Moby Dick, the white whale of Herman Melville’s novel written in 1851, was actually modeled after a real live whale called Mocha Dick.
Spotted often in the early 1800s, Mocha Dick’s home was the Pacific Ocean. He was usually seen near an island called Mocha off the coast of Southern Chile.
Mocha Dick was a male albino sperm whale reported to be quite large and very powerful.
Jeremiah N. Reynolds, an explorer, wrote of his first-hand observations of Mocha Dick. His account, title “Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific,” was published in the May 1839 issue of “The Knickerbocker.”
Mocha Dick had a unique way of spouting, unusual for whales. He would fling a large volume of water from his nose that made a roaring sound like that of a powerful steam engine.
Mocha Dick was notorious for wrecking small crafts, some said more than 100 of them. He survived many encounters with harpoonists. While he had a docile nature, when attacked, he would counter with ferocity and was greatly feared.
Reynolds wrote that Mocha Dick was killed in 1938 while trying to help a cow whose calf had just been murdered by whalers. Mocha’s body measured 70 feet long and gave up 100 barrels of oil along with some ambergris. Ambergris was used in making perfumes and was sometimes worth more ounce for ounce than gold.
Mocha Dick was not the only white whale seen. In 1859 a Swedish whaler said he had killed an albino sperm whale off the coast of Brazil. In 1902, near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, whalers killed another albino sperm whale reported to be 90 feet long. In 1952, Time Magazine stated that a white whale was harpooned off Peru’s coast. Since 1991 there have been reports of a white whale called Migaloo being sighted near Australia. In 2012, an albino humpback whale was filmed off the coast of Norway. The whale was given the nickname, Willow the White Whale.
While whaling is outlawed by most countries, it still continues in some parts of the world. Lets hope whaling ends everywhere before these highly intelligent, magnificent mammals are no longer with us.