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The Cruise of the Cachalot

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Miss Emily Hensley

In grateful remembrance of thirty years' constant friendship and
practical help this work is affectionately dedicated by her
humble pupil.



In the following pages an attempt has been made--it is believed
for the first time--to give an account of the cruise of a South
Sea whaler from the seaman's standpoint. Two very useful books
have been published--both of them over half a century ago--on
the same subject; but, being written by the surgeons of whale-
ships for scientific purposes, neither of them was interesting
to the general reader. ["Narrative of a Whaling Voyage round
the Globe," by F Debell Bennett, F.R.C.S. (2 vols). Bentley,
London (1840). "The Sperm Whale Fishery," by Thomas Beale,
M.R.C.S. London (1835).] They have both been long out of print;
but their value to the student of natural history has been, and
still is, very great, Dr. Beale's book, in particular, being
still the authority on the sperm whale.

This book does not pretend to compete with either of the above
valuable works. Its aims is to present to the general reader a
simple account of the methods employed, and the dangers met
with, in a calling about which the great mass of the public
knows absolutely nothing. Pending the advent of some great
writer who shall see the wonderful possibilities for literature
contained in the world-wide wanderings of the South Sea whale-
fishers, the author has endeavoured to summarize his experiences
so that they may be read without weariness, and, it is hoped,
with profit.

The manifold shortcomings of the work will not, it is trusted,
be laid to the account of the subject, than which none more
interesting could well be imagined, but to the limitations of
the writer, whose long experience of sea life has done little to
foster the literary faculty.

One claim may be made with perfect confidence--that if the
manner be not all that could be wished, the matter is entirely
trustworthy, being compiled from actual observation and
experience, and in no case at second-hand. An endeavour has
also been made to exclude such matter as is easily obtainable
elsewhere--matters of common knowledge and "padding" of any
sort--the object not being simply the making of a book, but the
record of little-known facts.

Great care has been taken to use no names either of ships or
persons, which could, by being identified, give annoyance or
pain to any one, as in many cases strong language has been
necessary for the expression of opinions.

Finally, the author hopes that, although in no sense exclusively
a book for boys, the coming generation may find this volume
readable and interesting; and with that desire he offers it
confidently, though in all humility, to that great impartial
jury, the public.

F.T.B. Dulwich, July, 1897.



Adrift in New Bedford--I get a ship--A motley crowd--"Built by
the mile, and cut off as you want 'em"--Mistah Jones--
Greenies--Off to sea.

Primitive steering-gear--Strange drill--Misery below--Short
commons--Goliath rigs the "crow's-nest"--Useful information
--Preparing for war--Strange weapons--A boat-load.

The cleanliness of a whale-ship--No skulking--Porpoise-fishing
--Cannibals--Cooking operations--Boat-drill--A good look-out--
"Black-fishing"--Roguery in all trades--Plenty of fresh beef--
The nursery of American whalemen.

Nautical routine--The first gale--Comfort versus speed--A grand
sea-boat--The Sargasso Sea--Natural history pursuits--
Dolphin--Unconventional fishing--Rumours of a visit to the
Cape Verdes--Babel below--No allowance, but not "full and plenty"
--Queer washing--Method of sharing rations--The "slop-shop"
opened--Our prospects.

Premonitions--Discussion on whaling from unknown premisses--
I wake in a fright--Sperm whales at last--The war begins
--Warning--We get fast--and get loose--In trouble--an
uncomfortable situation--No Pity-Only one whale--Rigging
the "cutting-stage"--Securing the whale alongside.

Goliath in trouble--Commence "cutting-in"--A heavy head--
A tank of spermaceti--Decks running with oil--A "Patent"
mincing-machine--Extensive cooking--Dangerous work--
Three tuns of oil--A horrible mess--A thin-skinned monster
--A fine mouth of teeth.

Captain Slocum's amenities--Expensive beer--St. Paul's Rocks--
"Bonito"--"Showery" weather--Waterspouts--Calms--
A friendly finback--A disquisition on whales by Mistah

Abner in luck--A big "fish" at last--A feat of endurance--
A fighting whale--The sperm whale's food--Ambergris
--A good reception--Hard labour--Abner's reward--

A forced march--Tristan d'Acunha--Visitors--Fresh provisions
--A warm welcome--Goliath's turn--a feathered host--
Good gear--A rough time--Creeping north--Uncertainty--
"Rule of thumb"--navigation--The Mozambique Channel.

Tropical thunderstorms--A "record" day's fishing--Cetacean
frivolities--Mistah Jones moralizes--A snug harbour--
Wooding and watering--Catching a turtle--Catching a
"Tartar"--A violent death--A crooked jaw--Aldabra Island
--Primeval inhabitants--A strange steed--"Pirate" birds--
Good eggs--Green cocoa-nuts--More turtle--A school of

We encounter a "cyclone"--A tremendous gust--a foundering
ship--To anchor for repairs--The Cocos--Repairing damages
--Around the Seychelles--A "milk" sea--A derelict prahu
--A ghastly freight--A stagnant sea.

"Eyes and no eyes" at sea--Of big mollusca--The origin of sea-
serpent stories--Rediscovery of the "Kraken"--A conflict
of monsters--"The insatiable nightmares of the sea"--
Spermaceti running to waste--The East Indian maze

A whale off Hong Kong--The skipper and his "'bomb-gun"--
Injury to the captain--Unwelcome visitors--The heathen
Chinee--We get safe off--"Death of Portagee Jim"--The
Funeral--The Coast of Japan--Port Lloyd--Meeting of

Liberty day--I foregather with a "beach-comber"--A big fight
--Goliath on the war-path--A court-martial--Wholesale
flogging--a miserable crowd--Quite a fleet of whale-ships
--I "raise" a sperm whale--Severe competition--An
unfortunate stroke--The skipper distinguishes himself.

I come to grief--Emulating Jonah--Sharing a flurry--A long
spell of sick-leave--The whale's "sixth sense"--Off to the
Kuriles--Prepare for "bowhead" fishing--The Sea of
Okhotsk--Abundant salmon--The "daintiness" of seamen.

Difference between whales--Popular ideas exploded--The gentle
mysticetus--Very tame work--Fond of tongue--Goliath
confides in me--An awful affair--Captain Slocum's death--
"Not Amurath an Amurath succeeds"--I am promoted.

Towards Honolulu--Missionaries and their critics--The happy
Kanaka--Honolulu--A pleasant holiday.

I get my opportunity--A new harpooner--Feats under the
skipper's eye--Two whales on one line--Compliments
Heavy towage--A grand haul.

Monotony--A school of blackfish--A boat ripped in half--A
multitude of sharks--A curious backbone--Christmas Day--
A novel Christmas dinner--A find of ambergris.

"Gamming" again--a Whitechapel rover--arrive at Vau Vau
--Valuable friends--a Sunday ashore--"Hollingside"--
The natives at church--Full-dress--Very "mishnally"--
Idyllic cruising--Wonderful mother-love--A mighty feast.

A fruitless chase--Placid times--a stirring adventure--a vast
cave--Unforeseen company--A night of terror--We provide
a feast for the sharks--the death of Abner--An impressive
ceremony--an invitation to dinner--Kanaka cookery.

Ignorance of the habits of whales--A terrific encounter--
VAE VICTIS--Rewarding our "flems"--We leave Van Vau--The
Outward bounder--Sailors' "homes"--A night of horror--
Sudden death--Futuna.

A fleet of nondescripts--"Tui Tongoa" otherwise Sam--Eager
recruits--Devout Catholics--A visit to Sunday Island--A
Crusoe family--Their eviction--Maori cabbage--Fine fishing
--Away for New Zealand--Sight the "Three Kings"--
The Bay of Islands.

Sleepy hollow--Wood and water--liberty day--A plea for the
sailors' recreation--Our picnic--A a whiff of "May"--A
delightful excursion--To the southward again--Wintry
weather--Enter Foveaux Straits.

Firstfruits of the Solander--An easy catch--Delights of the
Solander--Port William--The old CHANCE--"Paddy Gilroy"
--Barbarians from the East End--Barracouta-Fishing--
Wind-bound--An enormous school of cachalots--Misfortune--
A bursting whale--Back on the Solander again--Cutting-in
at Port William--Studying anatomy--Badly battered Yankees
--Paddy in luck again.

We try Preservation Inlet--An astounding feat of Paddy Gilroy's.

Port Pegasus--Among old acquaintances--"Mutton birds"--
Skilled auxiliaries--A gratifying catch--Leave port again
--Back to the Solander--A grim escape--Our last whales
--Into Port William again--Paddy's assistance--We part
with our Kanakas--Sam's plans of conquest.

And last--In high-toned company--Another picnic--Depart from
the Bluff--Hey for the Horn!--Among the icebergs--
"Scudding"--Favouring trades--A narrow escape from
collision--Home at last.



Without attempting the ambitious task of presenting a
comprehensive sketch of the origin, rise, and fall of whale-
fishing as a whole, it seems necessary to give a brief outline
of that portion of the subject bearing upon the theme of the
present book before plunging into the first chapter.

This preliminary is the more needed for the reason alluded to in
the Preface--the want of knowledge of the subject that is
apparent everywhere. The Greenland whale fishery has been so
popularized that most people know something about it; the sperm
whale fishery still awaits its Scoresby and a like train of
imitators and borrowers.

Cachalots, or sperm whales, must have been captured on the
coasts of Europe in a desultory way from a very early date, by
the incidental allusions to the prime products spermaceti and
ambergris which are found in so many ancient writers,
Shakespeare's reference--"The sovereign'st thing on earth was
parmaceti for an inward bruise"--will be familiar to most
people, as well as Milton's mention of the delicacies at Satan's
feast--"Grisamber steamed"--not to carry quotation any further.

But in the year 1690 the brave and hardy fishermen of the north-
east coasts of North America established that systematic pursuit
of the cachalot which has thriven so wonderfully ever since,
although it must be confessed that the last few years have
witnessed a serious decline in this great branch of trade.

For many years the American colonists completely engrossed this
branch of the whale fishery, contentedly leaving to Great
Britain and the continental nations the monopoly of the northern
or Arctic fisheries, while they cruised the stormy, if milder,
seas around their own shores.

For the resultant products, their best customer was the mother
country, and a lucrative commerce steadily grew up between the
two countries. But when the march of events brought the
unfortunate and wholly unnecessary War of Independence, this
flourishing trade was the first to suffer, and many of the
daring fishermen became our fiercest foes on board their own

The total stoppage of the importation of sperm oil and
spermaceti was naturally severely felt in England, for time had
not permitted the invention of substitutes. In consequence of
this, ten ships were equipped and sent out to the sperm whale
fishery from England in 1776, most of them owned by one London
firm, the Messrs. Enderby. The next year, in order to encourage
the infant enterprise, a Government bounty, graduated from L500
to L1000 per ship, was granted. Under this fostering care the
number of ships engaged in the sperm whale fishery progressively
increased until 1791, when it attained its maximum.

