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26 mars 2021 5 26 /03 /mars /2021 07:24

The den of an american ghost. An article published in 1892 in the american press is perhaps the door behind which hides an unthought monster of the country's intimate psyche, who swim under the surface of its present...


There will be 129 years in just one week, a curious article with a strangely structured text was both published, on the same day, by two american newspapers :

Anonymous. 1892. The Terror of the Sea. A vivid account of the sanguinary career of « Mocha Dick ». He won many victories, but was easily vanquished at last. Always Ready for a Fight, and Usually the Aggressor.  Published by « The Detroit Free Press » on Sunday, April 3rd. 

Published also by « The Chicago Tribune » on the same day, but differently entitled : Five wicked whales. A quintet of leviathans well known to all whalers.

DESCRIPTION. Different parts of the article seem not to be logically correlated with the body of the text. Introduction and conclusion are concerned in the two newspapers. For Chigago Tribune, title, headline and lead are also concerned.

The body itself recounts the victorious exploits of a large scarred sperm whale against whalers in the Southeast Pacific, the Southwest Atlantic, and finally the Northwest Pacific, from summer 1840 to autumn 1842.

It begins with a formal introduction (Line 29 of the first column in Detroit Free Press, Line 23 of the first column in Chicago Tribune)  : « What I am going to tell you...to suffer defeat in each occasion. »

It ends with a review of the "career" of the sperm whale, by way of a formal conclusion (Line 129 of the second column in Detroit Free Press, Line 61 of the second column in Chicago Tribune) : « From first to last... on every known feeding ground. »

The introduction evokes the struggle of the whalers against 5 fighting sperm whales (« terrors of the sea ») between 1840 and 1859, each of them having received a nickname. The most famous and feared is named "Mocha Dick" …

Title (« TheTerror of the Sea ») and Headline in Detroit Free Press explicitly announce the theme of the body, shedding light on the formidable and battling character of this scarred sperm whale apparently named "Mocha Dick" …

On the contrary, Chicago Tribune's title, headline and lead focused on the 5 fighting sperms as a whole. Moreover, the lead presents them as « Terrors of the Arctic (!?)Seas », then speaking of "Mocha Dick" « off Valparaiso »... « Defending the body of a dead comrade ».

The conclusion presents the capture of the animal in the South Atlantic in August 1859 by an unnamed Swedish ship (neither the name of the ship, nor that of any of the crew members was revealed, making all checking impossible, and this, on the contrary of each of the other episodes described throughout the article. In addition, a critical piece of information is missing, mentioned each time in the logs in this kind of circumstances : the number of barrels of oil produved from the chopping up and the melting down of the different carved parts of the whale).

Thus, it offers an abundance of very precise details, relative especially to the carcass of the animal, therefore involving a first hand witness : « His big head was a mass of scars and he had apparently lost the sight of his right eye. »... « He was 110 feet long, his girth was 57 feet, his jaw was 25 feet 6 inches long »...

Such measurements are not credible, for at least 2 reasons : first, it's far from convincing that even a gigantic sperm could compete in size with a blue whale (110 feet = 33, 50m) and so widely exceed his mass (around 266t from Lockyer's calculation method*).  Moreover, the measurements of the whole animal and its lower jaw do not correspond at all to their proportions for this species : for instance, in "The book of whales" (1980) Richard Ellis mentions crew members of a whaleship (and probably liars) that said they  took a sperm whale who had 8,5 meters jaw, the whale therefore would be 140 feet (43 meters) and so would weigh around 532 tons... According to the same principles of proportion, the animal allegedly killed by the Swedish whaler should have measured more than 38.8m and so would weigh around 400 t ...

*See for precisions the mathematic formula established by Lockyer (Christina).1976. Growth and Energy Budget for the Sperm Whale Physeter Catodon » in Mammals of the sea. FAO Fisheries Series n°5, Vol. 3).



THE « UNTITLED NOTE » HYPOTHESIS. It seems that the subject's body, which is self-sufficient, is, in fact, an untitled note. It could have been written by an (unknown) author, from personal research that led to original discoveries, who sent them to one or several newspapers (Detroit Free Press at least). It concludes logically with the complete assessment of the exploits of the scarred sperm whale : « From first to last, "Mocha Dick" had nineteen harpoons put into him. He stove fourteen boats and caused of over thirty men. He stove Three whaling vessels so badly that they were nearly lost, and ha attacked and sunk a french merchantman and an australian trader. He was encountered in ever ocean and on every feeding ground."

