Dick Watching: The Fossil Whale

Posted by Juliet Linderman

1. This has been a very tough year for killer whales. First, the buddies were totally stigmatized because of that whole orca-kills-trainer thing in Florida. Now, they’ve been slated for Canada’s endangered species list, along with Atlantic white sharks. From the Vancouver Sun: The offshore killer whale population, which includes an estimated 120 mature animals, is listed currently as a species of special concern, the lowest risk rating. Three other killer whale populations in Canadian waters are listed already as either threatened or endangered.
The northeast Pacific offshore population is vulnerable to threats from contaminants, as well as acoustical and physical disturbance, according to an impact analysis by Environment Canada. Reclassifying them would require the government to develop a recovery strategy, with associated costs.

2. In some really crazy whale news: This ancient whale has legs! If you’re in Michigan you should probably shut your laptop immediately and high-tail it over to the  University of Michigan’s Natural History Museum and see the incredibly ancient fossil of a 37 million-year-old extinct species of whale called the Basilosaurus isis. Also, it took two decades to transport the thing from Egypt to Michigan, so show some respect. Plus, scientists discovered that this particular species had, oddly enough, a well-formed knee bone, a complete pelvis, leg bones, ankles and even toe bones. The giant whales‘ legs and feet were small and useless for walking. This guy was found in n area of Egypt referred to by paleontologists as “The Valley of Whales.” This is the coolest thing I’ve hear in a while, right?

3. OH HELL YES: Ok, all you dicksters know, I am the ultimate Dick lover. Last year, I went to the Moby Dick read-a-thon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, during which hundreds of Dick lovers like us come together and read our  favorite tome straight through. It takes about 26 hours, and it is one of the best field trips I’ve ever taken. Duh, I’m going again this year (want to come with me?), especially since it’s the 15th anniversay of the thing. Last year, I got to hang with Melville’s great grandson in the Seaman’s Bethel. It was so tight. We do it in January, to coincide with the approximate date that 21-year-old Herman Melville set sail on the Acushnet, from the New Bedford Harbor. But ok, ok: I understand that not every Dick lover wants to trek out to New Bedford (I mean, I guess), so this year the Whaling Museum folks will be live-streaming the whole thing. Also, I’ll be live blogging it. For 26 hours. Excited?! I am!

4. Big in 2010: Everybody wants some Melville. Abe Books announced that its top sellers for 2010 were both works by the dude. A 1979 limited edition of 265 copies printed by the Arion Press sold for $28,900 (If any of you guys have an extra thirty grand to spare, buy this book: It’s absolutely beautiful. “The Works of Herman Melville.” Illustrated and limited to 750 sets, the set, which was published in 1922, sold for $17,250.

5. My main-man Philip Hoare, who wrote a brilliant book called the Whale and I was lucky enough to interview (stay tuned for the audio, Dicksters!) gets some love over at the Sunday Times. If you love whales and  books, read this book. Period.

6. Somehow I missed this, but you shouldn’t: Melville and polytheism over at Melville House blog.

That’s all for now, Dick lovers. And seriously: If anyone wants to be the Queequeg to my Ishmael on my pilgrimage to New Bedford, get at me.