This method of whaling being quite new to our whalemen, it was
necessary, at great cost, to hire American officers and
harpooners to instruct them in the ways of dealing with these
highly active and dangerous cetacea. Naturally, it was by-and-
by found possible to dispense with the services of these
auxiliaries; but it must be confessed that the business never
seems to have found such favour, or to have been prosecuted with
such smartness, among our whalemen as it has by the Americans.

Something of an exotic the trade always was among us, although
it did attain considerable proportions at one time. At first
the fishing was confined to the Atlantic Ocean; nor for many
years was it necessary to go farther afield, as abundance of
whales could easily be found.

As, however, the number of ships engaged increased, it was
inevitable that the known grounds should become exhausted, and
in 1788 Messrs. Enderby's ship, the EMILIA, first ventured round
Cape Horn, as the pioneer of a greater trade than ever. The way
once pointed out, other ships were not slow to follow, until, in
1819, the British whale-ship SYREN opened up the till then
unexplored tract of ocean in the western part of the North
Pacific, afterwards familiarly known as the "Coast of Japan."
From these teeming waters alone, for many years an average
annual catch of 40,000 barrels of oil was taken, which, at the
average price of L8 per barrel, will give some idea of the value
of the trade generally.

The Australian colonists, early in their career, found the sperm
whale fishery easy of access from all their coasts, and
especially lucrative. At one time they bade fair to establish a
whale fishery that should rival the splendid trade of the
Americans; but, like the mother country, they permitted the
fishery to decline, so that even bounties could not keep it

Meanwhile, the Americans added to their fleet continually,
prospering amazingly. But suddenly the advent of the civil war
let loose among those peaceable cruisers the devastating
ALABAMA, whose course was marked in some parts of the world by
the fires of blazing whale-ships. A great part, of the Geneva
award was on this account, although it must be acknowledged that
many pseudo-owners were enriched who never owned aught but
brazen impudence and influential friends to push their
fictitious claims. The real sufferers, seamen especially, in
most cases never received any redress whatever.

From this crushing blow the American sperm whale fishery has
never fully recovered. When the writer was in the trade, some
twenty-two years ago, it was credited with a fleet of between
three and four hundred sail; now it may be doubted whether the
numbers reach an eighth of that amount. A rigid conservatism of
method hinders any revival of the industry, which is practically
conducted to-day as it was fifty, or even a hundred years ago;
and it is probable that another decade will witness the final
extinction of what was once one of the most important maritime
industries in the world.






At the age of eighteen, after a sea-experience of six years from
the time when I dodged about London streets, a ragged Arab, with
wits sharpened by the constant fight for food, I found myself
roaming the streets of New Bedford, Massachusetts. How I came
to be there, of all places in the world, does not concern this
story at all, so I am not going to trouble my readers with it;
enough to say that I WAS there, and mighty anxious to get away.
Sailor Jack is always hankering for shore when he is at sea, but
when he is "outward bound"--that is, when his money is all gone
--he is like a cat in the rain there.

So as MY money was all gone, I was hungry for a ship; and when a
long, keen-looking man with a goat-like beard, and mouth stained
with dry tobacco-juice, hailed me one afternoon at the street-
corner, I answered very promptly, scenting a berth. "Lookin'
fer a ship, stranger?" said he. "Yes; do you want a hand?" said
I, anxiously. He made a funny little sound something like a
pony's whinny, then answered, "Wall, I should surmise that I
want between fifty and sixty hands, ef yew kin lay me onto 'em;
but, kem along, every dreep's a drop, an' yew seem likely
enough." With that he turned and led the way until we reached a
building around which were gathered one of the most nondescript
crowds I had ever seen. There certainly did not appear to be a
sailor among them. Not so much by their rig, though that is not
a great deal to go by, but by their actions and speech. One
thing they all had in common, tobacco chewing but as nearly
every male I met with in America did that, it was not much to be
noticed. I had hardly done reckoning them up when two or three
bustling men came out and shepherded us all energetically into a
long, low room, where some form of agreement was read out to us.
Sailors are naturally and usually careless about the nature of
the "articles" they sign, their chief anxiety being to get to
sea, and under somebody's charge. But had I been ever so
anxious to know what I was going to sign this time, I could not,
for the language might as well have been Chinese for all I
understood of it. However, I signed and passed on, engaged to
go I knew not where, in some ship I did not know even the name
of, in which I was to receive I did not know how much, or how
little, for my labour, nor how long I was going to be away.
"What a young fool!" I hear somebody say. I quite agree, but
there were a good many more in that ship, as in most ships that
I have ever sailed in.

From the time we signed the articles, we were never left to
ourselves. Truculent-looking men accompanied us to our several
boarding-houses, paid our debts for us, finally bringing us by
boat to a ship lying out in the bay. As we passed under her
stern, I read the name CACHALOT, of New Bedford; but as soon as
we ranged alongside, I realized that I was booked for the
sailor's horror--a cruise in a whaler. Badly as I wanted to get
to sea, I had not bargained for this, and would have run some
risks to get ashore again; but they took no chances, so we were
all soon aboard. Before going forward, I took a comprehensive
glance around, and saw that I was on board of a vessel belonging
to a type which has almost disappeared off the face of the
waters. A more perfect contrast to the trim-built English
clipper-ships that I had been accustomed to I could hardly
imagine. She was one of a class characterized by sailors as
"built by the mile, and cut off in lengths as you want 'em," Bow
and stern almost alike masts standing straight as broomsticks,
and bowsprit soaring upwards at an angle of about forty-five
degrees. She was as old-fashioned in her rig as in her hull;
but I must not go into the technical differences between rigs,
for fear of making myself tedious. Right in the centre of the
deck, occupying a space of about ten feet by eight, was a square
erection of brickwork, upon which my wondering gaze rested
longest, for I had not the slightest idea what it could be. But
I was rudely roused from my meditations by the harsh voice of
one of the officers, who shouted, "Naow then, git below an' stow
yer dunnage, 'n look lively up agin." I took the, broad hint,
and shouldering my traps, hurried forward to the fo'lk'sle,
which was below deck. Tumbling down the steep ladder, I entered
the gloomy den which was to be for so long my home, finding it
fairly packed with my shipmates. A motley crowd they were. I
had been used in English ships to considerable variety of
nationality; but here were gathered, not only the
representatives of five or six nations, but 'long-shoremen of
all kinds, half of whom had hardly ever set eyes on a ship
before! The whole space was undivided by partition, but I saw
at once that black men and white had separated themselves, the
blacks taking the port side and the whites the starboard.
Finding a vacant bunk by the dim glimmer of the ancient teapot
lamp that hung amidships, giving out as much smoke as light, I
hurriedly shifted my coat for a "jumper" or blouse, put on an
old cap, and climbed into the fresh air again. For a double
reason, even MY seasoned head was feeling bad with the
villainous reek of the place, and I did not want any of those
hard-featured officers on deck to have any cause to complain of
my "hanging back." On board ship, especially American ships, the
first requisite for a sailor who wants to be treated properly is
to "show willing," any suspicion of slackness being noted
immediately, and the backward one marked accordingly. I had
hardly reached the deck when I was confronted by a negro, the
biggest I ever saw in, my life. He looked me up and down for a
moment, then opening his ebony features in a wide smile, he
said, "Great snakes! why, here's a sailor man for sure! Guess
thet's so, ain't it, Johnny?" I said "yes" very curtly, for I
hardly liked his patronizing air; but he snapped me up short
with "yes, SIR, when yew speak to me, yew blank lime-juicer.
I'se de fourf mate ob dis yar ship, en my name's Mistah Jones,
'n yew, jest freeze on to dat ar, ef yew want ter lib long'n die
happy. See, sonny." I SAW, and answered promptly, "I beg your
pardon, sir, I didn't know." Ob cawse yew didn't know, dat's
all right, little Britisher; naow jest skip aloft 'n loose dat
fore-taupsle." "Aye, aye, sir," I answered cheerily, springing
at once into the fore-rigging and up the ratlines like a monkey,
but not too fast to hear him chuckle, "Dat's a smart kiddy, I
bet." I had the big sail loose in double quick time, and sung
out "All gone, the fore-taupsle," before any of the other sails
were adrift. "Loose the to-gantsle and staysles" came up from
below in a voice like thunder, and I bounded up higher to my
task. On deck I could see a crowd at the windlass heaving up
anchor. I said to myself, "They don't waste any time getting
this packet away." Evidently they were not anxious to test any
of the crew's swimming powers. They were wise, for had she
remained at anchor that night I verily believe some of the poor
wretches would have tried to escape.

The anchor came aweigh, the sails were sheeted home, and I
returned on deck to find the ship gathering way for the heads,
fairly started on her long voyage.

What a bear-garden the deck was, to be sure! The black portion
of the crew--Portuguese natives from the Western and Canary
Islands--were doing their work all right in a clumsy fashion;
but the farmers, and bakers, and draymen were being driven about
mercilessly amid a perfect hurricane of profanity and blows. And
right here I must say that, accustomed as I had always been to
bad language all my life, what I now heard was a revelation to
me. I would not, if I could, attempt to give a sample of it,
but it must be understood that it was incessant throughout the
voyage. No order could be given without it, under the
impression, apparently, that the more curses the more speed.

Before nightfall we were fairly out to sea, and the ceremony of
dividing the crew into watches was gone through. I found myself
in the chief mate's or "port" watch (they called it "larboard,"
a term I had never heard used before, it having long been
obsolete in merchant ships), though the huge negro fourth mate
seemed none too well pleased that I was not under his command,
his being the starboard watch under the second mate.

As night fell, the condition of the "greenies," or non-sailor
portion of the crew, was pitiable. Helpless from sea-sickness,
not knowing where to go or what to do, bullied relentlessly by
the ruthless petty officers--well, I never felt so sorry for a
lot of men in my life. Glad enough I was to get below into the
fo'lk'sle for supper, and a brief rest and respite from that
cruelty on deck. A bit of salt junk and a piece of bread, i.e.
biscuit, flinty as a pantile, with a pot of something sweetened
with "longlick" (molasses), made an apology for a meal, and I
turned in. In a very few minutes oblivion came, making me as
happy as any man can be in this world.




