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The Cruise of the Cachalot

Part 5 out of 6

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bull-humpback had found his way in after us, and the sound of his
spout, exaggerated a thousand times in the confinement of that
mighty cavern, had frightened us all so that we nearly lost our
breath. So far, so good; but, unlike the old nigger, though we
were "doin' blame well," we did not "let blame well alone." The
next spout that intruder gave, he was right alongside of us.
This was too much for the semi-savage instincts of my gallant
harpooner, and before I had time to shout a caution he had
plunged his weapon deep into old Blowhard's broad back.

I should like to describe what followed, but, in the first place,
I hardly know; and, in the next, even had I been cool and
collected, my recollections would sound like the ravings of a
fevered dream. For of all the hideous uproars conceivable, that
was, I should think, about the worst. The big mammal seemed to
have gone frantic with the pain of his wound, the surprise of the
attack, and the hampering confinement in which he found himself.
His tremendous struggles caused such a commotion that our
position could only be compared to that of men shooting Niagara
in a cylinder at night. How we kept afloat, I do not know. Some
one had the gumption to cut the line, so that by the radiation of
the disturbance we presently found ourselves close to the wall,
and trying to hold the boat in to it with our finger-tips. Would
he never be quiet? we thought, as the thrashing, banging, and
splashing still went on with unfailing vigour. At last, in, I
suppose, one supreme effort to escape, he leaped clear of the
water like a salmon. There was a perceptible hush, during which
we shrank together like unfledged chickens on a frosty night;
then, Then in a never-to-be-forgotten crash that ought to have
brought down the massy roof, that mountainous carcass fell. The
consequent violent upheaval of the water should have smashed the
boat against the rocky walls, but that final catastrophe was
mercifully spared us. I suppose the rebound was sufficient to
keep us a safe distance off.

A perfect silence succeeded, during which we sat speechless,
awaiting a resumption of the clamour. At last Abner broke the
heavy silence by saying, "I doan' see the do'way any mo' at all,
sir." He was right. The tide had risen, and that half-moon of
light had disappeared, so that we were now prisoners for many
hours, it not being at all probable that we should be able to
find our way out during the night ebb. Well, we were not exactly
children, to be afraid of the dark, although there is
considerable difference between the velvety darkness of a dungeon
and the clear, fresh night of the open air. Still, as long as
that beggar of a whale would only keep quiet or leave the
premises, we should be fairly comfortable. We waited and waited
until an hour had passed, and then came to the conclusion that
our friend was either dead or gone out, as be gave no sign of his

That being settled, we anchored the boat, and lit pipes,
preparatory to passing as comfortable a night as might be under
the circumstances, the only thing troubling me being the anxiety
of the skipper on our behalf. Presently the blackness beneath
was lit up by a wide band of phosphoric light, shed in the wake
of no ordinary-sized fish, probably an immense shark. Another
and another followed in rapid succession, until the depths
beneath were all ablaze with brilliant foot-wide ribands of green
glare, dazzling to the eye and bewildering to the brain.
Occasionally, a gentle splash or ripple alongside, or a smart tap
on the bottom of the boat, warned us how thick the concourse was
that had gathered below. Until that weariness which no terror is
proof against set in, sleep was impossible, nor could we keep our
anxious gaze from that glowing inferno beneath, where one would
have thought all the population of Tartarus were holding high
revel. Mercifully, at last we sank into a fitful slumber, though
fully aware of the great danger of our position. One upward rush
of any of those ravening monsters, happening to strike the frail
shell of our boat, and a few fleeting seconds would have sufficed
for our obliteration as if we had never been.

But the terrible night passed away, and once more we saw the
tender, irridescent light stream into that abode of dread. As
the day strengthened, we were able to see what was going on
below, and a grim vision it presented. The water was literally
alive with sharks of enormous size, tearing with never ceasing
energy at the huge carcass of the whale lying on the bottom, who
had met his fate in a singular but not unheard-of way. At that
last titanic effort of his he had rushed downward with such
terrific force that, striking his head on the bottom, he had
broken his neck. I felt very grieved that we had lost the chance
of securing him; but it was perfectly certain that before we
could get help to raise him, all that would be left of his
skeleton would be quite valueless to us. So with such patience
as we could command we waited near the entrance until the
receding ebb made it possible for us to emerge once more into the
blessed light of day. I was horrified at the haggard, careworn
appearance of my crew, who had all, excepting the two Kanakas,
aged perceptibly during that night of torment. But we lost no
time in getting back to the ship, where I fully expected a severe
wigging for the scrape my luckless curiosity had led me into.
The captain, however, was very kind, expressing his pleasure at
seeing us all safe back again, although he warned me solemnly
against similar investigations in future. A hearty meal and a
good rest did wonders in removing the severe effects of our
adventure, so that by next morning we were all fit and ready for
the days work again.

It certainly seemed as if I was in for a regular series of
troubles. After cruising till nearly two p.m., we fell in with
the mate's boat, and were sailing quietly along side by side,
when we suddenly rounded a point and ran almost on top of a bull-
humpback that was basking in the beautiful sunshine. The mate's
harpooner, a wonderfully smart fellow, was not so startled as to
lose his chance, getting an iron well home before the animal
realized what had befallen him. We had a lovely fight, lasting
over an hour, in which all the marvellous agility with which this
whale is gifted was exerted to the full in order to make his
escape. But with the bottom not twenty fathoms away, we were
sure of him. With all his supple smartness, he had none of the
dogged savagery of the cachalot about him, nor did we feel any
occasion to beware of his rushes, rather courting them, so as to
finish the game as quickly as possible.

He was no sooner dead than we hurried to secure him, and had
actually succeeded in passing the tow-line through his lips,
when, in the trifling interval that passed while we were taking
the line aft to begin towing, he started to sink. Of course it
was, "let go all!" If you can only get the slightest way on a
whale of this kind, you are almost certain to be able to keep him
afloat, but once he begins to sink you cannot stop him. Down he
went, till full twenty fathoms beneath us he lay comfortably on
the reef, while we looked ruefully at one another. We had no
gear with us fit to raise him, and we were ten miles from the
ship; evening was at hand, so our prospects of doing anything
that night were faint.

However, the mate decided to start off for home at once, leaving
us there, but promising to send back a boat as speedily as
possible with provisions and gear for the morning. There was a
stiff breeze blowing, and he was soon out of sight; but we were
very uncomfortable. The boat, of course, rode like a duck, but we
were fully exposed to the open sea; and the mighty swell of the
Pacific, rolling in over those comparatively shallow grounds,
sometimes looked dangerously like breaking. Still, it was better
than the cave, and there was a good prospect of supper. Long
before we expected her, back came the boat, bringing bountiful
provision of yams, cold pork and fruit--a regular banquet to men
who were fasting since daylight. A square meal, a comforting
pipe, and the night's vigil, which had looked so formidable, no
longer troubled us, although, to tell the truth, we were heartily
glad when the dawn began to tint the east with pale emerald and
gold. We set to work at once, getting the huge carcass to the
surface without as much labour as I had anticipated. Of course
all hands came to the rescue.

But, alas for the fruit of our labours! Those hungry monsters
had collected in thousands, and, to judge from what we were able
to see of the body, they had reduced its value alarmingly.
However, we commenced towing, and were getting along fairly well,
when a long spur of reef to leeward of us, over which the sea was
breaking frightfully, seemed to be stretching farther out to
intercept us before we could get into smooth water. The fact soon
faced us that we were in the remorseless grip of a current that
set right over that reef, and against its steady stream all our
efforts were the merest triviality. Still, we hung on, struggling
desperately to keep what we had earned, until so close to the
roaring, foaming line of broken water, that one wave breaking
farther out than the rest very nearly swamped us all. One blow
of an axe, one twirl of the steer-oars, and with all the force we
could muster we were pulling away from the very jaws of death,
leaving our whale to the hungry crowds, who would make short work
of him. Downcast indeed, at our bad luck, we returned on board,
disappointing the skipper very much with our report. Like the
true gentleman he was, though, recognizing that we had done our
best, he did not add to the trouble by cursing us all for a set
of useless trash, as his predecessor would have done; on the
contrary, a few minutes after the receipt of the bad news his
face was as bright as ever, his laugh as hearty as if there was
no such thing as a misfortune in the world.

And now I must come to what has been on my mind so long--a
tragedy that, in spite of all that had gone before, and of what
came after, is the most indelible of all the memories which cling
round me of that eventful time. Abner Cushing, the Vermonter had
declared at different times that he should never see his native
Green Mountain again. Since the change in our commander,
however, he had been another man--always silent and reserved, but
brighter, happier, and with a manner so improved as to make it
hard to recognize him for the same awkward, ungainly slab of a
fellow that had bungled everything he put his hand to. Taking
stock of him quietly during our day-long leisurely cruises in the
boat, I often wondered whether his mind still kept its gloomy
forebodings, and brooded over his tragical life-history. I never
dared to speak to him on the subject, for fear of arousing what I
hoped was growing too faint for remembrance. But at times I saw
him in the moonlit evenings sitting on the rail alone,
steadfastly gazing down into the star-besprent waters beneath
him, as if coveting their unruffled peace.

