Eskimos turn to supersonic "grenade" for humane whale kills


Bowhead whale

Eskimos are being armed with a new type of harpoon-mounted grenade that is supposedly more “effective” at killing the Bowhead whales they hunt. The new Penthrite grenades, which replace 19th century “black powder” grenades, supposedly reduce the time it takes to “humanely” kill one of these massive creatures — which grow to be 50-60 feet long and weigh 80-110 tons — from 60 minutes to 15 minutes. The two types of grenades accomplish their goal differently.

Black powder is a slow-burning explosive that generally kills by causing hemorrhage. If a whale is struck near a vital organ, death can be swift. But multiple strikes sometimes are needed, endangering crews in traditional, wooden-ribbed boats as a bowhead thrashes in icy seas.

On the other hand:

Once the [penthrite] grenade penetrates the whale’s skin and explodes, it produces a concussion that lethally shocks the central nervous system.

It’s taken until now for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission to come up with this new weapon since the International Whaling Commission mandated more humane killing methods over 20 years ago. Ironically, penthrite is a World War I-era explosive used in demolition.

Here are a couple articles on the subject that may be of interest:

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