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ADVENTURES WITH WHALES.
Next day, 30th May, the same wind continuing, we are borne with great speed towards the north. All day long another kind of whale swims in our company. This time it is the bottle-nose (Delphinus deductor). Five of these fellows play around the bows; diving for a moment, they appear again close to the stern. Their gambols rouse our desire to test the powers of the harpoon-gun ; but all hands are now busy with the various preparations for the coming season, and a few rifle shots are fired at them, until one more successful
than the rest at last drives away our companions. The sailors told us that in the autumn small bottle-noses frequent the coasts in pursuit of the herring; and the fishermen, ever on the watch for these the most destructive of their enemies, are prepared to wage a war upon them whenever a fitting opportunity presents itself. The bottle-noses, attracted probably by their prey, often incautiously enter some land-locked bay, and the men, seizing the chance, endeavour by an organised onslaught to drive them ashore. Dashing out in their well-manned boats, they cut off the retreat
of the herd, which is quickly thrown into confusion by a wild hubbub and splashing of water in their rear. The bottle-noses rush wildly from side to side, and some old bull, their leader, his patience exhausted by the frantic efforts he is bound to make for their safety, often rears up in the water to the no small danger of any boat in his immediate neighbourhood. All this time the tide is ebbing away, and the shallow water, grown muddy from the turmoil, impedes the progress of the bewildered whales. One or two, in their frantic charges at the boats, manage to make good their escape, but the majority are soon stranded and
with by the boatmen, who by an unreasonable law are compelled to concede a third of their gains to the Customs, a similar exaction being made in every case where a harpooned whale is brought to land.
“ Dispecta est et Thule.”
Our boats, to be used by-and-by, are now being overhauled, all hands being busy with their fitting. They are lightly constructed of pinewood, and are carvel-built. Their smooth sides make but little noise as they rise to the waves; for they are coated with zinc on the outer sides, to fend off the ice, which would otherwise injure the wood by its constant grinding. Each extremity is built whale-boat fashion, fine at the end.
They are fitted to pull either four or four pair of oars ; each oar has a grummet, which to the uninitiated means a pin and a ring. They are steered with an oar instead of the ordinary rudder; they have a mast and sail, and each thwart or bench has its use. These boats offer no accommodation for an idle visitor, and they seem to say in reply to a close inspection, “No admittance here except on business.”
There are four whale-lines on board, each equal to 960 yards; these fill the spaces between the thwarts ;
forward in the broad bow, there is a bollard or short post fixed firmly to the stem. This is in a line with the notch in the bows, round which the harpooner takes a turn of the line when fast in the whale another, iron-bound, to carry the swivel-gun of one and a half inch bore, strong enough to throw a harfoon of ten pounds weight a distance of twenty yards with perfect accuracy. This support is firmly fixed to the keel, the bollard being twisted to enable the running bollard to pass a little to its left.
Then there are the lances, and harpoons of various kinds; one harpoon head having the handle firmly fixed, to which the line is secured ; another has the handle made to disengage itself when the harpoon, to which the line is attached, is firmly planted in the hide. The former is used for whale fishing, the latter for striking seals and walrus.
There are besides lances of most formidable proportions, mounted upon long shafts, to strike at the wounded whale when he returns to the surface after his dive of some forty minutes' duration. These weapons rest securely on a suitable receptacle. The oars ply upon well-greased matting, and, owing to this simple arrangement, the boats are propelled without the least noise to disturb the floating monsters.
TROUBLES IN THE ICE.
As the men busy themselves with commendable alacrity, they spin yarns without number of former voyages : their adventures and disasters furnish a never-failing supply of details. Two weather-beaten men told how five winters ago the Diana, a steam bark, of Hull, was beset in the ice in Davis' Straits, and how the captain of another vessel agreed with them to stand by each other in every difficulty that might arise. They told of their long and laborious voyage to Lancaster Sound, where they were
nipped” in the ice, and the hatchway of the Diana was twisted completely round. Turning south again they were beset in the middle ice, and all these difficulties were encountered by a ship hardly supplied with necessaries for the voyage out. The Diana was short also in her coal supply, and when her last bushel was expended and they were forced to rely on their sails alone, they had the misfortune of seeing the ice open and their consort steam away without even offering a helping hand. Their efforts to extricate themselves by the tedious method of warping, proved abortive, and the ice closed in upon them once more, cutting off all chance of escape. All through the long winter months that ensued they patiently waited for the help they expected from companions who might have found some way to their