When Whales Walked the Earth

This week Melvyn Bragg’s excellent In Our Time radio programme has as its subject ‘The Whale’, a favourite topic of mine. The enthusiastic discussion between Steve Jones, Eleanor Weston and Bill Amos on the evolution of the whale made my train journey this morning a lot more pleasant and interesting. The programme is available on the BBC’s ‘Listen Again’ service until the end of the current series, and is downloadable as a podcast. Get it while you can:

Of all the whales in literature, among the most famous is Moby Dick described by Herman Melville:

“Moby Dick moved on, still withholding from sight the full terrors of his submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wrenched hideousness of his jaw. But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; and warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the grand god revealed himself, sounded and went out of sight”.

Melville’s story is one of drama and grim portent, but far more extraordinary is the story of the whale itself. For the manner in which the whale has evolved is among the finest exemplars of the changes evolution can bring to bear upon life on Earth.

In Our Time ‘The Whale’