Home > Environment > Whale oil to fuel whaling ships is a gruesome and surreal proposition.

Whale oil to fuel whaling ships is a gruesome and surreal proposition.

By   Monday 11th February 2013.    Find Full Article Here:-

Icelandic whaler Kristján Loftsson’s perverse concept has a long pedigree and a remarkable resonance with Moby-Dick.

Japanese whalers with a minke whale carcass.

‘Burns by his own body’ … Japanese whalers with a minke carcass. Photograph: John Cunningham/Rex Features

It is a fantastically surreal propostion. An Icelandic whaler, Kristján Loftsson, is powering his whaling ships using “biofuel” composed of 80% diesel – and 20% whale oil. Loftsson claims the oil is additionally friendly to the environment as it is rendered out of whale blubber using heat from Iceland’s volcanic vents.

The story might seem a bizarre development even in the Alice in Wonderland world of modern whaling, where Japanese whaling fleets claim to be conducting “scientific research” and the US, while striking a vehemently anti-whaling stance, nonetheless supports aboriginal hunting of bowhead whales that might otherwise live as long as 200 years.

Yet Loftsson’s scheme has a remarkable resonance with the urtext of whaling: Herman Melville‘s Moby-Dick, written in 1851. Chapter 96, The Try-Works, includes a darkly poetic riff on the industrial process of rendering whale blubber on board ship. There’s a gruesome description of the relentless operation of vast iron vats, known as trypots, set on brick kilns, and stoked by the whalemen using scraps of whale fat as tinder. Melville finds a fearful elegance in the process:

“Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body.”

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