Two-thirds of our stay in the islands had passed away, when, for
a wonder, the captain took it into his head to go up to the chief
village one morning. So he retained me on board, while the other
three boats left for the day's cruise as usual. One of the
mate's crew was sick, and to replace him he took Abner out of my
boat. Away they went; and shortly after breakfast-time I
lowered, received the captain on board, and we started for the
capital. Upon our arrival there we interviewed the chief, a
stout, pleasant-looking man of about fifty, who was evidently
held in great respect by the natives, and had a chat with the
white Wesleyan missionary in charge of the station. About two
p.m., after the captain's business was over, we were returning
under sail, when we suddenly caught sight of two of our boats
heading in towards one of the islands. We helped her with the
paddles to get up to them, seeing as we neared them the two long
fins of a whale close ahead of one of them. As we gazed
breathlessly at the exciting scene, we saw the boat rush in
between the two flippers, the harpooner at the same time darting
an iron straight down. There was a whirl in the waters, and
quick as thought the vast flukes of the whale rose in the air,
recurving with a sidelong sweep as of some gigantic scythe. The
blow shore off the bow of the attacking boat as if it had been an

At the same moment the mate stooped, picked up the tow-line from
its turn round the logger-head, and threw it forward from him.
He must have unconsciously given a twist to his hand, for the
line fell in a kink round Abner's neck just as the whale went
down with a rush. Struggling, clutching at the fatal noose, the
hapless man went flying out through the incoming sea, and in one
second was lost to sight for ever. Too late, the harpooner cut
the line which attached the wreck to the retreating animal,
leaving the boat free, but gunwale under. We instantly hauled
alongside of the wreck and transferred her crew, all dazed and
horror-stricken at the awful death of their late comrade.

I saw the tears trickle down the rugged, mahogany-coloured face
of the captain, and honoured him for it, but there was little
time to waste in vain regrets. It was necessary to save the
boat, if possible, as we were getting short of boat-repairing
material; certainly we should not have been able to build a new
one. So, drawing the two sound boats together, one on either
side of the wreck, we placed the heavy steering oars across them
from side to side. We then lifted the battered fore part upon
the first oar, and with a big effort actually succeeded in
lifting the whole of the boat out of water upon this primitive
pontoon. Then, taking the jib, we "frapped" it round the opening
where the bows had been, lashing it securely in that position.
Several hands were told off to jump into her stern on the word,
and all being ready we launched her again. The weight of the
chaps in her stern-sheets cocked her bows right out of water, and
in that position we towed her back to the ship, arriving safely
before dusk.

That evening we held a burial service, at which hundreds of
natives attended with a solemnity of demeanour and expressions of
sorrow that would not have been out of place at the most
elaborate funeral in England or America. It was a memorable
scene. The big cressets were lighted, shedding their wild glare
over the dark sea, and outlining the spars against the moonless
sky with startling effect. When we had finished the beautiful
service, the natives, as if swayed by an irresistible impulse,
broke into the splendid tune St. Ann's; and I afterwards learned
that the words they sang were Dr. Watts' unsurpassable rendering
of Moses' pean of praise, "O God, our help in ages past." No
elaborate ceremonial in towering cathedral could begin to compare
with the massive simplicity of poor Abner's funeral honours, the
stately hills for many miles reiterating the sweet sounds, and
carrying them to the furthest confines of the group.

Next day was Sunday, and, in pursuance of a promise given some
time before, I went ashore to my "flem's" to dinner, he being
confined to the house with a hurt leg. It was not by any means a
festive gathering, for he was more than commonly taciturn; his
daughter Irene, a buxom lassie of fourteen, who waited on us,
appeared to be dumb; and his wife was "in the straw." These
trifling drawbacks, however, in nowise detracted from the
hospitality offered. The dining-room was a large apartment
furnished with leaves, the uprights of cocoa-nut tree, the walls
and roof of pandanus leaf. Beneath the heaps of leaves, fresh
and sweet-scented, was the earth. The inner apartment, or
chamber of state, had a flooring of highly-polished planks, and
contained, I presume, the household gods; but as it was in
possession of my host's secluded spouse, I did not enter.

A couch upon a pile of leaves was hastily arranged, upon which I
was hidden to seat myself, while a freshly cut cocoa-nut of
enormous size was handed to me, the soft top sliced off so that I
might drink its deliciously cool contents. These nuts must grow
elsewhere, but I have never before or since seen any so large.
When green--that is, before the meat has hardened into
indigestible matter--they contain from three pints to two quarts
of liquid, at once nourishing, refreshing, and palatable. The
natives appeared to drink nothing else, and I never saw a drop of
fresh water ashore during our stay.

Taking a huge knife from some hiding-place, Irene handed it to
her father, who at once commenced to dig in the ground by his
side, while I looked on wondering and amused. Presently he
fished up a bundle of leaves bound with a vine-tendril, which he
laid carefully aside. More digging brought to light a fine yam
about three pounds in weight, which, after carefully wiping the
knife on some leaves, he proceeded to peel. It was immediately
evident that the yam was perfectly cooked, for it steamed as he
removed the skin, revealing the inside as white as milk. Some
large, round leaves were laid in front of me, and the yam placed
upon them. Then mine host turned his attention to the bundle
first unearthed, which concealed a chicken, so perfectly done
that, although the bones drew out of the meat as if it had been
jelly, it was full of juice and flavour; and except for a slight
foreign twang, referrible, doubtless, to the leaves in which it
had been enwrapped, I do not think it could have been possible to
cook anything in a better way, or one more calculated to retain
all the natural juices of the meat. The fowl was laid beside the
yam, another nut broached; then, handing me the big knife, my
"flem" bade me welcome, informing me that I saw my dinner. As
nothing would induce him to join me, the idea being contrary to
his notions of respect due to a guest, I was fain to fall to, and
an excellent meal I made. For dessert, a basketful of such
oranges freshly plucked as cannot be tasted under any other
conditions, and crimson bananas, which upon being peeled, looked
like curved truncheons of golden jelly, after tasting which I
refused to touch anything else.

A corn-cob cigarette closed the banquet, After expressing my
thanks, I noticed that the pain of his leg was giving my friend
considerable uneasiness, which he was stolidly enduring upon my
account rather than appear discourteously anxious to get rid of
me. So, with the excuse that I must needs be going, having
another appointment, I left the good fellow and strolled around
to the chapel, where I sat enjoying the sight of those simple-
minded Kanakas at their devotions till it was time to return on
board. Before closing this chapter, I would like, for the
benefit of such of my readers who have not heard yet of Kanaka
cookery, to say that it is simplicity itself. A hole is scooped
in the earth, in which a fire is made (of wood), and kept burning
until a fair-sized heap of glowing charcoal remains. Pebbles are
then thrown in until the charcoal is covered. Whatever is to be
cooked is enveloped in leaves, placed upon the pebbles, and more
leaves heaped upon it. The earth is then thrown back into the
cavity, and well stamped down. A long time is, of course, needed
for the viands to get cooked through; but so subtle is the mode
that overdoing anything is almost an impossibility. A couple of
days may pass from the time of "putting down" the joint, yet when
it is dug up it will be smoking hot, retaining all its juices,
tender as jelly, but, withal, as full of flavour as it is
possible for cooked meat to be. No matter how large the joint
is, or how tough the meat, this gentle suasion will render it
succulent and tasty; and no form of civilized cookery can in the
least compare with it.




Taking it all round, our visit to the Friendly Islands had not
been particularly fortunate up till the time of which I spoke at
the conclusion of the last chapter. Two-thirds of the period
during which the season was supposed to last had expired, but our
catch had not amounted to more than two hundred and fifty barrels
of oil. Whales had been undoubtedly scarce, for our ill-success
on tackling bulls was not at all in consequence of our
clumsiness, these agile animals being always a handful, but due
to the lack of cows, which drove us to take whatever we could
get, which, as has been noted, was sometimes a severe drubbing.
Energy and watchfulness had been manifested in a marked degree by
everybody, and when the news circulated that our stay was drawing
to a close, there was, if anything, an increase of zeal in the
hope that we might yet make a favourable season.

