Cautionary Tales with Tim HarfordCautionary Tales with Tim Harford

The Revenge of the Whales

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In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in 1819, Owen Chase is standing on a slowly sinking ship. It's just been headbutted by an 85 foot whale. It's taking in water. And now the creature is coming back for another go. This is a whaling ship, and Chase is convinced that he observes "fury and vengeance" in the animal.

In 2010, an orca is performing for a crowd at SeaWorld - but he misses his mark and so he doesn't get his reward. That's when he grabs hold of his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, and pulls her under water. By the time he's finished, her savaged body has multiple fractures and dislocations. And her scalp has been ripped off.

To some observers, these whales were surely out for revenge. But how much is what we think we understand about the natural world shaped by human guilt?

For a full list of sources, see the show notes at

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Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionar 
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