behavior of known animals and more on the real unknowns. Then again, it is called “MonsterQuest” and not “CryptoQuest”.

    Sending a production crew to a remote location for a few days is expensive. The problem is that a few days rarely seem to be enough time to come up with anything good. Maybe staking out a location continuously for several weeks would yield better results. They’ve done it passively with camera traps before and not had much luck, but those only cover a very small target area. Actively placing searchers in the field for two weeks or a month could be more rewarding.

  8. MattBille responds:

    Melville married two real-life inspirations, the tales of a white sperm whale named Mocha Dick who whalers in the Pacific told him was known for a bad temper (well, they had been sticking harpoons in him) and the wreck of the whaleship Essex, which had indeed been rammed and sunk by a very large sperm whale. (The gripping nonfiction book to read is titled “In the Heart of the Sea.” )

    It’s no wonder the story has inspired silent films, the Gregory Peck film from the 1950s, and the Patrick Stewart TV production which was superbly acted but inexplicably (given it clearly had a substantial budget) marred by the repeated reuse of the same rubber whale tail and a second-rate CGI whale.

    My favorite line from the book is Ismael talking about the remote island of Queeqeg’s birth. “It is not down in any map: true places never are.”

  9. FunkyBunky responds:

    Monsterquest is really stretching for stories now. Cats, monkeys, whales. No great unknowns. Summertime TV viewing is getting worse each year. I would rather them spend an entire year’s costs on going to one site and staying for a month and searching for something, anything.

  10. cryptidsrus responds:

    I basically liked the MQ episode.

    I have no doubt believing this could happen in real life and that it DOES.

    Hey Lee Murphy—I gotta get me that book!!! Thanks for the heads-up!!!

  11. Chrissy J responds:

    Migaloo the albino humpback has been travelling the east coast of Australia for years now. He is estimated to be in his 20’s. Recent articles in our local news have the sad news that he may have a tumour on his head. I personally have not seen him but have watched with great interest the news stories when he appears almost every year. Migaloo is something many of us here in Eastern Australia have grown up with. It will be a very sad day when we no longer see him travelling up the coast to Queensland.

  12. mystery_man responds:

    I have no doubt that white whales have captured the imagination throughout the ages, and in the case of Melville, inspired works of fiction. They are rare enough that seeing one is a special event indeed, and hardly a mundane sighting.

    It’s the agressiveness aimed at humans that I think has been embellished and exaggerated a bit. I think that real sightings of white whales certainly did, and obviously do occur, and undoubtedly had an effect on those who saw them. However, I have never heard of a confirmed report of a sperm whale attacking a human unprovoked, much less a whole ship. I could be wrong on that, but certainly if it happens at all, it is an exceedingly rare occurrence.

    I think white whales could have spawned a variety of myths and folklore surrounding them, such as attacking ships and dragging sailors to their doom, but I tend to doubt that this is what actually happened. More likely it was tall tales that sprung from seeing these magnificent beasts.

    FunkyBunky- I think that MonsterQuest is trying to expand into a broader range of cryptozoological themes in order to explore possibilities and more importantly keep viewer interest by mixing things up. MQ is very important in helping to raise awareness of cryptozoology and pioneer new methods for tracking cryptids that other cryptozoologists might decide to use, but in the end this is a TV show, and ratings are the ultimate goal.

    Although many in this field would find it interesting, I don’t think the average viewer would be particularly interested in seeing a whole season devoted to slogging through the forest looking for Bigfoot. It would simply not make for compelling viewing. What MQ is trying to do, I think, is to give the general audience a wide sampling of digestable chunks of cryptozoology.

  13. darkshines responds:

    I’d be interested in seeing a link between this and the Trunko story. Could Trunko have been a white whale that the other regular coloured whales were attacking?

  14. Andrew D. Gable responds:

    While I understand the criticism of some of the more recent MQ “feral” episodes, like the pythons, dogs, and chimpanzees, these are undoubtedly (IMHO) still relevant to cryptozoology. I mean, feral chimps would pretty definitely have relevance to Bigfoot stories. Colonies of feral dogs in the Midwest clearly have relevance to the recent spate of doglike cryptids from there, IMHO.

    The whales, for instance, could also be a way to show that even though something has an exotic and bizarre appearance, it’s not necessarily a new species.

  15. MattBille responds:

    Only a few newspaper clippings exist to vouch for Trunko. I don’t think we need to spend much time pondering the link with this nonsensical animal. (I mean, what was it supposed to have done with that trunk? Vacuum up clams?).
    That said, there are plenty of mysteries to explore about whales. I have a special interest in cryptocetology. In my book Shadows of Existence, I (with invaluable help from Darren Naish) presented the most important cases about hybrids, unexplained sightings, taxonomic questions (especially about the orca, which may be several species), and new discoveries. I hope other crypto researchers will help me stay abreast of this topic.
    A footnote was that, in preparing Shadows, I called or wrote to the top field people in cetology, such as Robin Baird and Robert Pitman, and authors like Richard Ellis and Mark Cardawine. Without exception, they all offered their thoughts to this little-known science writer. If you show you’ve read their work and ask intelligent questions, leading scientists will share.

  16. RhinoNQ responds:

    I’ve seen Migaloo off Stradbroke Island here in QLD, beautiful sight. Back to topic, blatant unprovoked voilence isn’t something you would expect from a whale. A whale could very well sink a decent size boat by accident but it sounds like a load of bollocks having an animal that feeds off a near microscopic creature to suddenly become blood thirsty.



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