But none of these valuable qualities exhibited by us could make
up for the lack of "fish" which was lamentably evident. It was
not easy to understand why, because these islands were noted as a
breeding-place for the humpbacked whale. Yet for years they had
not been fished, so that a plausible explanation of the paucity
of their numbers as a consequence of much harassing could not be
reasonably offered. Still, after centuries of whale-fishing,
little is known of the real habits of whales, Where there is
abundance of "feed," in the case of MYSTICETA it may be
reasonably inferred that whales may be found in proportionately
greater numbers. With regard to the wider-spread classes of the
great marine mammalia, beyond the fact, ascertained from
continued observation, that certain parts of the ocean are more
favoured by them than others, there is absolutely no data to go
upon as to why at times they seem to desert their usual haunts
and scatter themselves far and wide.

The case of the cachalot is still more difficult. All the
BALAENAE seem to be compelled, by laws which we can only guess
at, to frequent the vicinity of land possessing shallows at their
breeding times, so that they may with more or less certainty be
looked for in such places at the seasons which have been
accurately fixed. They may be driven to seek other haunts, as
was undoubtedly the case at Vau Vau in a great measure, by some
causes unknown, but to land they must come at those times. The
sperm whale, however, needs no shelter at such periods, or, at
any rate, does not avail herself of any. They may often be seen
in the vicinity of land where the water is deep close to, but
seldom with calves. Schools of cows with recently born young
gambolling about them are met with at immense distances from
land, showing no disposition to seek shelter either. For my
part, I firmly believe that the cachalot is so terrible a foe,
that the great sharks who hover round a gravid cow of the
BALAENAE, driving her in terror to some shallow spot where she
may hope to protect her young, never dare to approach a sperm cow
on kidnapping errands, or any other if they can help it, until
their unerring guides inform them that life is extinct. When a
sperm whale is in health, nothing that inhabits the sea has any
chance with him; neither does he scruple to carry the war into
the enemy's country, since all is fish that comes to his net, and
a shark fifteen feet in length has been found in the stomach of a

The only exception he seems to make is in the case of man.
Instances have several--nay, many times occurred where men have
been slain by the jaws of a cachalot crushing the boat in which
they were; but their death was of course incidental to the
destruction of the boat. Never, as far as I have been able to
ascertain, has a cachalot attacked a man swimming or clinging to
a piece of wreckage, although such opportunities occur
innumerably. I have in another place told the story of how I
once saw a combat between a bull-cachalot and so powerful a
combination of enemies that even one knowing the fighting
qualities of the sperm whale would have hesitated to back him to
win, but the yarn will bear repetition.

Two "killers" and a sword-fish, all of the largest size.
Description of these warriors is superfluous, since they are so
well known to museums and natural histories; but unless one has
witnessed the charge of a XIPHIAS, he cannot realize what a
fearful foe it is. Still, as a practice, these creatures leave
the cachalot respectfully alone, knowing instinctively that he is
not their game. Upon this memorable occasion, however I guess
the two ORCAS were starving, and they had organized a sort of
forlorn hope with the XIPHIAS as an auxiliary who might be relied
upon to ensure success if it could be done. Anyhow, the
syndicate led off with their main force first; for while the two
killers hung on the cachalot's flanks, diverting his attention,
the sword-fish, a giant some sixteen feet long, launched himself
at the most vulnerable part of the whale, for all the world like
a Whitehead torpedo. The wary eye of the whale saw the long,
dark mass coming, and, like a practised pugilist, coolly swerved,
taking for the nonce no notice of those worrying wolves astern.
The shock came; but instead of the sword penetrating three, or
maybe four feet just where the neck (if a whale has any neck)
encloses the huge heart, it met the mighty, impenetrable mass of
the head, solid as a block of thirty tons of india-rubber.

So the blow glanced, revealing a white streak running diagonally
across the eye, while the great XIPHIAS rolled helplessly over
the top of that black bastion. With a motion so rapid that the
eye could scarcely follow it, the whale turned, settling withal,
and, catching the momentarily motionless aggressor in the lethal
sweep of those awful shears, crunched him in two halves, which
writhing sections he swallowed SERIATIM. And the allied forces
aft--what of them? Well, they had been rash--they fully realized
that fact, and would have fled, but one certainly found that he
had lingered on the scene too long. The thoroughly-roused
leviathan, with a reversal of his huge bulk that made the sea
boil like a pot, brandished his tail aloft and brought it down
upon the doomed "killer," making him at once the "killed." He
was crushed like a shrimp under one's heel.

The survivor fled--never faster--for an avalanche of living,
furious flesh was behind him, and coming with enormous leaps half
out of the sea every time. Thus they disappeared, but I have no
doubts as to the issue. Of one thing I am certain--that, if any
of the trio survived, they never afterwards attempted to rush a

Strange to say, the sperm whale does not appear to be a fond
mother. At the advent of danger she often deserts her offspring
and in such cases it is hardly conceivable that she ever finds it
again. It is true that she is not gifted with such long "arms"
as the BALAENAE wherewith to cuddle her young one to her
capacions bosom while making tracks from her enemies; nor is she
much "on the fight," not being so liberally furnished with jaw as
the fierce and much larger bull--for this is the only species of
whale in which there exists a great disproportion between the
sexes in point of size. Such difference as may obtain between
the MYSTICETA is slightly in favour of the female. I never heard
of a cow-cachalot yielding more than fifty barrels of oil; but I
have both heard of, and seen, bulls carrying one hundred and
fifty. One individual taken by us down south was seventy feet
long, and furnished us with more than the latter amount; but I
shall come to him by-and-by. Just one more point before leaving
this (to me) fascinating subject for the present.

To any one studying the peculiar configuration of a cachalot's
mouth, it would appear a difficult problem how the calf could
suck. Certainly it puzzled me more than a little. But, when on
the "line" grounds we got among a number of cows one calm day, I
saw a little fellow about fifteen feet long, apparently only a
few days old, in the very act. The mother lay on one side, with
the breast nearly at the waters edge; while the calf, lying
parallel to its parent, with its head in the same direction, held
the teat sideways in the angle of its jaw, with its snout
protruding from the surface. Although we caught several cow-
humpbacks with newly born calves, I never had an opportunity of
seeing THEM suck.

Gradually our pleasant days at Vau Vau drew to a close. So quiet
and idyllic had the life been, so full of simple joys, that most
of us, if not all, felt a pang at the thought of our imminent
departure from the beautiful place. Profitable, in a pecuniary
sense, the season had certainly failed to be, but that was the
merest trifle compared with the real happiness and peace enjoyed
during our stay. Even the terrible tragedy which had taken one
of our fellows from us could not spoil the actual enjoyment of
our visit, sad and touching as the event undoubtedly was. There
was always, too, a sufficiently arduous routine of necessary
duties to perform, preventing us from degenerating into mere
lotus eaters in that delicious afternoon-land. Nor even to me,
friendless nomad as I was, did the thought ever occur, "I will
return no more."

But these lovely days spent in softly gliding over the calm,
azure depths, bathed in golden sunlight, gazing dreamily down at
the indescribable beauties of the living reefs, feasting daintily
on abundance of never-cloying fruit, amid scenes of delight
hardly to be imagined by the cramped mind of the town dweller;
islands, air, and sea all shimmering in an enchanted haze, and
silence scarcely broken by the tender ripple of the gently-parted
waters before the boat's steady keel--though these joys have all
been lost to me, and I in "populous city pent" endure the fading
years, I would not barter the memory of them for more than I can
say, so sweet it is to me. And, then, our relations with the
natives had been so perfectly amicable, so free from anything to
regret. Perhaps this simple statement will raise a cynical smile
upon the lips of those who know Tahati, the New Hebrides, and
kindred spots with all their savage, bestial orgies of alternate
unbridled lust and unnamable cruelty. Let it be so. For my
part, I rejoice that I have no tale of weeks of drunkenness, of
brutal rape, treacherous murder, and almost unthinkable torture
to tell.

For of such is the paradise of the beach-comber, and the hell of
the clean man. Not that I have been able to escape it
altogether. When I say that I once shipped, unwittingly, as
sailing-master of a little white schooner in Noumea, bound to
Apia, finding when too late that she was a "blackbirder"--"labour
vessel," the wise it call--nothing more will be needed to
convince the initiated that I have moved in the "nine circles" of

Some time before the day fixed for our departure, we were busy
storing the gifts so liberally showered upon us by our eager
friends. Hundreds of bunches of bananas, many thousands of
oranges, yams, taro, chillies, fowls, and pigs were accumulated,
until the ship looked like a huge market-boat. But we could not
persuade any of the natives to ship with us to replace those
whoso contract was now expiring. Samuela and Polly were, after
much difficulty, prevailed upon by me to go with us to New
Zealand, much to my gratification; but still we were woefully
short-banded, At last, seeing that there was no help for it, the
skipper decided to run over to Futuna, or Horn Island, where he
felt certain of obtaining recruits without any trouble. He did
so most unwillingly, as may well be believed, for the newcomers
would need much training, while our present Kanaka auxiliaries
were the smartest men in the ship.