The hideous noise always considered necessary in those ships
when calling the watch, roused me effectively at midnight,
"eight bells." I hurried on deck, fully aware that no leisurely
ten minutes would be allowed here. "Lay aft the watch," saluted
me as I emerged into the keen strong air, quickening my pace
according to where the mate stood waiting to muster his men. As
soon as he saw me, he said, "Can you steer?" in a mocking tone;
but when I quietly answered, "Yes, sir," his look of
astonishment was delightful to see. He choked it down, however,
and merely telling me to take the wheel, turned forrard roaring
frantically for his watch. I had no time to chuckle over what I
knew was in store for him, getting those poor greenies collected
from their several holes and corners, for on taking the wheel I
found a machine under my hands such as I never even heard of

The wheel was fixed upon the tiller in such a manner that the
whole concern travelled backwards and forwards across the deck
in the maddest kind of way. For the first quarter of an hour,
in spite of the September chill, the sweat poured off me in
streams. And the course--well, if was not steering, it was
sculling; the old bumboat was wobbling all around like a drunken
tailor with two left legs. I fairly shook with apprehension
lest the mate should come and look in the compass. I had been
accustomed to hard words if I did not steer within half a point
each way; but here was a "gadget" that worked me to death, the
result being a wake like a letter S. Gradually I got the hang
of the thing, becoming easier in my mind on my own account.
Even that was not an unmixed blessing, for I had now some
leisure to listen to the goings-on around the deck.

Such brutality I never witnessed before. On board of English
ships (except men-of-war) there is practically no discipline,
which is bad, but this sort of thing was maddening. I knew how
desperately ill all those poor wretches were, how helpless and
awkward they would be if quite hale and hearty; but there was
absolutely no pity for them, the officers seemed to be incapable
of any feelings of compassion whatever. My heart sank within me
as I thought of what lay before me, although I did not fear that
their treatment would also be mine, since I was at least able to
do my duty, and willing to work hard to keep out of trouble.
Then I began to wonder what sort of voyage I was in for, how
long it would last, and what my earnings were likely to be, none
of which things I had the faintest idea of.

Fortunately, I was alone in the world. No one, as far as I
knew, cared a straw what became of me; so that I was spared any
worry on that head. And I had also a very definite and well-
established trust in God, which I can now look back and see was
as fully justified as I then believed it to be. So, as I could
not shut my ears to the cruelties being carried on, nor banish
thought by hard work, I looked up to the stately stars, thinking
of things not to be talked about without being suspected of
cant. So swiftly passed the time that when four bells struck:
(two o'clock)I could hardly believe my ears.

I was relieved by one of the Portuguese, and went forward to
witness a curious scene. Seven stalwart men were being
compelled to march up and down on that tumbling deck, men who
had never before trodden anything less solid than the earth.

The third mate, a waspish, spiteful little Yankee with a face
like an angry cat, strolled about among them, a strand of rope-
yarns in his hand, which he wielded constantly, regardless where
he struck a man. They fell about, sometimes four or five at
once, and his blows flew thick and fast, yet he never seemed to
weary of his ill-doing. It made me quite sick, and I longed to
be aft at the wheel again. Catching sight of me standing
irresolute as to what I had better do, he ordered me on the
"look-out," a tiny platform between the "knight heads," just
where the bowsprit joins the ship. Gladly I obeyed him, and
perched up there looking over the wide sea, the time passed
quickly away until eight bells (four o'clock) terminated my
watch. I must pass rapidly over the condition of things in the
fo'lk'sle, where all the greenies that were allowed below, were
groaning in misery from the stifling atmosphere which made their
sickness so much worse, while even that dreadful place was
preferable to what awaited them on deck. There was a rainbow-
coloured halo round the flame of the lamp, showing how very bad
the air was; but in spite of that I turned in and slept soundly
till seven bells (7.20 a.m.) roused us to breakfast.

American ships generally have an excellent name for the way they
feed their crews, but the whalers are a notable exception to
that good rule. The food was really worse than that on board
any English ship I have ever sailed in, so scanty also in
quantity that it kept all the foremast hands at starvation
point. But grumbling was dangerous, so I gulped down the dirty
mixture mis-named coffee, ate a few fragments of biscuit, and
filled up (?) with a smoke, as many better men are doing this
morning. As the bell struck I hurried on deck--not one moment
too soon--for as I stepped out of the scuttle I saw the third
mate coming forward with a glitter in his eye that boded no good
to laggards.

Before going any farther I must apologize for using so many
capital I's, but up till the present I had been the only
available white member of the crew forrard.

The decks were scrubbed spotlessly clean, and everything was
neat and tidy as on board a man-of-war, contrary to all usual
notions of the condition of a whaler. The mate was in a state of
high activity, so I soon found myself very busily engaged in
getting up whale-lines, harpoons, and all the varied equipment
for the pursuit of whales. The number of officers carried would
have been a good crew for the ship, the complete afterguard
comprising captain, four mates, four harpooners or boat-
steerers, carpenter, cooper, steward and cook. All these
worthies were on deck and working with might and main at the
preparations, so that the incompetence of the crowd forrard was
little hindrance. I was pounced upon by "Mistah" Jones, the
fourth mate, whom I heard addressed familiarly as "Goliath" and
"Anak" by his brother officers, and ordered to assist him in
rigging the "crow's-nest" at the main royal-mast head. It was a
simple affair. There were a pair of cross-trees fitted to the
mast, upon which was secured a tiny platform about a foot wide
on each side of the mast, while above this foothold a couple of
padded hoops like a pair of giant spectacles were secured At a
little higher than a man's waist. When all was fast one could
creep up on the platform, through the hoop, and, resting his
arms upon the latter, stand comfortably and gaze around, no
matter how vigorously the old barky plunged and kicked beneath
him. From that lofty eyrie I had a comprehensive view of the
vessel. She was about 350 tons and full ship-rigged, that is to
say, she carried square sails on all three masts. Her deck was
flush fore and aft, the only obstructions being the brick-built
"try-works" in the waist, the galley, and cabin skylight right
aft by the taffrail. Her bulwarks were set thickly round with
clumsy looking wooden cranes, from which depended five boats.
Two more boats were secured bottom up upon a gallows aft, so she
seemed to be well supplied in that direction. Mistah Jones,
finding I did not presume upon his condescension, gradually
unbent and furnished me with many interesting facts about the
officers. Captain Slocum, he said, was "de debbil hisself, so
jess yew keeps yer lamps trim' fer him, sonny, taint helthy ter
rile him." The first officer, or the mate as he is always called
PAR EXCELLENCE, was an older man than the captain, but a good
seaman, a good whaleman, and a gentleman. Which combination I
found to be a fact, although hard to believe possible at the
time. The second mate was a Portuguese about forty years of
age, with a face like one of Vandyke's cavaliers, but as I now
learned, a perfect fiend when angered. He also was a first-
class whaleman, but an indifferent seaman. The third mate was
nothing much but bad temper--not much sailor, nor much whaler,
generally in hot water with the skipper, who hated him because
he was an "owner's man." "An de fourf mate," wound up the
narrator, straightening his huge bulk,"am de bes' man in de
ship, and de bigges'. Dey aint no whalemen in Noo Bedford
caynt teach ME nuffin, en ef it comes ter man-handlin'; w'y I
jes' pick 'em two't a time 'n crack 'em togerrer like so, see!"
and he smote the palms of his great paws against each other,
while I nodded complete assent.

The weather being fine, with a steady N.E. wind blowing, so that
the sails required no attention, work proceeded steadily all the
morning. The oars were sorted, examined for flaws, and placed
in the boats; the whale-line, manilla rope like yellow silk,
1 1/2 inch round, was brought on deck, stretched and coiled down
with the greatest care into tubs, holding, some 200 fathoms, and
others 100 fathoms each. New harpoons were fitted to poles of
rough but heavy wood, without any attempt at neatness, but every
attention to strength. The shape of these weapons was not, as
is generally thought, that of an arrow, but rather like an arrow
with one huge barb, the upper part of which curved out from the
shaft. The whole of the barb turned on a stout pivot of steel,
but was kept in line with the shaft by a tiny wooden peg which
passed through barb and shaft, being then cut off smoothly on
both sides. The point of the harpoon had at one side a wedge-
shaped edge, ground to razor keenness, the other side was flat.
The shaft, about thirty inches long, was of the best malleable
iron, so soft that it would tie into a knot and straighten out
again without fracture. Three harpoons, or "irons" as they were
always called, were placed in each boat, fitted one above the
other in the starboard bow, the first for use being always one
unused before, Opposite to them in the boat were fitted three
lances for the purpose of KILLING whales, the harpoons being
only the means by which the boat was attached to a fish, and
quite useless to inflict a fatal wound. These lances were
slender spears of malleable iron about four feet long, with oval
or heart-shaped points of fine steel about two inches broad,
their edges kept keen as a surgeon's lancet. By means of a
socket at the other end they were attached to neat handles, or
"lance-poles," about as long again, the whole weapon being thus
about eight feet in length, and furnished with a light line, or
"lance-warp," for the purpose of drawing it back again when it
had been darted at a whale.

Each boat was fitted with a centre-board, or sliding keel, which
was drawn up, when not in use, into a case standing in the
boat's middle, very much in the way. But the American whalemen
regard these clumsy contrivances as indispensable, so there's an
end on't. The other furniture of a boat comprised five oars of
varying lengths from sixteen to nine feet, one great steering
oar of nineteen feet, a mast and two sails of great area for so
small a craft, spritsail shape; two tubs of whale-line
containing together 1800 feet, a keg of drinking water, and
another long narrow one with a few biscuits, a lantern, candles
and matches therein; a bucket and "piggin" for baling, a small
spade, a flag or "wheft," a shoulder bomb-gun and ammunition,
two knives and two small axes. A rudder hung outside by the

With all this gear, although snugly stowed, a boat looked so
loaded that I could not help wondering how six men would be able
to work in her; but like most "deep-water" sailors, I knew very
little about boating. I was going to learn.

All this work and bustle of preparation was so rapidly carried
on, and so interesting, that before supper-time everything was
in readiness to commence operations, the time having gone so
swiftly that I could hardly believe the bell when it sounded
four times, six o'clock.




During all the bustle of warlike preparation that had been going
on, the greenhorns had not suffered from inattention on the part
of those appointed to look after them. Happily for them, the
wind blew steadily, and the weather, thanks to the balmy
influence of the Gulf Stream, was quite mild and genial. The
ship was undoubtedly lively, as all good sea-boats are, but her
motions were by no means so detestable to a sea-sick man as those
of a driving steamer. So, in spite of their treatment, perhaps
because of it, some of the poor fellows were beginning to take
hold of things "man-fashion," although of course sea, legs they
had none, their getting about being indeed a pilgrimage of pain.
Some of them were beginning to try the dreadful "grub" (I cannot
libel "food" by using it in such a connection), thereby showing
that their interest in life, even such a life as was now before
them, was returning. They had all been allotted places in the
various boats, intermixed with the seasoned Portuguese in such
a way that the officer and harpooner in charge would not be
dependant upon them entirely in case of a sudden emergency.
Every endeavour was undoubtedly made to instruct them in their
duties, albeit the teachers were all too apt to beat their
information in with anything that came to hand, and persuasion
found no place in their methods.

The reports I had always heard of the laziness prevailing on
board whale-ships were now abundantly falsified. From dawn to
dark work went on without cessation. Everything was rubbed and
scrubbed and scoured until no speck or soil could be found;
indeed, no gentleman's yacht or man-of-war is kept more
spotlessly clean than was the CACHALOT.

