Narwhal Tusks – Legends

Narwhal Tusks – Legends
Music
Ambiance Narwhal song – CD 06.01.12-1

We’re listening to the sounds of the animal who very likely inspired the myth of the unicorn. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. The narwhal is a whale with an unusual tusk-like tooth that extends up to 8 feet off the left side of its head. Dr. Martin Nweeia, a narwhal researcher, says that early explorers got a little creative with the tusks they brought back to Europe.

“Narwhal was of particular value and since really the only people to introduce it back were kind of Old Norse explorers who would go to Greenland, no one could really hold them to a story about what they had seen or how they particularly got it. And no one knows specifically the story that the legend occurred with, but when they brought back these tusks they basically claimed they were from unicorn, as opposed to saying an arctic whale. And, they had tremendous value to them in European society. You know, in the case of some cultures, Queen Elizabeth paid the equivalent of an entire castle for one. Royal scepters and other thrones were made of narwhal; the Danish throne is indeed made almost entirely of narwhal tusk.”

Given their high regard for the tusks, the Danes nevertheless gave these whales a rather uncomplimentary name.

In terms of how they look, they’re really kind of mottled, black and white appearance. And hence its Danish name, which translate from “narwhal” to mean “corpse whale.” Not a very romantic term; I think the Inuit have a much better way of describing the narwhal, actually. The whale has a habit of putting its tusk into the air. And that the Inuit, indeed, have captured the name of this species for that particular behavior. The Inuit translation for the narwhal literally translates to mean “the one that is good at curving its tusk towards the sky.””

Despite the centuries of cultural commentary, it’s still somewhat of a mystery how the narwhal actually uses its tusk. We’ll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Narwhal Tusks - Legends

With its long tusk-like tooth and mottled coloration, the Narwhal has intrigued sailors and royalty alike and may have been the inspiration for the Unicorn.
Air Date:03/14/2012
Scientist:
Transcript:

Narwhal Tusks - Legends
Music
Ambiance Narwhal song - CD 06.01.12-1

We're listening to the sounds of the animal who very likely inspired the myth of the unicorn. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. The narwhal is a whale with an unusual tusk-like tooth that extends up to 8 feet off the left side of its head. Dr. Martin Nweeia, a narwhal researcher, says that early explorers got a little creative with the tusks they brought back to Europe.

"Narwhal was of particular value and since really the only people to introduce it back were kind of Old Norse explorers who would go to Greenland, no one could really hold them to a story about what they had seen or how they particularly got it. And no one knows specifically the story that the legend occurred with, but when they brought back these tusks they basically claimed they were from unicorn, as opposed to saying an arctic whale. And, they had tremendous value to them in European society. You know, in the case of some cultures, Queen Elizabeth paid the equivalent of an entire castle for one. Royal scepters and other thrones were made of narwhal; the Danish throne is indeed made almost entirely of narwhal tusk."

Given their high regard for the tusks, the Danes nevertheless gave these whales a rather uncomplimentary name.

In terms of how they look, they're really kind of mottled, black and white appearance. And hence its Danish name, which translate from "narwhal" to mean "corpse whale." Not a very romantic term; I think the Inuit have a much better way of describing the narwhal, actually. The whale has a habit of putting its tusk into the air. And that the Inuit, indeed, have captured the name of this species for that particular behavior. The Inuit translation for the narwhal literally translates to mean "the one that is good at curving its tusk towards the sky.""

Despite the centuries of cultural commentary, it's still somewhat of a mystery how the narwhal actually uses its tusk. We'll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.