The slop-chest was largely drawn upon, to the credit of the crew,
who wished in some tangible way to show their appreciation of the
unremitting kindness shown them by their dusky friends. Not a
whisper had been uttered by any native as to desire of
remuneration for what he had given. If they expected a return,
they certainly exercised great control over themselves in keeping
their wishes quiet. But when they received the clothing, all
utterly unsuited to their requirements as it was, their beaming
faces eloquently proclaimed the reality of their joy. Heavy
woollen shirts, thick cloth trousers and jackets, knitted socks;
but acceptable beyond all was a pilot-suit--warm enough for the
Channel in winter. Happy above all power of expression was he
who secured it. With an eared cloth cap and a pair of half
boots, to complete his preposterous rig, no Bond Street exquisite
could feel more calmly conscious of being a well-dressed man than
he. From henceforth he would be the observed of all observers at
chapel on Sunday, exciting worldly desires and aspirations among
his cooler but coveting fellow-worshippers.

The ladies fared very badly, until the skipper, with a twinkling
eye, announced that he had "dug up" some rolls of "cloth"
(calico), which he was prepared to supply us with at reasonable
rates. Being of rather pretty pattern, it went off like hot
pies, and as the "fathoms" of gaudy, flimsy material were
distributed to the delighted fafines, their shrill cries of
gratitude were almost deafening.

Inexorable time brought round the morning of our departure.
Willing hands lifted our anchor, and hoisted the sails, so that
we had nothing to do but look on. A scarcely perceptible breeze,
stealing softly over the tree-tops, filled our upper canvas,
sparing us the labour of towing her out of the little bay where
we had lain so long, and gradually wafted us away from its lovely
shores, amid the fast-flowing tears of the great crowd. With
multitudinous cries of "Ofa, al-ofa, papalang" ringing in our
ears ("Good-bye; good-bye, white man"), we rounded the point,
and, with increasing pace, bore away through the outlying islands
for the open sea. There was a strong trade blowing, making the
old barky caper like a dancing-master, which long unfamiliar
motion almost disagreed with some of us, after our long quiet.
Under its hastening influence we made such good time that before
dinner Vau Vau had faded into nothingness, mingling like the
clouds with the soft haze on the horizon, from henceforth only a

We were not a very cheerful crowd that night, most of us being
busy with his own reflections. I must confess that I felt far
greater sorrow at leaving Vau Vau than ever I did at leaving
England; because by the time I was able to secure a berth, I have
usually drank pretty deep of the bitter cup of the "outward
bounder," than whom there is no more forlorn, miserable creature
on earth. No one but the much abused boarding-master will have
anything to do with him, and that worthy is generally careful to
let him know that he is but a hanger-on, a dependant on
sufferance for a meal, and that his presence on shore is an
outrage. As for the sailors' homes, I have hardly patience to
speak of them. I know the sailor is usually a big baby that
wants protecting against himself, and that once within the four
walls of the institution he is safe; but right there commendation
must end. Why are good folks ashore systematically misled into
the belief that the sailor is an object of charity, and that it
is necessary to subscribe continually and liberally to provide
him with food and shelter when ashore? Most of the contributors
would be surprised to know that the cost of board and lodging at
the "home" is precisely the same as it is outside, and much
higher than a landsman of the same grade can live for in better
style. With the exception of the sleeping accommodation, most
men prefer the boarding-house, where, if they preserve the same
commercial status which is a SINE QUA NON at the "home," they are
treated like gentlemen; but in what follows lies the essential
difference, and the reason for this outburst of mine, smothered
in silence for years. An "outward bounder"--that is, a man whose
money is exhausted and who is living upon the credit; of his
prospective advance of pay--is unknown at the "home." No matter
what the condition of things is in the shipping world; though the
man may have fought with energy to get his discharge accepted
among the crowd at the "chain-locker;" though he be footsore and
weary with "looking for a ship," when his money is done, out into
the street he must go, if haply he may find a speculative
boarding-master to receive him. This act, although most unlikely
in appearance, is often performed; and though the boarding-
master, of course, expects to recoup himself out of the man's
advance note, it is none the less as merciful as the action of
the "home" authorities is merciless. Of course a man may go to
the "straw house," or, as it is grandiloquently termed, the
"destitute seaman's asylum," where for a season he will be fed on
the refuse from the "home," and sheltered from the weather. But
the ungrateful rascals do not like the "straw house," and use
very bad language about it.

The galling thing about the whole affair is that the "sailors'
home" figures in certain official publications as a charity,
which must be partially supported by outside contributions. It
may be a charitable institution, but it certainly is not so to
the sailor, who pays fully for everything he receives. The
charity is bestowed upon a far different class of people to
merchant Jack. Let it be granted that a man is sober and
provident, always getting a ship before his money is all gone, he
will probably be well content at the home, although very few
seamen like to be reminded ashore of their sea routine, as the
manner of the home is. If the institution does not pay a
handsome dividend, with its clothing shops and refreshment bars,
as well as the boarding-house lousiness on such a large scale,
only one inference can be fairly drawn--there must be something
radically wrong with the management.

After this burst of temper, perhaps I had better get back to the
subject in hand. It was, I suppose, in the usual contrary nature
of things that, while we were all in this nearly helpless
condition, one evening just before sunset, along comes a sperm
whale. Now, the commonest prudence would have suggested letting
him severely alone, since we were not only short-handed, but
several of our crew were completely crippled by large boils; but
it would have been an unprecedented thing to do while there was
any room left in the hold. Consequently we mustered the halt and
the lame, and manned two boats--all we could do--leaving the
almost useless cripples to handle the ship. Not to displace the
rightful harpooner, I took an oar in one of them, headed by the

At first my hopes were high that we should not succeed in
reaching the victim before dark, but I was grievously
disappointed in this. Just as the whale was curving himself to
sound, we got fairly close, and the harpooner made a "pitch-pole"
dart; that is, he hurled his weapon into the air, where it
described a fine curve, and fell point downward on the animal's
back just as he was disappearing. He stopped his descent
immediately, and turned savagely to see what had struck him so
unexpectedly. At that moment the sun went down.

After the first few minutes' "kick-up," he settled down for a
steady run, but not before the mate got good and fast to him
likewise. Away we went at a rare rate into the gathering gloom
of the fast-coming night. Now, had it been about the time of
full moon or thereabouts, we should doubtless have been able, by
the flood of molten light she sends down in those latitudes, to
give a good account of our enemy; but alas for us, it was not.
The sky overhead was a deep blue-black, with steely sparkles of
starlight scattered all over it, only serving to accentuate the
darkness. After a short time our whale became totally invisible,
except for the phosphoric glare of the water all around him as he
steadily ploughed his way along. There was a good breeze
blowing, which soon caused us all to be drenched with the spray,
rendering the general effect of things cold as well as cheerless.
Needless to say, we strove with all our might to get alongside of
him, so that an end might be put to so unpleasant a state of
affairs; but in our crippled condition it was not at all easy to
do so.

We persevered, however, and at last managed to get near enough
for the skipper to hurl a lance into the brightness of which the
whale formed the centre. It must have touched him, for he gave a
bound forward and disappeared. We suddenly came to a standstill,
but in a moment were whirled round as if on a pivot, and away we
went in the opposite direction. He had turned a complete
somersault in the water beneath us, giving us a "grue" as we
reflected what would have happened had he then chosen to come
bounding to the surface. This manoeuvre seemed to please him
mightily, for he ran at top speed several minutes, and then
repeated it. This time he was nearly successful in doing us some
real harm, for it was now so dark that we could hardly see the
other boat's form as she towed along parallel to us about three
or four lengths away. The two boats swung round in a wide
circle, rushing back at each other out of the surrounding
darkness as if bent on mutual destruction. Only by the smartest
manipulation was a collision avoided, which, as each boat's bows
bristled with lances and harpoons, would have been a serious
matter for some of us. However, the whale did not have it all
his own way, for the skipper, having charged his bomb-gun,
patiently laid for him, and fired. It was rather a long shot,
but it reached him, as we afterwards ascertained, making an
ugly wound in the small near his tail.

Its effect upon him was startling and immediate. He rushed off at
so furious a rate dead to windward that for a great while we had
all our work cut out to keep her free by baling. The sea had
risen a little, and as we leapt from one wave to another the
spray flew over us in an almost continuous cloud. Clearly our
situation was a parlous one. We could not get near him; we were
becoming dangerously enfeebled, and he appeared to be gaining
strength instead of losing it. Besides all this, none of us
could have the least idea of how the ship now bore from us, our
only comfort being that, by observation of the Cross, we were
not making a direct course, but travelling on the circumference
of an immense circle. Whatever damage we had done to him so far
was evidently quite superficial, for, accustomed as we were to
tremendous displays of vigour on the part of these creatures,
this specimen fairly surprised us.