A regular and severe routine of labour was kept up; and, what was
most galling to me, instead of a regular four hours' watch on and
off, night and day, all hands were kept on deck the whole day
long, doing quite unnecessary tasks, apparently with the object
of preventing too much leisure and consequent brooding over their
unhappy lot. One result of this continual drive and tear was
that all these landsmen became rapidly imbued with the virtues of
cleanliness, which was extended to the den in which we lived, or
I verily believe sickness would have soon thinned us out.

On the fourth day after leaving port we were all busy as usual
except the four men in the "crow's-nests," when a sudden cry of
"Porps! porps!" brought everything to a standstill. A large
school of porpoises had just joined us, in their usual clownish
fashion, rolling and tumbling around the bows as the old barky
wallowed along, surrounded by a wide ellipse of snowy foam. All
work was instantly suspended, and active preparations made for
securing a few of these frolicsome fellows. A "block," or
pulley, was hung out at the bowsprit end, a whale-line passed
through it and "bent" (fastened) on to a harpoon. Another line
with a running "bowline," or slip-noose, was also passed out to
the bowsprit end, being held there by one man in readiness. Then
one of the harpooners ran out along the backropes, which keep the
jib-boom down, taking his stand beneath the bowsprit with the
harpoon ready. Presently he raised his iron and followed the
track of a rising porpoise with its point until the creature
broke water. At the same instant the weapon left his grasp,
apparently without any force behind it; but we on deck, holding
the line, soon found that our excited hauling lifted a big
vibrating body clean out of the smother beneath. "'Vast
hauling!" shouted the mate, while as the porpoise hung dangling,
the harpooner slipped the ready bowline over his body, gently
closing its grip round the "small" by the broad tail. Then we
hauled on the noose-line, slacking away the harpoon, and in a
minute had our prize on deck. He was dragged away at once and
the operation repeated. Again and again we hauled them in, until
the fore part of the deck was alive with the kicking, writhing
sea-pigs, at least twenty of them. I had seen an occasional
porpoise caught at sea before, but never more than one at a time.
Here, however, was a wholesale catch. At last one of the
harpooned ones plunged so furiously while being hauled up that he
literally tore himself off the iron, falling, streaming with
blood, back into the sea.

Away went all the school after him, tearing at him with their
long well-toothed jaws, some of them leaping high in the air in
their eagerness to get their due share of the cannibal feast.
Our fishing was over for that time. Meanwhile one of the
harpooners had brought out a number of knives, with which all
hands were soon busy skinning the blubber from the bodies.
Porpoises have no skin, that is hide, the blubber or coating of
lard which encases them being covered by a black substance as
thin as tissue paper. The porpoise hide of the boot maker is
really leather, made from the skin of the BELUGA, or "white
whale," which is found only in the far north. The cover was
removed from the "tryworks" amidships, revealing two gigantic
pots set in a frame of brickwork side by side, capable of holding
200 gallons each. Such a cooking apparatus as might have graced
a Brobdingnagian kitchen. Beneath the pots was the very simplest
of furnaces, hardly as elaborate as the familiar copper-hole
sacred to washing day. Square funnels of sheet-iron were loosely
fitted to the flues, more as a protection against the oil boiling
over into the fire than to carry away the smoke, of which from
the peculiar nature of the fuel there was very little, At one
side of the try-works was a large wooden vessel, or "hopper," to
contain the raw blubber; at the other, a copper cistern or cooler
of about 300 gallons capacity, into which the prepared oil was
baled to cool off, preliminary to its being poured into the
casks. Beneath the furnaces was a space as large as the whole
area of the try-works, about a foot deep, which, when the fires
were lighted, was filled with water to prevent the deck from

It may be imagined that the blubber from our twenty porpoises
made but a poor show in one of the pots; nevertheless, we got a
barrel of very excellent oil from them. The fires were fed with
"scrap," or pieces of blubber from which the oil had been boiled,
some of which had been reserved from the previous voyage. They
burnt with a fierce and steady blaze, leaving but a trace of ash.
I was then informed by one of the harpooners that no other fuel
was ever used for boiling blubber at any time, there being always
amply sufficient for the purpose.

The most interesting part of the whole business, though, to us
poor half-starved wretches, was the plentiful supply of fresh
meat. Porpoise beef is, when decently cooked, fairly good eating
to a landsman; judge, then, what it must have been to us. Of
course the tit-bits, such as the liver, kidneys, brains, etc.,
could not possibly fall to our lot; but we did not complain, we
were too thankful to get something eatable, and enough of it.
Moreover, although few sailors in English ships know it, porpoise
beef improves vastly by keeping, getting tenderer every day the
longer it hangs, until at last it becomes as tasty a viand as one
could wish to dine upon. It was a good job for us that this was
the case, for while the porpoises lasted the "harness casks," or
salt beef receptacles, were kept locked; so if any man had felt
unable to eat porpoise--well, there was no compulsion, he could
go hungry.

We were now in the haunts of the Sperm Whale, or "Cachalot," a
brilliant look-out being continually kept for any signs of their
appearing. One officer and a foremast hand were continually on
watch during the day in the main crow's-nest, one harpooner and a
seaman in the fore one. A bounty of ten pounds of tobacco was
offered to whoever should first report a whale, should it be
secured, consequently there were no sleepy eyes up there. Of
course none of those who were inexperienced stood much chance
against the eagle-eyed Portuguese; but all tried their best, in
the hope of perhaps winning some little favour from their hard
taskmasters. Every evening at sunset it was "all hands shorten
sail," the constant drill rapidly teaching even these clumsy
landsmen how to find their way aloft, and do something else
besides hold on to anything like grim death when they got there.

At last, one beautiful day, the boats were lowered and manned,
and away went the greenies on their first practical lesson in the
business of the voyage. As before noticed, there were two
greenies in each boat, they being so arranged that whenever one
of them "caught a crab," which of course was about every other
stroke, his failure made little difference to the boat's
progress. They learned very fast under the terrible imprecations
and storm of blows from the iron-fisted and iron-hearted
officers, so that before the day was out the skipper was
satisfied of our ability to deal With a "fish" should he be lucky
enough to "raise" one. I was, in virtue of my experience, placed
at the after-oar in the mate's boat, where it was my duty to
attend to the "main sheet" when the sail was set, where also I
had the benefit of the lightest oar except the small one used by
the harpooner in the bow.

The very next day after our first exhaustive boat drill, a school
of "Black Fish" was reported from aloft, with great glee the
officers prepared for what they considered a rattling day's fun.

The Black Fish (PHOCAENA SP.) is a small toothed whale, not at
all unlike a miniature cachalot, except that its head is rounded
at the front, while its jaw is not long and straight, but bowed.
It is as frolicsome as the porpoise, gambolling about in schools
of from twenty to fifty or more, as if really delighted to be
alive. Its average size is from ten to twenty feet long, and
seven or eight feet in grirth, weight from one to three tons.
Blubber about three inches thick, while the head is almost all
oil, so that a good rich specimen will make between one and two
barrels of oil of medium quality.

The school we were now in sight of was of middling size and about
average weight of individuals, and the officers esteemed it a
fortunate circumstance that we should happen across them as a
sort of preliminary to our tackling the monarchs of the deep.

All the new harpoons were unshipped from the boats, and a couple
of extra "second" irons, as those that have been used are called,
were put into each boat for use if wanted. The sails were also
left on board. We lowered and left the ship, pulling right
towards the school, the noise they were making in their fun
effectually preventing them from hearing our approach. It is
etiquette to allow the mate's boat first place, unless his crew
is so weak as to be unable to hold their own; but as the mate
always has first pick of the men this seldom happens. So, as
usual, we were first, and soon I heard the order given, "Stand
up, Louey, and let 'em have it!" Sure enough, here we were right
among them. Louis let, drive, "fastening" a whopper about twenty
feet long. The injured animal plunged madly forward, accompanied
by his fellows, while Louis calmly bent another iron to a "short
warp," or piece of whale-line, the loose end of which he made a
bowline with around the main line which was fast to the "fish."
Then he fastened another "fish," and the queer sight was seen of
these two monsters each trying to flee in opposite directions,
while the second one ranged about alarmingly as his "bridle" ran
along the main line. another one was secured in the same way,
then the game was indeed great. The school had by this time
taken the alarm and cleared out, but the other boats were all
fast to fish, so that didn't matter. Now, at the rate our "game"
were going it would evidently be a long while before they died,
although, being so much smaller than a whale proper, a harpoon
will often kill them at a stroke. Yet they were now so tangled
or "snarled erp," as the mate said, that it was no easy matter to
lance them without great danger of cutting the line. However, we
hauled up as close to them as we dared, and the harpooner got a
good blow in, which gave the biggest of the three "Jesse," as he
said, though why "Jesse" was a stumper. Anyhow, it killed him
promptly, while almost directly after another one saved further
trouble by passing in his own checks. But he sank at the same
time, drawing the first one down with him, so that we were in
considerable danger of having to cut them adrift or be swamped.
The "wheft " was waved thrice as an urgent signal to the ship to
come to our assistance with all speed, but in the meantime our
interest lay in the surviving Black Fish keeping alive. Should
HE die, and, as was most probable, sink, we should certainly have
to cut and lose the lot, tools included.

We waited in grim silence while the ship came up, so slowly,
apparently, that she hardly seemed to move, but really at a good
pace of about four knots an hour, which for her was not at all
bad. She got alongside of us at last, and we passed up the bight
of our line, our fish all safe, very much pleased with ourselves,
especially when we found that the other boats had only five
between the three of them.

The fish secured to the ship, all the boats were hoisted except
one, which remained alongside to sling the bodies. During our
absence the ship-keepers had been busy rigging one of the cutting
falls, an immense fourfold tackle from the main lowermast-head,
of four-inch rope through great double blocks, large as those
used at dockyards for lifting ships' masts and boilers. Chain-
slings were passed around the carcases, which gripped the animal
at the "small," being prevented from slipping off by the broad
spread of the tail. The end of the "fall," or tackle-rope, was
then taken to the windlass, and we hove away cheerily, lifting
the monsters right on deck. A mountainous pile they made. A
short spell was allowed, when the whole eight were on board, for
dinner; then all hands turned to again to "flench" the blubber,
and prepare for trying-out. This was a heavy job, keeping all
hands busy until it was quite dark, the latter part of the work
being carried on by the light of a "cresset," the flames of which
were fed with "scrap," which blazed brilliantly, throwing a big
glare over all the ship. The last of the carcases was launched
overboard by about eight o'clock that evening, but not before
some vast junks of beef had been cut off and hung up in the
rigging for our food supply.

The try-works were started again, "trying-out" going on busily
all night, watch and watch taking their turn at keeping the pots
supplied with minced blubber. The work was heavy, while the
energetic way in which it was carried on made us all glad to take
what rest was allowed us, which was scanty enough, as usual.

