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Could ‘Moby Dick’ have done it?

The idea that a sperm whale can use its massive head as a battering ram to sink ships has been hotly debated at least since Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick” was published in 1851.

Now, Australian researcher Olga Panagiotopoulou, part of an international team researching the theory, says scientific evidence about the phenomenon remains scarce. 

However, her research indicates that a sperm whale’s head could be used as a battering ram, and the animal could probably live to tell the tale.

Male sperm whales can be 60 feet long, and their foreheads make up one-third of their length and a quarter of their body mass.

“The forehead of the sperm whale is one of the strangest structures in the animal kingdom,” said Panagiotopoulou, an expert in the anatomy, bone biology and mechanics of large animals, including elephants and non-human primates. “Internally, the whale’s forehead is composed of two large oil-filled sacs stacked on top of each other, known as the spermaceti organ and the junk sacs.

Click here for an interesting scientific report in The Maritime Executive.