03/06/2010 : Joy For Local Man As Tusk Rescued From Skip Sells For £14,500
A rare tusk from a narwhal whale, salvaged from a skip more than twenty years ago, has been sold for a huge £14,500 at Adam Partridge Auctioneers of Congleton, Cheshire. The owner rescued it at the time, not realising how much it was likely to be worth, simply because he thought it was a shame that such an object should be thrown out. It had survived in good condition and measured 231.5cm (around 7’7”)
The narwhal is the strangest and rarest of all species of whale to be found in the modern day oceans. Nicknamed "the unicorn of the sea" the narwhal is one of the most unusual-looking animals on our planet today, related to the beluga and the irrawaddy dolphin, but distinguished by the unique growth of its left tooth to form a spear reaching up to 10 feet in length - its Latin name means "one tooth, one horn". A native of the Arctic oceans, it was once thought that the distinctive tusk was a tool for breaking through the thick ice covering its native waters, or that perhaps its use was primarily ritual - typically the elongated tooth is found only in the male of the species, although some few examples of a female tusk have been recorded. Recent research suggests, however, that unlike the protruding horn-like teeth and tusks found in other mammals, that of the narwhal may in fact be a sensory organ; electron micrography reveals millions of tiny tubules leading from the surface of the horn and apparently connecting to the nervous system; such tubules are found in many species, but do not typically extend to the outer surface of healthy teeth. Long known to the Inuit peoples of the north, the narwhal was thought in their mythology to have been created when an Inuit woman was dragged into the sea and wrapped around the harpoon that she carried, the other end being embedded in the body of a beluga whale. In medieval Europe, however, the horn was thought to be that of the unicorn and they were sold for considerably more than their weight in gold, prized for their supposedly magical properties; in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth of England paid an astounding 10,000 British pounds for one carved and bejeweled example, for which money at the time she could equally have bought herself another castle. Elsewhere, two crossed narwhal teeth adorn the entrance to the Korninkaku Palace in Japan, and multiple teeth comprise the frame of the Danish throne. Worth more than their weight in gold to the Vikings, they were also used to fashion cups and thought thereby to negate the effect of any poisons that might have been slipped into the drink they contained."