By nightfall the next day the ship had resumed her normal
appearance, and we were a tun and a quarter of oil to the good.
Black Fish oil is of medium quality, but I learned that,
according to the rule of "roguery in all trades," it was the
custom to mix quantities such as we had just obtained with better
class whale-oil, and thus get a much higher price than it was
really worth.

Up till this time we had no sort of an idea as to where our first
objective might be, but from scraps of conversation I had
overheard among the harpooners, I gathered that we were making
for the Cape Verde Islands or the Acores, in the vicinity of
which a good number of moderate-sized sperm whales are often to
be found. In fact, these islands have long been a nursery for
whale-fishers, because the cachalot loves their steep-to shores,
and the hardy natives, whenever and wherever they can muster a
boat and a little gear, are always ready to sally forth and
attack the unwary whale that ventures within their ken.
Consequently more than half of the total crews of the American
whaling fleet are composed of these islanders. Many of them have
risen to the position of captain, and still more are officers and
harpooners; but though undoubtedly brave and enterprising, they
are cruel and treacherous, and in positions of authority over men
of Teutonic or Anglo-Saxon origin, are apt to treat their
subordinates with great cruelty.




Nautical routine in its essential details is much the same in all
ships, whether naval, merchant, or whaling vessels. But while in
the ordinary merchantman there are decidedly "no more cats than
can catch mice," hardly, indeed, sufficient for all the mousing
that should be done, in men-of-war and whaleships the number of
hands carried, being far more than are wanted for everyday work,
must needs be kept at unnecessary duties in order that they may
not grow lazy and discontented.

For instance, in the CACHALOT we carried a crew of thirty-seven
all told, of which twenty-four were men before the mast, or
common seamen, our tonnage being under 400 tons. Many a splendid
clipper-ship carrying an enormous spread of canvas on four masts,
and not overloaded with 2500 tons of cargo on board, carries
twenty-eight or thirty all told, or even less than that. As far
as we were concerned, the result of this was that our landsmen
got so thoroughly drilled, that within a week of leaving port
they hardly knew themselves for the clumsy clodhoppers they at
first appeared to be.

We had now been eight days out, and in our leisurely way were
making fair progress across the Atlantic, having had nothing, so
far, but steady breezes and fine weather. As it was late autumn
the first week in October--I rather wondered at this, for even in
my brief experience I had learned to dread a "fall" voyage across
the "Western Ocean."

Gradually the face of the sky changed, and the feel of the air,
from balmy and genial, became raw and cheerless. The little wave
tops broke short off and blew backwards, apparently against the
wind, while the old vessel had an uneasy, unnatural motion,
caused by a long, new swell rolling athwart the existing set of
the sea. Then the wind became fitful and changeable, backing
half round the compass, and veering forward again as much in an
hour, until at last in one tremendous squall it settled in the
N.W. for a business-like blow, Unlike the hurried merchantman who
must needs "hang on" till the last minute, only shortening the
sail when absolutely compelled to do so, and at the first sign of
the gales relenting, piling it on again, we were all snug long
before the storm burst upon us, and now rode comfortably under
the tiniest of storm staysails.

We were evidently in for a fair specimen of Western Ocean
weather, but the clumsy-looking, old-fashioned CACHALOT made no
more fuss over it than one of the long-winged sea-birds that
floated around, intent only upon snapping up any stray scraps
that might escape from us. Higher rose the wind, heavier rolled
the sea, yet never a drop of water did we ship, nor did anything
about the deck betoken what, a heavy gale was blowing. During
the worst of the weather, and just after the wind had shifted
back into the N.E., making an uglier cross sea than ever get up,
along comes an immense four-masted iron ship homeward bound. She
was staggering under a veritable mountain of canvas, fairly
burying her bows in the foam at every forward drive, and actually
wetting the clews of the upper topsails in the smothering masses
of spray, that every few minutes almost hid her hull from sight.

It was a splendid picture; but--for the time--I felt glad I was
not on board of her. In a very few minutes she was out of our
ken, followed by the admiration of all. Then came, from the
other direction, a huge steamship, taking no more notice of the
gale than as if it were calm. Straight through the sea she
rushed, dividing the mighty rollers to the heart, and often
bestriding three seas at once, the centre one spreading its many
tons of foaming water fore and aft, so that from every orifice
spouted the seething brine. Compared with these greyhounds of the
wave, we resembled nothing so much as some old lightship bobbing
serenely around, as if part and parcel of the mid-Atlantic.

Our greenies were getting so well seasoned by this time that even
this rough weather did not knock any of them over, and from that
time forward they had no more trouble from sea-sickness.

The gale gradually blew itself out, leaving behind only a long
and very heavy swell to denote the deep-reaching disturbance that
the ocean had endured. And now we were within the range of the
Sargasso Weed, that mysterious FUCUS that makes the ocean look.
like some vast hayfield, and keeps the sea from rising, no matter
how high the wind. It fell a dead calm, and the harpooners
amused themselves by dredging up great masses of the weed, and
turning out the many strange creatures abiding therein. What a
world of wonderful life the weed is, to be sure! In it the
flying fish spawn and the tiny cuttle-fish breed, both of them
preparing bounteous provision for the larger denizens of the deep
that have no other food. Myriads of tiny crabs and innumerable
specimens of less-known shell-fish, small fish of species as yet
unclassified in any work on natural history, with jelly-fish of
every conceivable and inconceivable shape, form part of this
great and populous country in the sea. At one haul there was
brought on board a mass of flying-fish spawn, about ten pounds in
weight, looking like nothing so much as a pile of ripe white
currants, and clinging together in a very similar manner.

Such masses of ova I had often seen cast up among the outlying
rocks on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, when as a shipwrecked
lad I wandered idly about unburying turtle eggs from their snug
beds in the warm sand, and chasing the many-hued coral fish from
one hiding-place to another.

While loitering in these smooth waters, waiting for the laggard
wind, up came a shoal of dolphin, ready as at all times to attach
themselves for awhile to the ship. Nothing is more singular than
the manner in which deep-sea fish will accompany a vessel that is
not going too fast--sometimes for days at a time. Most
convenient too, and providing hungry Jack with many a fresh mess
he would otherwise have missed. Of all these friendly fish, none
is better known than the "dolphin," as from long usage sailors
persist in calling them, and will doubtless do so until the end
of the chapter. For the true dolphin (DELPHINIDAE) is not a fish
at all, but a mammal a warm-blooded creature that suckles its
young, and in its most familiar form is known to most people as
the porpoise. The sailor's "dolphin," on the other hand, is a
veritable fish, with vertical tail fin instead of the horizontal
one which distinguishes all the whale family, scales and gills.

It is well known to literature, under its sea-name, for its
marvellous brilliancy of colour, and there are few objects more
dazzling than a dolphin leaping out of a calm sea into the
sunshine. The beauty of a dying dolphin, however, though
sanctioned by many generations of writers, is a delusion, all the
glory of the fish departing as soon as he is withdrawn from his
native element.

But this habit of digression grows upon one, and I must do my
best to check it, or I shall never get through my task.

To resume then: when this school of dolphin (I can't for the life
of me call them CORIPHAENA HIPPURIS) came alongside, a rush was
made for the "granes"--a sort of five-pronged trident, if I may
be allowed a baby bull. It was universally agreed among the
fishermen that trying a hook and line was only waste of time and
provocative of profanity! since every sailor knows that all the
deep-water big fish require a living or apparently living bait.
The fish, however, sheered off, and would not be tempted within
reach of that deadly fork by any lure. Then did I cover myself
with glory. For he who can fish cleverly and luckily may be sure
of fairly good times in a whaler, although he may be no great
things at any other work. I had a line of my own, and begging
one of the small fish that had been hauled up in the Gulf weed, I
got permission to go aft and fish over the taffrail. The little
fish was carefully secured on the hook, the point of which just
protruded near his tail. Then I lowered him into the calm blue
waters beneath, and paid out line very gently, until my bait was
a silvery spot about a hundred feet astern. Only a very short
time, and my hopes rose as I saw one bright gleam after another
glide past the keel, heading aft. Then came a gentle drawing at
the line, which I suffered to slip slowly through my fingers
until I judged it time to try whether I was right or wrong, A
long hard pull, and my heart beat fast as I felt the thrill along
the line that fishermen love. None of your high art here, but
haul in hand over hand, the line being strong enough to land a
250 pound fish. Up he came, the beauty, all silver and scarlet
and blue, five feet long if an inch, and weighing 35 pounds.
Well, such a lot of astonished men I never saw. They could
hardly believe their eyes. That such a daring innovation should
be successful was hardly to be believed, even with the vigorous
evidence before them. Even grim Captain Slocum came to look and
turned upon me as I thought a less lowering brow than usual,
while Mr. Count, the mate, fairly chuckled again at the thought
of how the little Britisher had wiped the eyes of these veteran
fishermen. The captive was cut open, and two recent flying-fish
found in his maw, which were utilized for new bait, with the
result that there was a cheerful noise of hissing and spluttering
in the galley soon after, and a mess of fish for all hands.

Shortly afterwards a fresh breeze sprang up, which proved to be
the beginning of the N.E. trades, and fairly guaranteed us
against any very bad weather for some time to come.

Somehow or other it had leaked out that we were to cruise the
Cape Verd Islands for a spell before working south, and the
knowledge seemed to have quite an enlivening effect upon our
Portuguese shipmates.

Most of them belonged there, and although there was but the
faintest prospect of their getting ashore upon any pretext
whatever, the possibility of seeing their island homes again
seemed to quite transform them. Hitherto they had been very
moody and exclusive, never associating with us on the white side,
or attempting to be at all familiar. A mutual atmosphere of
suspicion, in fact, seemed to pervade our quarters, making things
already uncomfortable enough, still more so. Now, however, they
fraternized with us, and in a variety of uncouth ways made havoc
of the English tongue, as they tried to impress us with the
beauty, fertility and general incomparability of their beloved
Cape Verds. Of the eleven white men besides myself in the
forecastle, there were a middle-aged German baker, who had bolted
from Buffalo; two Hungarians, who looked like noblemen disguised
--in dirt; two slab-sided Yankees of about 22 from farms in
Vermont; a drayman from New York; a French Canadian from the
neighbourhood of Quebec; two Italians from Genoa; and two
nondescripts that I never found out the origin of. Imagine,
then, the babel of sound, and think--but no, it is impossible to
think, what sort of a jargon was compounded of all these varying
elements of language.

One fortunate thing, there was peace below. Indeed, the spirit
seemed completely taken out of all of them, and by some devilish
ingenuity the afterguard had been able to sow distrust between
them all, while treating them like dogs, so that the miseries of
their life were never openly discussed. My position among them
gave me at times some uneasiness. Though I tried to be helpful
to all, and was full of sympathy for their undeserved sufferings,
I could not but feel that they would have been more than human
had they not envied me my immunity from the kicks and blows they
all shared so impartially. However, there was no help for it, so
I went on as cheerily as I could.