The time could only be guessed at; but, judging from our
feelings, it might have been two or three nights long. Still, to
all things an end, so in the midst of our dogged endurance of all
this misery we felt the pace give, and took heart of grace
immediately. Calling up all our reserves, we hauled up on to
him, regardless of pain or weariness. The skipper and mate lost
no opportunities of lancing, once they were alongside, but worked
like heroes, until a final plunging of the fast-dying leviathan
warned us to retreat. Up he went out of the glittering foam into
the upper darkness, while we held our breath at the unique sight
of a whale breaching at night. But when he fell again the effect
was marvellous. Green columns of water arose on either side of
the descending mass as if from the bowels of the deep, while
their ghostly glare lit up the encircling gloom with a strange,
weird radiance, which reflected in our anxious faces, made us
look like an expedition from the FLYING DUTCHMAN. A short spell
of gradually quieting struggle succeeded as the great beast
succumbed, until all was still again, except the strange, low
surge made by the waves as they broke over the bank of flesh
passively obstructing their free sweep.

While the final touch was being given to our task--i.e. the
hole-boring through the tail-fin--all hands lay around in various
picturesque attitudes, enjoying a refreshing smoke, care
forgetting. While thus pleasantly employed, sudden death, like a
bolt from the blue, leapt into our midst in a terrible form. The
skipper was labouring hard at his task of cutting the hole for
the tow-line, when without warning the great fin swung back as if
suddenly released from tremendous tension. Happily for us, the
force of the blow was broken by its direction, as it struck the
water before reaching the boat's side, but the upper lobe hurled
the boat-spade from the captain's hands back into our midst,
where it struck the tub oarsman, splitting his head in two
halves. The horror of the tragedy, the enveloping darkness, the
inexplicable revivifying of the monster, which we could not have
doubted to be dead, all combined to stupefy and paralyze us for
the time. Not a sound was heard in our boat, though the yells of
inquiry from our companion craft arose in increasing volume. It
was but a brief accession of energy, only lasting two or three
minutes, when the whale collapsed finally. Having recovered from
our surprise, we took no further chances with so dangerous an
opponent, but bored him as full of holes as a colander.

Mournful and miserable were the remaining hours of our vigil. We
sat around poor Miguel's corpse with unutterable feelings,
recalling all the tragical events of the voyage, until we reached
the nadir of despondency. With the rosy light of morning came
more cheerful feelings, heightened by the close proximity of the
ship, from which it is probable we had never been more than ten
miles distant during the whole night. She had sighted us with
the first light, and made all sail down to us, all hands much
relieved at our safety. We were so sorely exhausted that we
could hardly climb on board; and how we hoisted the boats I
hardly know. The whale was secured by the efforts of the
cripples we had left on board, while we wayfarers, after a good
meal, were allowed four hours' sound, sweet sleep.

When we returned to our duties, the first thing that awaited us
was the burial of the poor body. Very reverently were the last
sad offices performed, the flag hoisted half-mast, the bell
solemnly tolled. Then we gathered at the gangway while the
eternal words of hope and consolation were falteringly read, and
with a sudden plunge the long, straight parcel slid off the hatch
into the vast tomb ever ready for the dead sailor.

Our dead out of sight, work claimed all our attention and energy,
wiping with its benificent influence all gloomy musings over the
inevitable, and replacing them with the pressing needs of life.
The whale was not a large one, but peculiar to look at. Like the
specimen that fought so fiercely with us in the Indian Ocean, its
jaw was twisted round in a sort of hook, the part that curved
being so thickly covered with long barnacles as to give the
monster a most eerie look. One of the Portuguese expressed his
decided opinion that we had caught Davy Jones himself, and that,
in consequence, we should have no more accidents. It was
impossible not to sympathize with the conceit, for of all the
queer-looking monstrosities ever seen, this latest acquisition of
ours would have taken high honours. Such malformations of the
lower mandible of the cachalot have often been met with, and
variously explained; but the most plausible opinion seems to be
that they have been acquired when the animal is very young and
its bones not yet indurated, since it is impossible to believe
that an adult could suffer such an accident without the broken
jaw drooping instead of being turned on one side.

The yield of oil was distressingly scanty, the whale being what
is technically known as a "dry skin." The blubber was so hard
and tough that we could hardly cut it up for boiling, and
altogether it was one of the most disappointing affairs we had
yet dealt with. This poorness of blubber was, to my mind,
undoubtedly due to the difficulty the animal must have had in
obtaining food with his disabling defect of jaw. Whatever it
was, we were heartily glad to see the last of the beast,
fervently hoping we should never meet with another like him.

During the progress of these melancholy operations we had drifted
a considerable distance out of our course, no attention being
paid, as usual, to the direction of our drift until the greasy
work was done. Once the mess was cleared away, we hauled up
again for our objective--Futuna--which, as it was but a few
hours' sail distant, we hoped to make the next day.




Sure enough, in accordance with our expectations, break of day
revealed the twin masses of Futuna ahead, some ten or fifteen
miles away. With the fine, steady breeze blowing, by breakfast-
time we were off the entrance to a pretty bight, where sail was
shortened and the ship hove-to. Captain Count did not intend to
anchor, for reasons of his own, he being assured that there was
no need to do so. Nor was there. Although the distance from the
beach was considerable, we could see numbers of canoes putting
off, and soon they began to arrive. Now, some of the South Sea
Islands are famous for the elegance and seaworthiness of their
canoes; nearly all of them have a distinctly definite style of
canoe-building; but here at Futuna was a bewildering collection
of almost every type of canoe in the wide world. Dugouts, with
outriggers on one side, on both sides, with none at all; canoes
built like boats, like prams, like irregular egg-boxes, many
looking like the first boyish attempt to knock something together
that would float; and--not to unduly prolong the list by
attempted classification of these unclassed craft--CORACLES.
Yes; in that lonely Pacific island, among that motley crowd of
floating nondescripts, were specimens of the ancient coracle of
our own islands, constructed in exactly the same way; that is, of
wicker-work, covered with some waterproof substance, whether skin
or tarpaulin. But the ingenious Kanaka, not content with his
coracles, had gone one better, and copied them in dugouts of
solid timber. The resultant vessel was a sort of cross between a
butcher's tray and a wash-basin--

"A thing beyond
Conception: such a wretched wherry,
Perhaps ne'er ventured on a pond,
Or crossed a ferry."

The proud possessors of the coracles, both wicker and wood, must
have been poor indeed, for they did not even own a paddle,
propelling their basins through the water with their hands. It
may be imagined what a pace they put on! At a little distance
they were very puzzling, looking more like a water-beetle grown
fat and lazy than aught else.

And so, in everything floatable, the whole male population of
that part of the coast came to visit us. We were speedily the
centre of a great crowd of canoes, some of which were continually
capsizing and spilling their occupants, who took no more notice
of such incidents than one would of a sneeze. Underneath a
canoe, or on top, made but little difference to these amphibious
creatures. They brought nothing with them to trade; in fact, few
of their vessels were capable of carrying anything that could not
swim and take care of itself. As they came on board, each crossed
himself more or less devoutly, revealing the teaching of a Roman
Catholic mission; and as they called to one another, it was not
hard to recognize, even in their native garb, such names as
Erreneo (Irenaeus), Al'seo (Aloysius), and other favourite
cognomens of saints.

A laughing chattering good-tempered crowd they were--just like a
bevy of children breaking up, and apparently destitute of the
slightest sense of responsibility. They spoke a totally different
dialect, or maybe language, to that of Vau Vau, for it was only
an isolated word here and there that Samuela could make out. But
presently, going forward through the crowd that thronged every
part of the deck, I saw a man leaning nonchalantly against the
rail by the fore-rigging, who struck me at once as being an
American negro. The most casual observer would not have mistaken
him for a Kanaka of those latitudes, though he might have passed
as a Papuan. He was dressed in all the dignity of a woollen
shirt, with a piece of fine "tapa" for a waistcloth, feet and
legs bare. Around his neck was a necklace composed of a number
of strings of blue and white beads plaited up neatly, and
carrying as a pendant a George shilling. Going up to him, I
looked at the coin, and said, "Belitani money?" "Oh yes," he
said, "that's a shilling of old Georgey Fourf," in perfectly good
English, but with an accent which quite confirmed my first idea.
I at once invited him aft to see the skipper, who was very
anxious to find an interpreter among the noisy crowd, besides
being somewhat uneasy at having so large a number on board.

To the captain's interrogations he replied that he was "Tui
Tongoa"--that is, King of Tonga, an island a little distance
away--but that he was at present under a cloud, owing to the
success of a usurper, whom he would reckon with by-and-by.

In the mean time he would have no objection to engaging himself
with us as a harpooner, and would get us as many men as we
wanted, selecting from among the crowd on board, fellows that
would, he knew, be useful to us.

