Can a very successful planned experiment become too horrific to continue? The following was first reported in the Sept. 1860 issue of Scientific American.  Here’s an excerpt:

“The men were so appalled by the terrific effect” that they stopped… 

For the full (brief) report on what happened, go through the DOOR.  [If  door is missing, click Comment.]



“A paper has just been published (in England in 1860) on the capture of  whales by the means of poison, the agent being hydrocyanic or prussic acid.  The subtle poison was contained in glass tubes, in quantity about two ounces, secured to a harpoon. Messrs W. and G. Young sent a quantity of their harpoons to one of their ships engaged in the Greenland fishery, and on meeting with a fine whale the harpoon was skillfully and deeply buried in his body; the leviathan immediately ‘sounded.’ or dived perpendicularly downwards, but in a very short time the rope relaxed, and the whale rose to the surface quite dead.  The men were so appalled by the terrific effect of the poisoned harpoon that they declined to use any more of them.”  [reprinted in the Sept. 2010 issue   of Scientific American]

Can the possible moral impact of happenings like this stop members of our species in their tracks?  If so, is this only true with humans? Is this a distinctive behavior of homo sapiens?

Or, was it just fear that ended this experiment in 1860? Would touching the fresh carcass of this, perhaps, 100-ton beast, quickly slain by two ounces of liquid, threaten the lives of its slayers, and leave another empty ghost ship to spin tales about?

We’ll never know.  All we have is this brief record.  A record that you now possess–in its entirety.

[Scientific American was founded as a weekly 4-page newspaper in 1845. Shortly after, it became a monthly, and is the oldest continually published monthly magazine in the United States.  This is a good source for reliable information as to what’s happening in modern scientific research.]