A peculiarity of all these vessels, as I afterwards learned, was
that no stated allowance of anything was made. Even the water
was not served out to us, but was kept in a great scuttle-butt by
the cabin door, to which every one who needed a drink had to go,
and from which none might be carried away. No water was allowed
for washing except from the sea; and every one knows, or should
know, that neither flesh nor clothes can be cleansed with that.
But a cask with a perforated top was lashed by the bowsprit and
kept filled with urine, which I was solemnly assured by Goliath
was the finest dirt-extractor in the world for clothes. The
officers did not avail themselves of its virtues though, but were
content with ley, which was furnished in plenty by the ashes from
the galley fire, where nothing but wood was used as fuel. Of
course when rain fell we might have a good wash, if it was night
and no other work was toward; but we were not allowed to store
any for washing purposes. Another curious but absolutely
necessary custom prevailed in consequence of the short commons
under which we lived. When the portion of meat was brought down
in its wooden kid, or tub, at dinner-time, it was duly divided as
fairly as possible into as many parts as there were mouths. Then
one man turned his back on the carver, who holding up each
portion, called out, "Who's this for?" Whatever name was
mentioned by the arbitrator, that man owning it received the
piece, and had perforce to be satisfied therewith. Thus justice
was done to all in the only way possible, and without any
friction whatever.

As some of us were without clothes except what we stood upright
in, when we joined, the "slop chest" was opened, and every
applicant received from the steward what Captain Slocum thought
fit to let him have, being debited with the cost against such
wages as he might afterwards earn. The clothes were certainly of
fairly good quality, if the price was high, and exactly suited to
our requirements. Soap, matches, and tobacco were likewise
supplied on the same terms, but at higher prices than I had ever
heard of before for these necessaries. After much careful inquiry
I ascertained what, in the event of a successful voyage, we were
likely to earn. Each of us were on the two hundredth "lay" or
share at $200 per tun, which meant that for every two hundred
barrels of oil taken on board, we were entitled to one, which we
must sell to the ship at the rate of L40 per tun or L4 per
barrel. Truly a magnificent outlook for young men bound to such
a business for three or four years.




Simultaneous ideas occurring to several people, or thought
transference, whatever one likes to call the phenomenon is too
frequent an occurrence in most of our experience to occasion much
surprise. Yet on the occasion to which I am about to refer, the
matter was so very marked that few of us who took part in the
day's proceedings are ever likely to forget it.

We were all gathered about the fo'lk'sle scuttle one evening, a
few days after the gale referred to in the previous chapter, and
the question of whale-fishing came up for discussion. Until that
time, strange as it may seem, no word of this, the central idea
of all our minds, had been mooted. Every man seemed to shun the
subject, although we were in daily expectation of being called
upon to take an active part in whale-fighting. Once the ice was
broken, nearly all had something to say about it, and very nearly
as many addle-headed opinions were ventilated as at a Colney
Hatch debating society. For we none of us KNEW anything about
it. I was appealed to continually to support this or that theory,
but as far as whaling went I could only, like the rest of them,
draw upon my imagination for details. How did a whale act, what
were the first steps taken, what chance was there of being saved
if your boat got smashed, and so on unto infinity. At last,
getting very tired of this "Portugee Parliament" of all talkers
and no listeners, I went aft to get a drink of water before
turning in. The harpooners and other petty officers were grouped
in the waist, earnestly discussing the pros and cons of attack
upon whales. As I passed I heard the mate's harpooner say,
"Feels like whale about. I bet a plug (of tobacco) we raise
sperm whale to-morrow." Nobody took his bet, for it appeared that
they were mostly of the same mind, and while I was drinking I
heard the officers in dignified conclave talking over the same
thing. It was Saturday evening, and while at home people were
looking forward to a day's respite from work and care, I felt
that the coming day, though never taken much notice of on board,
was big with the probabilities of strife such as I at least had
at present no idea of. So firmly was I possessed by the
prevailing feeling.

The night was very quiet. A gentle breeze was blowing, and the
sky was of the usual "Trade" character, that is, a dome of dark
blue fringed at the horizon with peaceful cumulus clouds, almost
motionless. I turned in at four a.m. from the middle watch and,
as usual, slept like a babe. Suddenly I started wide awake, a
long mournful sound sending a thrill to my very heart. As I
listened breathlessly other sounds of the same character but in
different tones joined in, human voices monotonously intoning in
long drawn-out expirations the single word "bl-o-o-o-o-w." Then
came a hurricane of noise overhead, and adjurations in no gentle
language to the sleepers to "tumble up lively there, no skulking,
sperm whales." At last, then, fulfilling all the presentiments of
yesterday, the long dreaded moment had arrived. Happily there
was no time for hesitation, in less than two minutes we were all
on deck, and hurrying to our respective boats. There was no
flurry or confusion, and except that orders were given more
quietly than usual, with a manifest air of suppressed excitement,
there was nothing to show that we were not going for an ordinary
course of boat drill. The skipper was in the main crow's-nest
with his binoculars presently he shouted, "Naow then, Mr. Count,
lower away soon's y'like. Small pod o'cows, an' one'r two bulls
layin' off to west'ard of 'em." Down went the boats into the
water quietly enough, we all scrambled in and shoved off. A
stroke or two of the oars were given to get clear of the ship,
and one another, then oars were shipped and up went the sails.
As I took my allotted place at the main-sheet, and the beautiful
craft started off like some big bird, Mr. Count leant forward,
saying impressively to me, "Y'r a smart youngster, an' I've
kinder took t'yer; but don't ye look ahead an' get gallied, 'r
I'll knock ye stiff wi' th' tiller; y'hear me? N' don't ye dare
to make thet sheet fast, 'r ye'll die so sudden y' won't know
whar y'r hurted." I said as cheerfully as I could, "All right,
sir," trying to look unconcerned, telling myself not to be a
coward, and all sorts of things; but the cold truth is that I was
scared almost to death because I didn't know what was coming.
However, I did the best thing under the circumstances, obeyed
orders and looked steadily astern, or up into the bronzed
impassive face of my chief, who towered above me, scanning with
eagle eyes the sea ahead. The other boats were coming flying
along behind us, spreading wider apart as they came, while in the
bows of each stood the harpooner with his right hand on his first
iron, which lay ready, pointing over the bow in a raised fork of
wood called the "crutch."

All of a sudden, at a motion of the chief's hand, the peak of our
mainsail was dropped, and the boat swung up into the wind, laying
"hove to," almost stationary. The centre-board was lowered to
stop her drifting to leeward, although I cannot say it made much
difference that ever I saw. NOW what's the matter, I thought,
when to my amazement the chief addressing me said, "Wonder why
we've hauled up, don't ye?" "Yes, sir, I do," said I. "Wall,"
said he, "the fish hev sounded, an' 'ef we run over 'em, we've
seen the last ov'em. So we wait awhile till they rise agin, 'n
then we'll prob'ly git thar' 'r thareabonts before they sound
agin." With this explanation I had to be content, although if it
be no clearer to my readers than it then was to me, I shall have
to explain myself more fully later on. Silently we lay, rocking
lazily upon the gentle swell, no other word being spoken by any
one. At last Louis, the harpooner, gently breathed "blo-o-o-w;"
and there, sure enough, not half a mile away on the lee beam, was
a little bushy cloud of steam apparently rising from the sea. At
almost the same time as we kept away all the other boats did
likewise, and just then, catching sight of the ship, the reason
for this apparently concerted action was explained. At the main-
mast head of the ship was a square blue flag, and the ensign at
the peak was being dipped. These were signals well understood
and promptly acted upon by those in charge of the boats, who were
thus guided from a point of view at least one hundred feet above
the sea.

"Stand up, Louey," the mate murmured softly. I only just stopped
myself in time from turning my head to see why the order was
given. Suddenly there was a bump, at the same moment the mate
yelled, "Give't to him, Louey, give't to him!" and to me, "Haul
that main sheet, naow haul, why don't ye?" I hauled it flat aft,
and the boat shot up into the wind, rubbing sides as she did so
with what to my troubled sight seemed an enormous mass of black
india-rubber floating. As we CRAWLED up into the wind, the whale
went into convulsions befitting his size and energy. He raised a
gigantic tail on high, threshing the water with deafening blows,
rolling at the same time from side to side until the surrounding
sea was white with froth. I felt in an agony lest we should be
crushed under one of those fearful strokes, for Mr. Count
appeared to be oblivious of possible danger, although we seemed
to be now drifting back on to the writhing leviathan. In the
agitated condition of the sea, it was a task of no ordinary
difficulty to unship the tall mast, which was of course the first
thing to be done. After a desperate struggle, and a narrow
escape from falling overboard of one of the men, we got the lone
"stick," with the sail bundled around it, down and "fleeted" aft,
where it was secured by the simple means of sticking the "heel"
under the after thwart, two-thirds of the mast extending out over
the stern. Meanwhile, we had certainly been in a position of the
greatest danger, our immunity from damage being unquestionably
due to anything but precaution taken to avoid it.

By the time the oars were handled, and the mate had exchanged
places with the harpooner, our friend the enemy had "sounded,"
that is, he had gone below for a change of scene, marvelling no
doubt what strange thing had befallen him. Agreeably to the
accounts which I, like most boys, had read of the whale fishery,
I looked for the rushing of the line round the logger-head (a
stout wooden post built into the boat aft), to raise a cloud of
smoke with occasional bursts of flame; so as it began to slowly
surge round the post, I timidly asked the harpooner whether I
should throw any water on it. "Wot for?" growled he, as he took
a couple more turns with it. Not knowing "what for," and hardly
liking to quote my authorities here, I said no more, but waited
events. "Hold him up, Louey, bold him up, cain't ye?" shouted
the mate, and to my horror, down went the nose of the boat almost
under water, while at the mate's order everybody scrambled aft
into the elevated stern sheets.

The line sang quite a tune as it was grudgingly allowed to surge
round the loggerhead, filling one with admiration at the strength
shown by such a small rope. This sort of thing went on for about
twenty minutes, in which time we quite emptied the large tub and
began on the small one. As there was nothing whatever for us to
do while this was going on, I had ample leisure for observing the
little game that was being played about a quarter of a mile away.
Mr. Cruce, the second mate, had got a whale and was doing his
best to kill it; but he was severely handicapped by his crew, or
rather had been, for two of them were now temporarily incapable
of either good or harm. They had gone quite "batchy" with
fright, requiring a not too gentle application of the tiller to
their heads in order to keep them quiet. The remedy, if rough,
was effectual, for "the subsequent proceedings interested them no
more." Consequently his manoeuvres were not so well or rapidly
executed as he, doubtless, could have wished, although his energy
in lancing that whale was something to admire and remember.
Hatless, his shirt tail out of the waist of his trousers
streaming behind him like a banner, he lunged and thrust at the
whale alongside of him, as if possessed of a destroying devil,
while his half articulate yells of rage and blasphemy were
audible even to us.

