Harpooned killer whale drags down whaling boat, scatters crew

harpooned orca photo
CC BY 2.0 gailhampshire

Last Thursday, a boat loaded with twelve whalers from the island of Lembata, Indonesia spotted a killer whale and pursued it out to sea. Eventually, the crew were able to close in on their prey, driving harpoons into the animal's flesh. But as the injured orca fought for its life, the tables soon turned -- and the whale hunters found themselves fighting for theirs.

The Jakarta Globe reports that the harpooned killer whale was able to drag down the whalers' vessel, scattering the dozen-member crew into the water miles from shore.

By that evening, four men managed make it back to dry land and alert authorities about what had happened. But after local fishermen and marine police failed to find the other eight crewmembers, they were feared drowned.

Incredibly, just as their community went into a 'state of mourning' on Friday afternoon, all the missing men were found safely ashore on the neighboring island of East Nusa Tenggara. Despite several of the crewmen being injuring in the botched whale hunt, they were able to stay afloat and swim for 16 hours after their ship had sunk.

The island of Lembata, where the boat originated, is home to Indonesia's two remaining whaling communities, practicing a 'traditional' approach to hunting. Although only around a dozen sperm whales are killed there each year, a dwindling population of the species in the region has led hunters to begin setting their sights on orcas instead -- a considerably more aggressive target as evidenced by this recent incident.

Small, traditional whaling operations may be less impactful than industrial-scale whale hunting, but given the dangers associated with the practice, it might be wise for this lucky crew to consider a safer, more profitable career alternative -- whale watching.

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