The true story of Moby Dick: can a whale attack a human?

Sperm whales are relatively placid mammals and there have been very few incidents in modern times to indicate otherwise. These animals feed mainly on squid and rarely attack, they only do so – apparently – when they mistake other mammals for seals or prey.

In his 1839 book on the natural history of sperm whales, Thomas Beale, a surgeon aboard a whaler, describes the sperm whale as “one of the most timid and harmless animals, willing to escape anything that has an unusual appearance. “.

However, Richard Bevan, a zoologist and professor at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom, points out that the whale can remember if it was attacked in the past. “I have no doubt that a sperm whale can remember being attacked with a harpoon and can respond aggressively if it feels threatened,” explains Bevan.

“On the other hand, a large ship like a whaler has all the looks of a great threat, even to an adult sperm whale, so I imagine that most likely seeing it, it will drift away.”

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