Suddenly our boat fell backward from her "slantindicular"
position with a jerk, and the mate immediately shouted, "Haul
line, there! look lively, now, you--so on, etcetera, etcetera"
(he seemed to invent new epithets on every occasion). The line
came in hand over hand, and was coiled in a wide heap in the
stern sheets, for silky as it was, it could not be expected in
its wet state to lie very close. As it came flying in the mate
kept a close gaze upon the water immediately beneath us,
apparently for the first glimpse of our antagonist. When the
whale broke water, however, he was some distance off, and
apparently as quiet as a lamb. Now, had Mr. Count been a prudent
or less ambitious man, our task would doubtless have been an easy
one, or comparatively so; but, being a little over-grasping, he
got us all into serious trouble. We were hauling up to our whale
in order to lance it, and the mate was standing, lance in hand,
only waiting to get near enough, when up comes a large whale
right alongside of our boat, so close, indeed, that I might have
poked my finger in his little eye, if I had chosen. The sight of
that whale at liberty, and calmly taking stock of us like that,
was too much for the mate. He lifted his lance and hurled it at
the visitor, in whose broad flank it sank, like a knife into
butter, right up to the pole-hitches. The recipient disappeared
like a flash, but before one had time to think, there was an
awful crash beneath us, and the mate shot up into the air like a
bomb from a mortar. He came down in a sitting posture on the
mast-thwart; but as he fell, the whole framework of the boat
collapsed like a derelict umbrella. Louis quietly chopped the
line and severed our connection with the other whale, while in
accordance with our instructions we drew each man his oar across
the boat and lashed it firmly down with a piece of line spliced
to each thwart for the purpose. This simple operation took but a
minute, but before it was completed we were all up to our necks
in the sea. Still in the boat, it is true, and therefore not in
such danger of drowning as if we were quite adrift; but,
considering that the boat was reduced to a mere bundle of loose
planks, I, at any rate, was none too comfortable. Now, had he
known it, was the whale's golden opportunity; but he, poor
wretch, had had quite enough of our company, and cleared off
without any delay, wondering, no doubt, what fortunate accident
had rid him of our very unpleasant attentions.

I was assured that we were all as safe as if we were on board the
ship, to which I answered nothing; but, like Jack's parrot, I did
some powerful thinking. Every little wave that came along swept
clean over our heads, sometimes coming so suddenly as to cut a
breath in half. If the wind should increase--but no--I wouldn't
face the possibility of such a disagreeable thing. I was cool
enough now in a double sense, for although we were in the
tropics, we soon got thoroughly chilled.

By the position of the sun it must have been between ten a.m. and
noon, and we, of the crew, had eaten nothing since the previous
day at supper, when, as usual, the meal was very light.
Therefore, I suppose we felt the chill sooner than the better-
nourished mate and harpooner, who looked rather scornfully at our
blue faces and chattering teeth.

In spite of all assurances to the contrary, I have not the least
doubt in my own mind that a very little longer would have
relieved us of ALL our burdens finally. Because the heave of the
sea had so loosened the shattered planks upon which we stood that
they were on the verge of falling all asunder. Had they done so
we must have drowned, for we were cramped and stiff with cold and
our constrained position. However, unknown to us, a bright look-
out upon our movements had been kept from the crow's-nest the
whole time. We should have been relieved long before, but that
the whale killed by the second mate was being secured, and
another boat, the fourth mate's, being picked up, having a hole
in her bilge you could put you head through. With all these
hindrances, especially securing the whale, we were fortunate to
be rescued as soon as we were, since it is well known that whales
are of much higher commercial value than men.

However, help came at last, and we were hauled alongside. Long
exposure had weakened us to such an extent that it was necessary
to hoist us on board, especially the mate, whose "sudden stop,"
when he returned to us after his little aerial excursion, had
shaken his sturdy frame considerably, a state of body which the
subsequent soaking had by no means improved. In my innocence I
imagined that we should be commiserated for our misfortunes by
Captain Slocum, and certainly be relieved from further duties
until we were a little recovered from the rough treatment we had
just undergone. But I never made a greater mistake. The skipper
cursed us all (except the mate, whoso sole fault the accident
undoubtedly was) with a fluency and vigour that was, to put it
mildly, discouraging. Moreover, we were informed that he
"wouldn't have no adjective skulking;" we must "turn to" and do
something after wasting the ship's time and property in such a
blanked manner. There was a limit, however, to our obedience, so
although we could not move at all for awhile, his threats were
not proceeded with farther than theory.

A couple of slings were passed around the boat, by means of which
she was carefully hoisted on board, a mere dilapidated bundle of
sticks and raffle of gear. She was at once removed aft out of
the way, the business of cutting in the whale claiming precedence
over everything else just then. The preliminary proceedings
consisted of rigging the "cutting stage." This was composed of
two stout planks a foot wide and ten feet long, the inner ends of
which were suspended by strong ropes over the ship's side about
four feet from the water, while the outer extremities were upheld
by tackles from the main rigging, and a small crane abreast the

These planks were about thirty feet apart, their two outer ends
being connected by a massive plank which was securely bolted to
them. A handrail about as high as a man's waist, supported by
light iron stanchions, ran the full length of this plank on the
side nearest the ship, the whole fabric forming an admirable
standing-place from whence the officers might, standing in
comparative comfort, cut and carve at the great mass below to
their hearts' content.

So far the prize had been simply held alongside by the whale-
line, which at death had been "rove" through a hole cut in the
solid gristle of the tail; but now it became necessary to secure
the carcase to the ship in some more permanent fashion.
Therefore, a massive chain like a small ship's cable was brought
forward, and in a very ingenious way, by means of a tiny buoy and
a hand-lead, passed round the body, one end brought through a
ring in the other, and hauled upon until it fitted tight round
the "small" or part of the whale next the broad spread of the
tail. The free end of the fluke-chain was then passed in through
a mooring-pipe forward, firmly secured to a massive bitt at the
heel of the bowsprit (the fluke-chain-bitt), and all was ready.

But the subsequent proceedings were sufficiently complicated to
demand a fresh chapter.




If in the preceding chapter too much stress has been laid upon
the smashing of our own boat and consequent sufferings, while
little or no notice was taken of the kindred disaster to Mistah
Jones' vessel, my excuse must be that the experience "filled me
right up to the chin," as the mate concisely, if inelegantly, put
it. Poor Goliath was indeed to be pitied, for his well-known luck
and capacity as a whaleman seemed on this occasion to have quite
deserted him. Not only had his boat been stove upon first
getting on to the whale, but he hadn't even had a run for his
money. It appeared that upon striking his whale, a small, lively
cow, she had at once "settled," allowing the boat to run over
her; but just as they were passing, she rose, gently enough, her
pointed hump piercing the thin skin of half-inch cedar as if it
had been cardboard. She settled again immediately, leaving a
hole behind her a foot long by six inches wide, which effectually
put a stop to all further fishing operations on the part of
Goliath and his merry men for that day, at any rate. It was all
so quiet, and so tame and so stupid, no wonder Mistah Jones felt
savage. When Captain Slocum's fluent profanity flickered around
him, including vehemently all he might be supposed to have any
respect for, he did not even LOOK as if he would like to talk
back; he only looked sick and tired of being himself.

The third mate, again, was of a different category altogether.
He had distinguished himself by missing every opportunity of
getting near a whale while there was a "loose" one about, and
then "saving" the crew of Goliath's boat, who were really in no
danger whatever. His iniquity was too great to be dealt with by
mere bad language. He crept about like a homeless dog--much, I
am afraid, to my secret glee, for I couldn't help remembering his
untiring cruelty to the green hands on first leaving port.

In consequence of these little drawbacks we were not a very
jovial crowd forrard or aft. Not that hilarity was ever
particularly noticeable among us, but just now there was a very
decided sense of wrong-doing over us all, and a general fear that
each of us was about to pay the penalty due to some other
delinquent. But fortunately there was work to be done. Oh,
blessed work! how many awkward situations you have extricated
people from! How many distracted brains have you soothed and
restored, by your steady irresistible pressure of duty to be done
and brooking of no delay!

The first thing to be done was to cut the whale's head off. This
operation, involving the greatest amount of labour in the whole
of the cutting in, was taken in hand by the first and second
mates, who, armed with twelve-feet spades, took their station
upon the stage, leaned over the handrail to steady themselves,
and plunged their weapons vigorously down through the massive
neck of the animal--if neck it could be said to have--following a
well-defined crease in the blubber. At the same time the other
officers passed a heavy chain sling around the long, narrow lower
jaw, hooking one of the big cutting tackles into it, the "fall"
of which was then taken to the windlass and hove tight, turning
the whale on her back. A deep cut was then made on both sides of
the rising jaw, the windlass was kept going, and gradually the
whole of the throat was raised high enough for a hole to be cut
through its mass, into which the strap of the second cutting
tackle was inserted and secured by passing a huge toggle of oak
through its eye. The second tackle was then hove taut, and the
jaw, with a large piece of blubber attached, was cut off from the
body with a boarding-knife, a tool not unlike a cutlass blade set
into a three-foot-long wooden handle.

Upon being severed the whole piece swung easily inboard and was
lowered on deck. The fast tackle was now hove upon while the
third mate on the stage cut down diagonally into the blubber on
the body, which the purchase ripped off in a broad strip or
"blanket" about five feet wide and a foot thick. Meanwhile the
other two officers carved away vigorously at the head, varying
their labours by cutting a hole right through the snout. This
when completed received a heavy chain for the purpose of securing
the head. When the blubber had been about half stripped off the
body, a halt was called in order that the work of cutting off the
head might be finished, for it was a task of incredible
difficulty. It was accomplished at last, and the mass floated
astern by a stout rope, after which the windlass pawls clattered
merrily, the "blankets " rose in quick succession, and were cut
off and lowered into the square of the main batch or "blubber-
room." A short time sufficed to strip off the whole of the body-
blubber, and when at last the tail was reached, the backbone was
cut through, the huge mass of flesh floating away to feed the
innumerable scavengers of the sea. No sooner was the last of the
blubber lowered into the hold than the hatches were put on and
the head hauled up alongside. Both tackles were secured to it
and all hands took to the windlass levers. This was a small cow
whale of about thirty barrels, that is, yielding that amount of
oil, so it was just possible to lift the entire head on board;
but as it weighed as much as three full-grown elephants, it was
indeed a heavy lift for even our united forces, trying our tackle
to the utmost. The weather was very fine, and the ship rolled
but little; even then, the strain upon the mast was terrific, and
right glad was I when at last the immense cube of fat, flesh, and
bone was eased inboard and gently lowered on deck.

As soon as it was secured the work of dividing it began. From
the snout a triangular mass was cut, which was more than half
pure spermaceti. This substance was contained in spongy cells
held together by layers of dense white fibre, exceedingly tough
and elastic, and called by the whalers "white-horse." The whole
mass, or "junk" as it is called, was hauled away to the ship's
side and firmly lashed to the bulwarks for the time being, so
that it might not "take charge" of the deck during the rest of
the operations.

