Needless to say that back in the day, hunting these whales could sometimes be a dangerous business. In 1820 a sperm whale with a claimed length of 85 feet rammed the Essex, a whaler from Nantucket, Massachusetts. The ship subsequently sank, too, leaving 20 crewmen stranded in small lifeboats in the southern Pacific with little in the way of supplies.
The men were at sea for 95 days, during which time they ate the corpses of 12 of their fellow sailors. Only eight men survived the ordeal. And Herman Melville is said to have based his classic novel Moby Dick on this real-life incident.