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the tale of the whale
from sea monster to endangered species
In the 16th century, man knew little of the whale. For the most part, it was thought to be a fearsome sea monster. But that changed when Dutch sailor Willem Barentsz went on a voyage of exploration to the Arctic Ocean. He discovered the large number of whales and noticed how easy they were to catch. More and more men followed in his wake, hunting the whale and the fortune in baleen and oil won from their blubber.
In the 19th century, the Dutch whaling industry came to an end, but the hunt started again in the famine that followed in the wake of the Second World War. It continued until 1964, when the last whaling vessel flying a Dutch flag - the Willem Barentsz II - set sail for the last time. By that time, environmental activists all over the world were protesting against the whale hunt. Today, the condemnation of the practice of hunting whales is nearly universal. Whales are threatened with extinction and the hunt is cruel.
The tale of the whale shows how our image of the largest creatures that ever lived has changed through the centuries. Here you will learn all about whaling and how it turned this mighty creature into an endangered species.
This exhibition, suitable for children from age 6, was made possible with the support of the World Wildlife Fund.
You can download the whale picture to colour here.