The upper part of the head was now slit open lengthwise,
disclosing an oblong cistern or "case" full of liquid spermaceti,
clear as water. This was baled out with buckets into a tank,
concreting as it cooled into a wax-like substance, bland and
tasteless. There being now nothing more remaining about the
skull of any value, the lashings were loosed, and the first
leeward roll sent the great mass plunging overboard with a mighty
splash. It sank like a stone, eagerly followed by a few small
sharks that were hovering near.

As may be imagined, much oil was running about the deck, for so
saturated was every part of the creature with it that it really
gushed like water during the cutting-up process. None of it was
allowed to run to waste, though, for the scupper-holes which
drain the deck were all carefully plugged, and as soon as the
"junk" had been dissected all the oil was carefully "squeegeed"
up and poured into the try-pots.

Two men were now told off as "blubber-room men," whose duty it
became to go below, and squeezing themselves in as best they
could between the greasy masses of fat, cut it up into "horse-
pieces" about eighteen inches long and six inches square. Doing
this they became perfectly saturated with oil, as if they had
taken a bath in a tank of it; for as the vessel rolled it was
impossible to maintain a footing, and every fall was upon blubber
running with oil. A machine of wonderful construction had been
erected on deck in a kind of shallow trough about six feet long
by four feet wide and a foot deep. At some remote period of time
it had no doubt been looked upon as a triumph of ingenuity, a
patent mincing machine. Its action was somewhat like that of a
chaff-cutter, except that the knife was not attached to the
wheel, and only rose and fell, since it was not required to cut
right through the "horse-pieces" with which it was fed. It will
be readily understood that in order to get the oil quickly out of
the blubber, it needs to be sliced as thin as possible, but for
convenience in handling the refuse (which is the only fuel used)
it is not chopped up in small pieces, but every "horse-piece" is
very deeply scored as it were, leaving a thin strip to hold the
slices together. This then was the order of work. Two
harpooners attended the try-pots, replenishing them with minced
blubber from the hopper at the port side, and baling out the
sufficiently boiled oil into the great cooling tank on the
starboard. One officer superintended the mincing, another
exercised a general supervision over all. There was no man at
the wheel and no look-out, for the vessel was "hove-to" under two
close-reefed topsails and fore-topmast-staysail, with the wheel
lashed hard down. A look-out man was unnecessary, since we could
not run, anybody down, and if anybody ran us down, it would only
be because all hands were asleep, for the glare of our try-works
fire, to say nothing of the blazing cresset before mentioned,
could have been seen for many miles. So we toiled watch and
watch, six hours on and six off, the work never ceasing for an
instant night or day. Though the work was hard and dirty, and
the discomfort of being so continually wet through with oil
great, there was only one thing dangerous about the whole
business. That was the job of filling and shifting the huge
casks of oil. Some of these were of enormous size, containing
350 gallons when full, and the work of moving them about the
greasy deck of a rolling ship was attended with a terrible amount
of risk. For only four men at most could get fair hold of a
cask, and when she took it into her silly old hull to start
rolling, just as we had got one half-way across the deck, with
nothing to grip your feet, and the knowledge that one stumbling
man would mean a sudden slide of the ton and a half weight, and
a little heap of mangled corpses somewhere in the lee scuppers--
well one always wanted to be very thankful when the lashings were
safely passed.

The whale being a small one, as before noted, the whole business
was over within three days, and the decks scrubbed and re-
scrubbed until they had quite regained their normal whiteness.
The oil was poured by means of a funnel and long canvas hose into
the casks stowed in the ground tier at the bottom of the ship,
and the gear, all carefully cleaned and neatly "stopped up,"
stowed snugly away below again.

This long and elaborate process is quite different from that
followed on board the Arctic whaleships, whose voyages are of
short duration, and who content themselves with merely cutting
the blubber up small and bringing it home to have the oil
expressed. But the awful putrid mass discharged from a
Greenlander's hold is of very different quality and value, apart
from the nature of the substance, to the clear and sweet oil,
which after three years in cask is landed from a south-seaman as
inoffensive in smell and flavour as the day it was shipped. No
attempt is made to separate the oil and spermaceti beyond boiling
the "head matter," as it is called, by itself first, and putting
it into casks which are not filled up with the body oil.
Spermaceti exists in all the oil, especially that from the dorsal
hump; but it is left for the refiners ashore to extract and leave
the oil quite free from any admixture of the wax-like substance,
which causes it to become solid at temperatures considerably
above the freezing-point.

Uninteresting as the preceding description may be, it is
impossible to understand anything of the economy of a south-sea
whaler without giving it, and I have felt it the more necessary
because of the scanty notice given to it in the only two works
published on the subject, both of them highly technical, and
written for scientific purposes by medical men. Therefore I hope
to be forgiven if I have tried the patience of my readers by any

It will not, of course, have escaped the reader's notice that I
have not hitherto attempted to give any details concerning the
structure of the whale just dealt with. The omission is
intentional. During this, our first attempt at real whaling, my
mind was far too disturbed by the novelty and danger of the
position in which I found myself for the first time, for me to
pay any intelligent attention to the party of the second part.

But I may safely promise that from the workman's point of view,
the habits, manners, and build of the whales shall be faithfully
described as I saw them during my long acquaintance with them,
earnestly hoping that if my story be not as technical or
scientific as that of Drs. Bennett and Beale, it may be found
fully as accurate and reliable; and perhaps the reader, being
like myself a mere layman, so to speak, may be better able to
appreciate description free from scientific formula and nine-
jointed words.

Two things I did notice on this occasion which I will briefly
allude to before closing this chapter. One was the peculiar skin
of the whale. It was a bluish-black, and as thin as gold-
beater's skin. So thin, indeed, and tender, that it was easily
scraped off with the finger-nail. Immediately beneath it, upon
the surface of the blubber, was a layer or coating of what for
want of a better simile I must call fine short fur, although
unlike fur it had no roots or apparently any hold upon the
blubber. Neither was it attached to the skin which covered it;
in fact, it seemed merely a sort of packing between the skin and
the surface of the thick layer of solid fat which covered the
whole area of the whale's body. The other matter which impressed
me was the peculiarity of the teeth. For up till that time I had
held, in common with most seamen, and landsmen, too, for that
matter, the prevailing idea that a "whale" lived by "suction"
(although I did not at all know what that meant), and that it was
impossible for him to swallow a herring. Yet here was a mouth
manifestly intended for greater things in the way of gastronomy
than herrings; nor did it require more than the most casual
glances to satisfy one of so obvious a fact. Then the teeth were
heroic in size, protruding some four or five inches from the gum,
and solidly set more than that into its firm and compact
substance. They were certainly not intended for mastication,
being, where thickest, three inches apart, and tapering to a
short point, curving slightly backwards. In this specimen, a
female, and therefore small as I have said, there were twenty of
them on each side, the last three or four near the gullet being
barely visible above the gum.

Another most convincing reason why no mastication could have been
possible was that there were no teeth visible in the upper jaw.
Opposed to each of the teeth was a socket where a tooth should
apparently have been, and this was conclusive evidence of the
soft and yielding nature of the great creature's food. But there
were signs that at some period of the development of the whale it
had possessed a double row of teeth, because at the bottom of
these upper sockets we found in a few cases what seemed to be an
abortive tooth, not one that was growing, because they had no
roots, but a survival of teeth that had once been perfect and
useful, but from disuse, or lack of necessity for them, had
gradually ceased to come to maturity. The interior of the mouth
and throat was of a livid white, and the tongue was quite small
for so large an animal. It was almost incapable of movement,
being somewhat like a fowl's. Certainly it could not have been
protruded even from the angle of the mouth, much less have
extended along the parapet of that lower mandible, which reminded
one of the beak of some mighty albatross or stork.




Whether our recent experience had altered the captain's plans or
not I do not know, but much to the dismay of the Portuguese
portion of the crew, we did but sight, dimly and afar off, the
outline of the Cape Verde Islands before our course was altered,
and we bore away for the southward like any other outward-
bounder. That is, as far as our course went; but as to the speed,
we still retained the leisurely tactics hitherto pursued,
shortening sail every night, and, if the weather was very fine,
setting it all again at daybreak.

The morose and sullen temper of the captain had been, if
anything, made worse by recent events, and we were worked as hard
as if the success of the voyage depended upon our ceaseless toil
of scrubbing, scraping, and polishing. Discipline was indeed
maintained at a high pitch of perfection, no man daring to look
awry, much less complain of any hardship, however great. Even
this humble submissiveness did not satisfy our tyrant, and at
last his cruelty took a more active shape. One of the long
Yankee farmers from Vermont, Abner Cushing by name, with the
ingenuity which seems inbred in his 'cute countrymen, must needs
try his hand at making a villainous decoction which he called
"beer," the principal ingredients in which were potatoes and
molasses. Now potatoes formed no part of our dietary, so Abner
set his wits to work to steal sufficient for his purpose, and
succeeded so far that he obtained half a dozen. I have very
little doubt that one of the Portuguese in the forecastle
conveyed the information aft for some reason best known to
himself, any more than we white men all had that in a similar
manner all our sayings and doings, however trivial, became at
once known to the officers. However, the fact that the theft was
discovered soon became painfully evident, for we had a visit from
the afterguard in force one afternoon, and Abner with his brewage
was haled to the quarter-deck. There, in the presence of all
hands, he was arraigned, found guilty of stealing the ship's
stores, and sentence passed upon him. By means of two small
pieces of fishing line he was suspended by his thumbs in the
weather rigging, in such a manner that when the ship was upright
his toes touched the deck, but when she rolled his whole weight
hung from his thumbs. This of itself one would have thought
sufficient torture for almost any offence, but in addition to it
he received two dozen lashes with an improvised cat-o'-nine-
tails, laid on by the brawny arm of one of the harpooners. We
were all compelled to witness this, and our feelings may be
imagined. When, after what seemed a terribly long time to me
(Heaven knows what it must have been to him!), he fainted,
although no chicken I nearly fainted too, from conflicting
emotions of sympathy and impotent rage.

He was then released in leisurely fashion, and we were permitted
to take him forward and revive him. As soon as he was able to
stand on his feet, he was called on deck again, and not allowed
to go below till his watch was over. Meanwhile Captain Slocum
improved the occasion by giving us a short harangue, the burden
of which was that we had now seen a LITTLE of what any of us
might expect if we played any "dog's tricks" on him. But you can
get used to anything, I suppose: so after the first shock of the
atrocity was over, things went on again pretty much as usual.

For the first and only time in my experience, we sighted St.
Paul's Rocks, a tiny group of jagged peaks protruding from the
Atlantic nearly on the Equator. Stupendous mountains they must
be, rising almost sheer for about four and a half miles from the

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