Moby Dick (Rhine)

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Moby Dick was a beluga, or white whale, that caused a sensation in 1966 along the Lower Rhine and then in all of Germany and the Netherlands. It was named after the whale in the novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

On May 18, 1965, a few Rhine skippers near Duisburg reported a white whale in the Rhine to the water police. They reacted by first making the mariners take a blood alcohol test, which came up negative: there really was a white whale swimming in the Rhine 300 kilometers from the ocean and thousands of kilometers from the usual habitat of the beluga whale in arctic waters.

Wolfgang Gewalt, the director of the Duisburg Zoo, tried to subdue the unusual guest in the Rhine with nets and tranquilizer darts, which led to massive protests from the people and official protests from the Netherlands so that he had to desist.

At first Moby Dick turned oceanward again, but stopped in front of a lock to the ocean opened specially for him and swam up the Rhine again, as far as Bonn. Once there he turned around again and was sighted three days later, on the June 16 at 18:42, for the last time after reaching the open ocean at Hoek van Holland.

There is a suggestion that the appearance of Moby Dick in the Rhine had actually been the beginning of the environmental movement in Germany. In fact, around 1966 the first effective environmental protection laws in Germany were adopted. The Rhine, for example, through which "Moby Dick" swam at the time, was justifiably characterized as a sewer, since waste water from cities and chemical plants was for the most part poured in unfiltered.

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