Whale harpoon exploding, mid-20th century

Whale harpoon exploding, mid-20th century


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Whale harpoon exploding after being fired into a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). The line attaching the harpoon to the boat is seen at left. The explosion is designed to injure or kill the whale, allowing the whalers to process the body for its oil, blubber (fat layer) and meat. Explosive harpoons were developed in the mid-19th century and, along with steam power, contributed to a large increase in the amount of whaling. Whale hunting reached a peak in the early 20th century, with up to 40,000 whales killed per year. Fears of extinction led to the signing of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946). Photographed by the US Coast Guard between 1935 and 1945.

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