Whales Return to Moby Dick's Old Haunts

New sightings of hunt-decimated populations off Chile raise hopes
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2008 3:20 PM CDT
The flukes of a gray whale as it dives off the Southern California coast near the Palos Verdes Peninsula is seen Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
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(Newser) – Hosts of whale sightings are being reported off southern Chile, raising conservationists' hopes for a resurgence of the populations—including the real-life inspiration for Moby Dick—that flourished in the area before they were hunted nearly to extinction. Experts warn the apparent boom could be the result of more pairs of eyes looking for the animals, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

Herman Melville's inspiration, named Mocha Dick, was a white bull sperm whale famous for brushes with whalers. Currently, two major seasonal populations have been reported off Chile: one of humpbacks and one of blue whales. "It could be we're just seeing more whales now because of increased interest and tourism," warns the head of Chile's Cetacean Conservation Center.