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No. 121: Jan-Feb 1999

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Imprison Willy!

Killer whales get good press and complimentary movies, too. They are usually portrayed as gentle, intelligent, human-friendly marine mammals that dine only on fish. Lately, though, we have been reading that Alaskan killer whales have been snacking on those cute little sea otters.

Much more devastating to the killerwhale image is an article in Natural History describing the vicious attack of a pack of killer whales on a pod of much larger sperm whales 70 miles off the California coast. To ward off the attack, nine sperm whales had formed a rosette, heads together, with their powerful tails splayed outwards towards the enemy. The killer whales circled the sperm whales ominously. Every so often, one would dash in and tear off a huge chunk of blubber. Eventually, all nine sperm whales floated dead or dying in an ocean of blood.

The "gentle-giant" portrait of the killer whale is tarnished further in the Antarctic where they habitually dine on the lips and tongues of minke whales, then leave them to die.

(Pitman, Robert L., and Chivers, Susan J.; "Terror in Black and White," Natural History, 107:26, December 1998/January 1999.)

Comment. How will the media spin-doctor stories like these? Killer whales didn't get their name because they ate fish alone.

From Science Frontiers #121, JAN-FEB 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987