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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 03:41 GMT 04:41 UK
19th Century bomb found in whale
Time delay bomb fragment
The time delay bomb was patented in 1879
Scientists have retrieved a weapon fragment from a whale that suggests it may have swum its first strokes not long after the American Civil War.

The fragment is part of a time delay bomb that was introduced in 1879 and manufactured until 1885.

Scientists say it is rare to find a whale over 100 years old but believe some may reach 200.

The bowhead whale was killed by indigenous hunters off Alaska as part of their subsistence quota.

Experts think the wound was inflicted in about 1890.

Bowhead whale

But the BBC's Catherine Utley says that 19th Century hunters would not have been bothered with a young whale, so it could have already been around for some time before that date.

She says having the weapon lodged in its shoulder might have been uncomfortable for the whale, but it must have got used to it.

The conical fragment, about 9cm (3.5 in) long, was embedded in the shoulder blade.

Indigenous hunters have been able to kill a quota of whales as an exemption to the commercial whaling moratorium that has been in place for more than 20 years.


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