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10 of the world's most famous whales

By: Shea Gunther on June 20, 2011, 1 p.m.
Skeleton of Old Tom, the whale

Photo: Fanny Schertzer/Wikimedia Commons

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Old Tom

In the 1920s, off Australia's southeastern coast, there lived an orca known affectionately as "Old Tom." Old Tom and other members of his pod developed a sort of working friendship with local whalers, helping them by herding, trapping and even killing migrating baleen whales in Twofold Bay.

The whalers would then finish off the baleen whales, giving Tom and his fellow orcas their tongues and lips to eat, an arrangement that became known as "the law of the tongue." Tom also reportedly protected crew members who fell overboard, circling them to ward off the area's numerous sharks. (The skeleton of Old Tom is pictured at left.)