« AnteriorContinuar »
FLENCING THE WHALE.
stands prepared, his stern face tells of his responsibility. The whale is close to us, and as the chance offers the deadly missile is driven with horrid force into the quivering flesh, and after one short dive, one dying struggle on the surface, the huge leviathan lies floating dead.
We cannot tell of the excitement of a chase of this kind-by comparison all other sport is tame—the size, the vast strength of the whale, the danger, the scene altogether, cannot be told in words, and while all are evidently full of the thoughts such a scene will raise in the brain even of the dullest amongst us, we are too preoccupied to care to express ourselves, and almost in silence we fasten our prize by the tail with a rope rove through two holes cut in the broad extremities. This rope we trice to the bows of one boat, and we tow it towards the schooner; then, indeed, we give vent to our pent-up thoughts in three hearty cheers, whilst the bottle is passed round with many a hearty quaff to success to the future.
Then ensued a scene of laborious toil greater than that endured in the capture. The flensers, with their sharp spades, dug out and stowed away the precious blubber with many a song and cheery laugh, turning the great mass over with great toil as though it were mere child's play, and a sport most enjoyable.
In whaling ships the men agree for a small stipulated sum per month, barely sufficient to purchase the requisite clothing for a voyage of the kind, trusting to find oil sufficient to create a fund by their share of half-a-crown per ton on the return to port. Therefore, each man has a special interest in the ship’s success ; hence the zeal displayed by the crews when the hunting grounds of the whales are entered upon, and the lookout man is kept well to his work by the ever-expectant crew, who are altogether dependent on his quickness of vision.
The sailors said they had often noticed the strong resemblance to the head and face of a man in the roof of the right whale's mouth, and we regretted not having examined for ourselves this very remarkable circumstance. They were so confident in their statement we had no reasonable cause to doubt them; and as many tales, sayings, and opinions were in use amongst these worthy people which evidently had been accepted as traditions which might easily be traced to a remote date if one had time for so curious a line of study, it would be well worth examining this strange conformation of the palate of the whale, to see how far the resemblance would warrant the foundation of a tale somewhat similar to that we read of the Prophet Jonah, for though the Scriptures state that Jonah was swal
lowed by a “great fish,” it certainly could not have been a whale that had the felicity of his presence in its interior, as the throat of a whale is no larger than that of an ordinary bullock. If the likeness to a man's face in the mouth of the whale was known to the men of old time, (and there is no reason to suspect that the fact was overlooked by them.) then it is easy to comprehend the allegory.
July 2. We have a high sea and a stiff breeze; we carefully observe our old whaling captain's instructions and keep a good look at the point ends. In this way every deep bight we see is canvassed as to its capability of sustaining whales, narwhals, bears, or seals. Eddy reports a whale blowing near the ice, but there is a peculiarity about the ice which may deceive even his experienced eye. Wherever stones, or débris of any kind, happen to rest for
the ice, a hole is soon made through it for some reason, perhaps owing to the opacity of the object; the sun's rays act upon it, and the heat generated in this way thaws the ice above. Through these holes the water is driven up from below with great force, and comes rushing through with a hollow sound, somewhat like the noise made by the whale as he rises to the surface of
This solemn sound in the still air, when perfectly calm in a land-locked bay of ice, is startling when
heard for the first time. At first we thought that the sound proceeded from the ice itself, and as we stood listening for the repetition of the noise, we did not fail to notice the grandeur of the ice around us. Beautifully iridescent caves rose out of the pure water beneath, in whose recesses we saw the upper edges festooned in a curious manner with what seemed a network of lace composed of the finest gems; these fringes glistened in the prismatic light with every motion of the waves, and the fairy halls were filled with sounds as strange as its glittering decorations. . Each vast block as it surges against its neighbour causes a moaning wail to reverberate throughout the caverns, and the shock, each time it is repeated, sends down thousands of splinters which fall with a crash resembling broken glass. But Eddy's practised ear was not likely to be mistaken ; we now see it plainly. The sailors persist in calling the great mammal a "fish ;" he has no dorsal fin, but is perfectly straight-backed, ashe sports along the water. We follow him stealthily, hoping he may enter the bight where all is calm and still; there we may let down our boats, an act which in the sea outside would be attended with risk and absolute danger. We follow him in vain : after tacking and following him for some time he dives and we lose him altogether. Sailing into a deep bay formed by the ice,
we begin to suspect the presence of another whale, when the boy Jack cries out, “A whale, a whale !” and receives condign punishment forth with. This boy in his sleep often starts up with the same wild cry, in spite of the regular correction he receives from his father in whose bunk he sleeps. We sail along, passing through narrow strips of ice into inner lakes of open water, the ice growing larger as we proceed; the hard snow-covered surface occasionally rising into hummocks as we go. Here are floes of ice twenty miles in circumference, and fields of ice of several acres in extent. We see numbers of narwhals, but all our efforts to capture them as they swim northward prove unavailing. Next day we are forced to wait patiently at one place for a considerable time, and remembering the experience we had gained on a previous occasion we watch anxiously for the coming of some sleepy narwhal into our own scrap of open water. The hours seem to drag along wearily as we wait, and it is in the midst of our patient waiting the man from the nest aloft suddenly announces the
of a polar bear, probably attracted towards us by his keen scent. As there is a likelihood of the chase being a protracted one we make all our arrangements with fitting care ; our rifles are examined, and the men provide a rope and haak