A bargain was soon struck, and Tui entered upon his self-imposed
task. It was immediately evident that he had a bigger contract
on hand than he had imagined. The natives, who had previously
held somewhat aloof from him in a kind of deferential respect, no
sooner got wind of the fact that we needed some of them than they
were seized with a perfect frenzy of excitement. There were, I
should think, at least a hundred and fifty of them on board at
the time. Of this crowd, every member wanted to he selected,
pushing his candidature with voice and gesture as vigorously as
he knew how. The din was frightful. Tui, centre of the frantic
mob, strove vainly to make himself beard, to reduce the chaos to
some sort of order, but for a great while it was a hopeless
attempt. At last, extricating himself from his importunate
friends, he gained the captain's side. Panting, almost
breathless, with sweat streaming off him, he gasped out, "Oh,
cap'n, dese yer darn niggers all gone mad! Dribe 'em oberbord;
clar 'em out, 'n I'll stan' by to grab some o' der likely ones as
de res' scatter." "But what about the wages?" said the skipper.
"I'm not goin' ter give 'em whatever they like to ask." " You
leab it ter me, cap'n. I bet you'll be satisfy. Anyhow,
dishyers no time fer tradin'; de blame niggers all off dere coco-
nuts. Anybody fink you'se payin' off 'stead o' shippin', an'
deyse all afraid dey won't get 'nough."

Unpleasant as the job was to all of us, it had to be done; so we
armed ourselves with ropes'-ends, which we flourished
threateningly, avoiding where possible any actual blows. Many
sprang overboard at once, finding their way ashore or to their
canoes as best they could. The majority, however, had to swim,
for we now noticed that, either in haste or from carelessness,
they had in most cases omitted to fasten their canoes securely
when coming alongside, so that many of them were now far out to
sea. The distance to shore being under three miles, that
mattered little, as far as their personal safety was concerned.

This summary treatment was eminently successful, quiet being
rapidly restored, so that Tui was able to select a dozen men, who
he declared were the best in the islands for our purpose.
Although it seems somewhat premature to say so, the general
conduct of the successful candidates was so good as to justify
Tui fully in his eulogium. Perhaps his presence had something to
do with it?

We now had all that we came for, so that we were anxious to be
off. But it was a job to get rid of the visitors still remaining
on board. They stowed themselves away in all manner of corners,
in some cases ludicrously inadequate as hiding-places, and it was
not until we were nearly five miles from the land that the last
of them plunged into the sea and struck out for home. It was
very queer. Ignorant of our destination, of what would be
required of them; leaving a land of ease and plenty for a
certainty of short commons and hard work, without preparation or
farewells, I do not think I ever heard of such a strange thing
before. Had their home been famine or plague-stricken, they
could not have evinced greater eagerness to leave it, or to face
the great unknown.

As we drew farther off the island the wind freshened, until we
had a good, whole-sail breeze blustering behind us, the old ship
making, with her usual generous fuss, a tremendous rate of seven
knots an hour. Our course was shaped for the southward, towards
the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. In that favourite haunt of the
South-seaman we were to wood and water, find letters from home
(those who had one), and prepare for the stormy south.

Obviously the first thing to be done for our new shipmates was to
clothe them. When they arrived on board, all, with the single
exception of Tui, were furnished only with a "maro" of "tapa,"
scanty in its proportions, but still enough to wrap round their
loins. But when they were accepted for the vacant positions on
board, they cast off even the slight apology for clothing which
they had worn, flinging the poor rags to their retreating and
rejected compatriots. Thus they were strutting about, in native
majesty unclad, which, of course, could not be endured among even
so unconventional a crowd as we were. So they were mustered aft,
and, to their extravagant delight, a complete rig-out was handed
to each of them, accompanied by graphic instructions how to dress
themselves. Very queer they looked when dressed, but queerer
still not long afterwards, when some of them, galled by the
unaccustomed restraint of the trousers, were seen prowling about
with shirts tied round their waists by the sleeves, and pants
twisted turban-wise about their heads. Tui was called, and
requested to inform them that they must dress properly, after the
fashion of the white man, for that any impromptu improvements
upon our method of clothes-wearing could not be permitted. As
they were gentle, tractable fellows, they readily obeyed, and,
though they must have suffered considerably, there were no
further grounds for complaint on the score of dress.

It has been already noticed that they were Roman Catholics--all
except Tui, who from his superior mental elevation looked down
upon their beliefs with calm contempt, although really a greater
heathen than any of them had ever been. It was quite pathetic to
see how earnestly they endeavoured to maintain the form of
worship to which they had been accustomed, though how they
managed without their priest, I could not find out. Every
evening they had prayers together, accompanied by many crossings
and genuflexions, and wound up by the singing of a hymn in such
queer Latin that it was almost unrecognizable. After much
wondering I did manage to make out "O Salutaris Hostia!" and
"Tantum Ergo," but not until their queer pronunciation of
consonants had become familiar. Some of the hymns were in their
own tongue, only one of which I call now remember. Phonetically,
it ran thus--

"Mah-lee-ah, Kollyeea leekee;
Obselloh mo mallamah.
Alofah, keea ma toh;
Fah na oh, Mah lah ee ah"--

which I understood to be a native rendering of "O Stella Maris!"
It was sung to the well-known "Processional" in good time, and on
that account, I suppose, fixed itself in my memory.

Whenever any of them were ordered aloft, they never failed to
cross themselves before taking to the rigging, as if impressed
with a sense of their chance of not returning again in safety.
To me was given the congenial task of teaching them the duties
required, and I am bound to admit that they were willing,
biddable, and cheerful learners. Another amiable trait in their
characters was especially noticeable: they always held
everything in common. No matter how small the portion received
by any one, it was scrupulously shared with the others who
lacked, and this subdivision was often carried to ludicrous

As there was so reason to hurry south, we, took a short cruise on
the Vasquez ground, more, I think, for the purpose of training
our recruits than anything else. As far as the results to our
profit were concerned, we might almost as well have gone straight
on, for we only took one small cow-cachalot. But the time spent
thus cruising was by no means wasted. Before we left finally for
New Zealand, every one of those Kanakas was as much at home in
the whale-boats as he would have been in a canoe. Of course they
were greatly helped by their entire familiarity with the water,
which took from them all that dread of being drowned which
hampers the white "greenie" so sorely, besides which, the
absolute confidence they had in our prowess amongst the whales
freed them from any fear on that head.

Tui proved himself to be a smart harpooner, and was chosen for
the captain's boat. During our conversations, I was secretly
amused to hear him allude to himself as Sam, thinking how little
it accorded with his SOI-DISANT Kanaka origin. He often regaled
me with accounts of his royal struggles to maintain his rule, all
of which narrations I received with a goodly amount of reserve,
though confirmed in some particulars by the Kanakas, when I
became able to converse with them. But I was hardly prepared to
find, as I did many years after, upon looking up some detail in
Findlay's "South Pacific Directory," this worthy alluded to as
"the celebrated Sam," in a brief account of Futuna. There he was
said to be king of the twin isles; so I suppose he found means to
oust his rival, and resume his sovereignty; though, how an
American negro, as Sam undoubtedly was, ever managed to gain such
a position, remains to me an unfathomable mystery. Certainly he
did not reveal any such masterful attributes as one would have
expected in him, while he served as harpooner on board the

Gradually we crept south, until one morning we sighted the
towering mass of Sunday Island, the principal member of the small
Kermadec group, which lies nearly on the prime meridian of one
hundred and eighty degrees, and but a short distance north of the
extremity of New Zealand. We had long ago finished the last of
our fresh provisions, fish had been very scarce, so the captain
seized the opportunity to give us a run ashore, and at the same
time instructed us to do such foraging as we could. It was
rumoured that there were many wild pigs to be found, and
certainly abundance of goats; but if both these sources of supply
failed, we could fall back on fish, of which we were almost sure
to get a good haul.

The island is a stupendous mass of rock, rising sheer from the
waves, in some places to a height of fifteen hundred feet. These
towering cliffs are clothed with verdure, large trees clinging to
their precipitous sides in a marvellous way. Except at one small
bight, known as Denham Bay, the place is inaccessible, not only
from the steepness of its cliffs, but because, owing to its
position, the gigantic swell of the South Pacific assails those
immense bastions with a force and volume that would destroy
instantly any vessel that unfortunately ventured too near.
Denham Bay, however, is in some measure protected by reefs of
scattered boulders, which break the greatest volume of the
oncoming rollers. Within those protecting barriers, with certain
winds, it is possible to effect a landing with caution; but even
then no tyro in boat-handling should venture to do so, as the
experiment would almost certainly be fatal to boat and crew.

