Friday, January 18, 2008

Whales Forever

Has anyone seen a 92 foot white whale made out of plastic and rubber floating off the coast of Fishguard? Only, one went missing there back in 1954...

Gather round landlubbers and let me tell you the tale. It started when that great American film director John Huston came to west Wales to shoot scenes for his blubbery epic Moby Dick (1956). He was accompanied by Gregory Peck who had landed the role of Captain Ahab. Their intention was to film a few straightforward nautical scenes near Strumble Head. What could possibly go wrong?

For the film three white 92ft whales had been constructed, each weighing about 12 tons. One of these monsters was towed out to sea off Fishguard and Peck clambered onto its back in readiness for filming. But, as any salty old sea dog will tell you, squalls can blow up and fog roll in at any time in those treacherous waters. And that's exactly what happened.

To make matters worse the ropes linking the leviathan to the tug boat snapped, leaving Peck adrift on the back of a pretend whale, at the mercy of 15ft waves. Apparently he genuinely believed his screams weren't going to be heard; and that he was about to be taking direction from the great auteur in the sky.

Fortunately for all concerned a motor launch eventually appeared through the fog and a much relieved Peck scrambled onboard. The whale was lost but Peck didn't care - he was just glad to be alive.

Later a full-scale search for the white whale was launched. All vessels in the area had to be warned as the giant-sized prop was considered a danger to shipping. A cross channel ferry picked it up on its radar three miles north of Fishguard. But unfortunately the whale mysteriously disappeared again and after three days the search was abandoned. Locals speculated that it would drift up and down the Irish Sea for a while and eventually be washed up somewhere near Aberystwyth. But that never happened.

So, dear reader, if you should spy a giant white whale off the Welsh coast, possibly with a few harpoons sticking in its back, you know exactly what to do. That's right, stand on one leg and declaim: "Thar she blows! A hump like a snow hill! It is Moby Dick!"