A PRESS TYCOON (common owner of the 2 newspapers) LINKED TO THE BOWHEAD WHALING INDUSTRY ?

Other parts of the article seem to have been secondary added, perhaps by Editorial Staffs, changing radically the meaning, spirit and tone initially given to his text by the author.

What appears as a false conclusion (no publication before this one nor logbook has ever taken into account the execution of public ennemy n° 1 by the whaling vessels at that time), may be to show that ultimately, the victory always goes to the whalers, even if it is in a baroque and inglorious way.

We can find at least 2 sources for such fiction. In 1839, Jeremiah Reynolds had already told the fictive death of a real fighting sperm whale, named « Mocha Dick » and who was an albino individual. Moreover, it conjectured that it is although very roughly inspired by chapter 81 of "Moby Dick" [Some copies of the novel had been reprinted by Harper & Brothers in the fall of 1891, on the occasion of the death of Melville], which depicts the final ordeal of an old ill male , blind and deprived of a right pectoral fin ... Melville compares Job's description of the mighty Leviathan and the reality of the poor old sperm, just as is shown in the conclusion of the article, the violent contrast between what was and what has become "Mocha Dick" ...

What is more, 4 fighting sperm whales mentioned in what appears to be an introduction added in a second step, like the conclusion and consistent with it*, are totally absent from the initial note (« body » of published article). However, the Chicago Tribune honors them with its title, headling and lead, in which they are described as terrors of arctic seas, though spermwhales are hunted in tropical regions, contrarily to arctic bowhead whales...

The whaling industry founded the United States as such (see my book on the subject) and its political and social influence was consubstantial to the formation of this Nation. In 1892, on this level, the situation has changed very little since the 18th century. What is more, cyclically, after almost half a century of slaughter of the giant right whales of the North Pacific, until the almost complete extinction of the latter (in the Bering Strait, the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, off Chukotka, and then in the Beaufort Sea), the fishermen ended up ascending the latter to the estuary of the Mackenzie River where, in 1889, they “miraculously” discovered a flourishing population of these giants [who had obviously come for many years. years, to take shelter from their aggressors in the estuary of the gigantic marshy delta of the great river, where the beluga white whales also come to give birth to their children] ... In 1892, the slaughter (which can hardly be compared but to that of gray whales in the lagoons of Baja California by Charles Melville Scammon and his fleet a few decades earlier) was in full swing in the Delta (and will not stop until 1921).

See illuminating "Interfusion", April 6th 2020 :


More than ever, the whaling activity of the moment is magnified by politico-media speakers, whose deafening “patriotic” hustle and bustle makes any dissonant attempt “delicate”, especially since there has been, in reality, a controversy over legitimacy of this activity since the middle of the 19th century, or even earlier, which has never stopped growing since then ...


* Like most « fake news », this one since inspired numerous publications evoking « Mocha Dick ». The risks of suspicion amongst its readers have been nipped in the bud, the « introduction » secondary added too, which already foretells the false conclusion.



Otherwise, another question, and not the least, remains open. It's impossible, at the present time, to know who has really used the name « Mocha Dick » in the article.

Has the Name been given by the author (the Fighting White Whale was not dead in 1840, contrary to what is written in Reynolds' account) despite the evident fact that his hero is not white, but has only a white scar ?

Or alternatively, could the name secondary been changed by editorial staffs, in the aim of definitely »drawn the fish » ?...

The author would have initially given no name to the victorious sperm of years 1840-1842, or something like « The scared whale », « Scared Jack », « Scared Typhoon », « Valparaiso Dick »...


TEN YEARS LATER., OR : HISTORY IS IRONIC. On March 17, 1902, the whaler barque Kathleen was sunk by a large male gray-skinned sperm whale in the South Atlantic, and at the beginning of July, a huge white sperm whale (over 27m) was captured further north in the same ocean (south of the Azores archipelago), by the aquinnah harpooner Amos Smalley aboard the ship Platina ...


Assumptions now made, investigation goes on.

Now waiting clarifications and an update from the current editorial teams of the Detroit Free Press and the Chicago Tribune, who have just been contacted on this subject. With anticipated gratitude.

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