We hove-to off the little bay, the waters of which looked placid
enough for a pleasure-party, lowered two boats well furnished
with fishing gear and such other equipment as we thought would be
needed, and pulled away for the landing-place. As we drew near
the beach, we found that, in spite of the hindrance to the ocean
swell afforded by the reefs, it broke upon the beach in rollers
of immense size. In order to avoid any mishap, then, we turned
the boats' heads to seaward, and gently backed towards the beach,
until a larger breaker than usual came thundering in. As it
rushed towards us, we pulled lustily to meet it, the lovely craft
rising to its foaming crest like sea-birds. Then, as soon as we
were on its outer slope, we reversed the stroke again, coming in
on its mighty shoulders at racing speed. The instant our keels
touched the beach we all leapt out, and exerting every ounce of
strength we possessed, ran the boats up high and dry before the
next roller had time to do more than hiss harmlessly around our
feet. It was a task of uncommon difficulty, for the shore was
wholly composed of loose lava and pumice-stone grit, into which
we sank ankle-deep at every step, besides being exceedingly

We managed, however, to escape without any mishap, for the
drenching was a boon to our burnt-up skins. Off we started along
the level land, which, as far as I could judge, extended inland
for perhaps a mile and a half by about two miles wide. From this
flat shelf the cliffs rose perpendicularly, as they did from the
sea. Up their sides were innumerable goat-tracks, upon some of
which we could descry a few of those agile creatures climbing
almost like flies. The plateau was thickly wooded, many of the
trees having been fruit-bearing once, but now, much to our
disappointment, barren from neglect.

A ruined house, surrounded by other vestiges of what had once
been a homestead, stood in the middle of this piece of land.
Feeling curious to know what the history of this isolated
settlement might be, I asked the mate if he knew anything of it.
He told me that an American named Halstead, with his family,
lived here for years, visited only by an occasional whaler, to
whom they sold such produce as they might have and be able to
spare at the time. What their previous history had been, or why
they thus chose to cut themselves off from the world, he did not
know; but they seemed contented enough with their tiny kingdom,
nor had any wish to leave it. But it came to pass that one night
they felt the sure and firm-set earth trembling convulsively
beneath their feet. Rushing out of their house, they saw the
heavens bespread with an awful pall of smoke, the under-side of
which was glowing with the reflected fires of some vast furnace.
Their terror was increased by a smart shower of falling ashes and
the reverberations of subterranean thunders. At first they
thought of flight in their boat, not reckoning the wide stretch
of sea which rolled between them and the nearest land, but the
height and frequency of the breakers then prevailing made that

Their situation was pitiable in the extreme. During the years of
peace and serenity they had spent here, no thought of the
insecurity of their tenure had troubled them. Though they had
but been dwellers on the threshold of the mountain, as it were,
and any extension of their territory impossible by reason of the
insurmountable barrier around them, they had led an untroubled
life, all unknowing of the fearful forces beneath their feet.
But now they found the foundations of the rocks beneath breaking
up; that withering, incessant shower of ashes and scoriae
destroyed all their crops; the mild and delicate air changed into
a heavy, sulphurous miasma; while overhead the beneficent face of
the bright-blue sky had become a horrible canopy of deadly black,
about which played lurid coruscations of infernal fires.

What they endured throughout those days and nights of woe, could
never be told. They fled from the home they had reared with such
abundance of loving labour, taking refuge in a cave; for not even
the knowledge that the mountain itself seemed to be in the throes
of dissolution could entirely destroy their trust in those
apparently eternal fastnesses. Here their eldest son died,
worried to death by incessant terror. At last a passing whaler,
remembering them and seeing the condition of things, had the
humanity and courage to stand in near enough to see their
agonized signals of distress. All of them, except the son buried
but a day or two before, were safely received and carried away,
leaving the terrible mountain to its solitude.

As I listened, I almost involuntarily cast my eyes upwards; nor
was I at all surprised to see far overhead a solitary patch of
smoky cloud, which I believe to have been a sure indication that
the volcano was still liable to commence operations at any time.

So far, we had not happened upon any pigs, or goats either,
although we saw many indications of the latter odoriferous
animal. There were few sea-birds to be seen, but in and out
among the dense undergrowth ran many short-legged brown birds,
something like a partridge--the same, I believe, as we afterwards
became familiar with in Stewart's Island by the name of "Maori
hens." They were so tame and inquisitive that we had no
difficulty in securing a few by the simple process of knocking
them over with sticks. From the main branch of a large tree hung
a big honey-comb, out of which the honey was draining upon the
earth. Around it buzzed a busy concourse of bees, who appeared
to us so formidable that we decided to leave them to the
enjoyment of their sweet store, in case we should invite an

So far, our rambling had revealed nothing of any service to us;
but just then, struck by the appearance of a plant which was
growing profusely in a glade we were passing over, I made bold to
taste one of the leaves. What the botanical name of the
vegetable is, I do not know; but, under the designation of "Maori
cabbage," it is well known in New Zealand. It looks like a
lettuce, running to seed; but it tastes exactly like young
turnip-tops, and is a splendid anti-scorbutic. What its discovery
meant to us, I can hardly convey to any one who does not know
what an insatiable craving for potatoes and green vegetables
possesses seamen when they have for long been deprived of these
humble but necessary articles of food. Under the circumstances,
no "find" could have given us greater pleasure--that is, in the
food line--than this did.

Taking it all round, however, the place as a foraging ground was
not a success. We chased a goat of very large size, and beard
voluminous as a Rabbi's, into a cave, which may have been the one
the Halsteads took shelter in, for we saw no other. One of the
Kanakas volunteered to go in after him with a line, and did so.
The resultant encounter was the best bit of fun we had had for
many a day. After a period of darksome scuffling within, the
entangled pair emerged, fiercely wrestling, Billy being to all
appearance much the fresher of the two. Fair play seemed to
demand that we should let them fight it out; but, sad to say, the
other Kanakas could not see things in that light, and Billy was
soon despatched. Rather needless killing, too; for no one,
except at starvation-point, could have eaten the poor remains of
leathery flesh that still decorated that weather-beaten frame.

But this sort of thing was tiring and unprofitable. The interest
of the place soon fizzled out, when it was found there was so
little worth taking away; so, as the day was getting on, it was
decided to launch off and start fishing. In a few minutes we
were afloat again, and anchored, in about four fathoms, in as
favourable a spot for our sport as ever I saw. Fish swarmed
about us of many sorts, but principally of the "kauwhai," a kind
of mullet very plentiful about Auckland, and averaging five or
six pounds. Much to my annoyance, we had not been able to get
any bait, except a bit of raw salt-pork, which hardly any fish
but the shark tribe will look at. Had I known or thought of it,
a bit of goat would have been far more attractive.

However, as there was no help for it, we baited up and started.
"Nary nibble ermong 'em!" growled Sam, as we sat impatiently
waiting for a bite. When we hauled up to see what was wrong,
fish followed the hook up in hundreds, letting us know plainly as
possible that they only wanted something tasty. It was
outrageous, exasperating beyond measure! At last Samuela grew so
tired of it that he seized his harpoon, and hurled it into the
middle of a company of kauwhai that were calmly nosing around the
bows. By the merest chance he managed to impale one of them upon
the broad point. It was hardly in the boat before I had seized
it, scaled it, and cut it into neat little blocks. All hands
rebaited with it, and flung out again. The change was
astounding. Up they came, two at a time, dozens and dozens of
them kauwhai, cavalle, yellow-tail, schnapper--lovely fish of
delicious flavour and goodly size. Then one of us got a fish
which made him yell, "Shark! shark!" with all his might. He had
a small line of American cotton, staunch as copper wire, but
dreadfully cutting to the hands. When he took a turn round the
logger-head, the friction of the running line cut right into the
white oak, but the wonderful cord and hook still held their own.
At last the monster yielded, coming in at first inch by inch,
then more rapidly, till raised in triumph above the gunwhale--a
yellow-tail six feet long. I have caught this splendid fish
(ELAGATIS BIPINNULATIS) many times before and since then, but
never did I see such a grand specimen as this one--no, not by
thirty or forty pounds. Then I got a giant cavalle. His broad,
shield-like body blazed hither and thither as I struggled to ship
him, but it was long ere he gave in to superior strength and
excellence of line and hook.

Meanwhile, the others had been steadily increasing our cargo,
until, feeling that we had quite as much fish as would suffice
us, besides being really a good load, I suggested a move towards
the ship. We were laying within about half a mile of the shore,
where the extremity of the level land reached the cliffs. Up one
of the well-worn tracks a fine, fat goat was slowly creeping,
stopping every now and then to browse upon the short herbage that
clung to the crevices of the rock. Without saying a word, Polly
the Kanaka slipped over the side, and struck out with swift
overhead strokes for the foot of the cliff. As soon as I saw
what, he was after, I shouted loudly for him to return, but he
either could not or would not hear me. The fellow's seal-like
ability as a swimmer was, of course, well known to me, but I must
confess I trembled for his life in such a weltering whirl of
rock-torn sea as boiled among the crags at the base of that
precipice. He, however, evidently knew what he was going to do,
and, though taking risks which would have certainly been fatal to
an ordinary swimmer, was quite unafraid of the result.

We all watched him breathlessly as he apparently headed straight
for the biggest outlying rock--a square, black boulder about the
size of an ordinary railway car. He came up to it on the summit
of a foaming wave; but just as I looked for him to be dashed to
pieces against its adamantine sides, he threw his legs into the
air and disappeared. A stealthy, satisfied smile glowed upon
Samuela's rugged visage, and, as he caught my eye, he said
jauntily, "Polly savee too much. Lookee him come on top one
time!" I looked, and sure enough there was the daring villain
crawling up among the kelp far out of reach of the hungry
rollers. It was a marvellous exhibition of coolness and skill.

Without waiting an instant, he began to stalk the goat, dodging
amongst the bushes with feet that clung to the steep sides of
the cliff as well as the animal's. Before he could reach her,
she had winded him, and was off up the track. He followed,
without further attempt to hide himself; but, despite his vigour
and ability, would, I fancy, have stood a microscopic chance of
catching her had she not been heavy with kid. As it was, he had
all his work cut out for him. When he did catch her, she made so
fierce it struggle for life and liberty that, in the endeavour to
hold her, he missed his insecure foothold, and the pair came
tumbling over and over down the cliff in a miniature avalanche of
stones and dust. At the bottom they both lay quiet for a time;
while I anxiously waited, fearing the rash fool was seriously
injured; but in a minute or two he was on his feet again.

Lashing the goat to his body, and ignoring her struggles, he
crawled out as far among the rocks as he could; then, at the
approach of a big breaker, he dived to meet it, coming up outside
its threatening top like a life-buoy. I pulled in, as near as I
could venture, to pick him up, and in a few minutes had him
safely on board again, but suffering fearfully. In his roll down
the cliff he had been without his trousers, which would have been
some protection to him. Consequently, his thighs were deeply cut
and torn in many places, while the brine entering so many wounds,
though a grand styptic, must have tortured him unspeakably. At
any rate, though he was a regular stoic to bear pain, he fainted
while I was "dressing him down" in the most vigorous language I
could command for his foolhardy trick. Then we all realized what
he must be going through, and felt that he was getting all the
punishment he deserved, and more. The goat, poor thing! seemed
none the worse for her rough handling.

The mate gave the signal to get back on board just as Polly
revived, so there were no inconvenient questions asked, and we
returned alongside in triumph, with such a cargo of fish as would
have given us a good month's pay all round could we have landed
them at Billingsgate. Although the mate had not succeeded as
well as we, the catch of the two boats aggregated half a ton, not
a fish among the lot less than five pounds weight, and one of a
hundred and twenty--the yellow-tail aforesaid. As soon as we
reached the ship, the boats were run up, sails filled, and away
we lumbered again towards New Zealand.

As the great mass of that solitary mountain faded away in the
gathering shades of evening, it was impossible to help
remembering the sufferings of that afflicted family, confined to
those trembling, sulphurous, ash-bestrewn rocks, amid gloom by
day, and unnatural glare by night, for all that weary while. And
while I admit that there is to some people a charm in being alone
with nature, it is altogether another thing when your solitude
becomes compulsory, your paradise a prison from which you cannot
break away. There are many such nooks scattered about the ocean,
where men have hidden themselves away from the busy world, and
been forgotten by it; but few of them, I fancy, offer such
potentialities of terror as Sunday Island.

We had hardly lost sight of the land, when Polly's capture gave
birth to a kid. This event was the most interesting thing that
had happened on board for a great while, and the funny little
visitor would have run great risk of being completely spoiled had
he lived. But, to our universal sorrow, the mother's milk failed
--from want of green food, I suppose--and we were obliged to kill
the poor little chap to save him from being starved to death. He
made a savoury mess for some whose appetite for flesh-meat was
stronger than any sentimental considerations.

To an ordinary trader, the distance between the Kermadecs and the
Bay of Islands, New Zealand, roughly represents a couple of days'
sail; but to us, who were apparently incapable of hurry under any
circumstances, it meant a good week's bludgeoning the protesting
waves before the grim outliers of the Three Kings came into view.
Even then, although the distance was a mere bagatelle, it was
another two days before we arrived off that magnificent harbour
where reposes the oldest township in New Zealand--Russell, where
rest the mortal remains of the first really Pakeha Maori, but
which, for some unaccountable reason, is still left undeveloped
and neglected, visited only by the wandering whalers (in ever-
decreasing numbers) and an occasional trim, business-like, and
gentlemanly man-o'-war, that, like a Guardsman strolling the West
End in mufti, stalks the sea with never an item of her smart rig
deviating by a shade from its proper set or sheer.




In a comparative new colony like New Zealand, where the
marvellous growth of the young state can be traced within living
memory, from the privations of the pioneer to the fully developed
city with all the machinery of our latest luxurious civilization,
it is exceedingly interesting to note how the principal towns
have sprung up arbitrarily, and without any heed to the
intentions of the ruling powers. The old-fashioned township of
Kororarika, or Port Russell, is a case very much in point. As we
sailed in between the many islets from which the magnificent bay
takes its name, for all appearances to the contrary, we might
have been the first, discoverers. Not a house, not a sail, not a
boat, broke the loneliness and primeval look of the placid waters
and the adjacent shores. Not until we drew near the anchorage,
and saw upon opening up the little town the straight-standing
masts of three whale-ships, did anything appear to dispel the
intense air of solitude overhanging the whole. As we drew
nearer, and rounded-to for mooring, I looked expectantly for some
sign of enterprise on the part of the inhabitants--some
tradesman's boat soliciting orders; some of the population on the
beach (there was no sign of a pier), watching the visitor come to
an anchor. Not a bit of it. The whole place seemed a maritime
sleepy hollow, the dwellers in which had lost all interest in
life, and had become far less energetic than the much-maligned
Kanakas in their dreamy isles of summer.

Yet this was once intended for the capital of New Zealand. When
the large and splendidly-built city of Dunedin, Otago, was a
barren bush, haunted only by the "morepork" and the apteryx,
Russell was humming with vitality, her harbour busy with fleets
of ships, principally whalers, who found it the most convenient
calling-place in the southern temperate zone. Terrible scenes
were enacted about its "blackguard beach," orgies of wild
debauchery and bloodshed indulged in by the half-savage and
utterly lawless crews of the whaleships. But it never attained
to any real importance. As a port of call for whalers, it
enjoyed a certain kind of prosperity; but when the South Sea
fishery dwindled, Russell shrank in immediate sympathy. It never
had any vitality of its own, no manufactures or products, unless
the wretched coalmines adjacent, with their dirty output, which
is scoffed at by the grimiest tug afloat, could be dignified by
the name.

Remembering, as I did, the beauty, the energy, and prosperity of
the great New Zealand ports, some of them with not a tithe of the
natural advantages of Russell, I felt amazed, almost indignant,
at its dead-and-alive appearance.

Our anchor was no sooner down than the captains of the JAMES
ARNOLD, MATILDA SAYER, and CORAL lowered and came on board, eager
to hear or to tell such news as was going. As we had now grown
to expect, all work was over immediately the sails were fast and
decks cleared up, so that we were free to entertain our visitors.
And a high old time we had of it that afternoon! What with
songs, dances, and yarns, the hours flew by with lightning speed.
Our Kanakas, too, were overjoyed to find compatriots among the
visitors, and settled down to a steady stream of talk which
lasted, without intermission, the whole night through. It was a
wonderful exhibition of tongue-wagging, though what it was all
about puzzled me greatly.

Life on board those three ships, though described in glowing
terms by the visitors, was evidently not to be mentioned for
comfort in the same breath as ours. But we found that our late
captain's fame as a "hard citizen" was well known to all; so that
it is only ordinary justice to suppose that such a life as he led
us was exceptional for even a Yankee spouter. Our friends gave
us a blood-curdling account of the Solander whaling ground, which
we were about to visit, the JAMES ARNOLD and CORAL having spent a
season there that cruise. I did not, however, pay much attention
to their yarns, feeling sure that, even if they were fact, it
would not help to brood over coming hardships, and inclined to
give liberal discount to most of their statements. The incessant
chatter, got wearisome at last, and I, for one, was not sorry
when, at two in the morning, our visitors departed to their
several ships, and left us to get what sleep still remained left
to us.

A pleasant expedition was planned for the next day. Our visit
being principally for wooding and watering, both of which it was
necessary for us to do ourselves, Captain Count showed his usual
promptitude in commencing at once. Permission having been
obtained and, I suppose, paid for, we set out with two boats and
a plentiful supply of axes for a well-wooded promontory to
prepare a store of wood. Wood chopping is not usually looked
upon as a sailor's pastime; but we had had considerable
experience during the voyage, as a result of which most of us
could swing an axe in fine style. But the Kanakas beat us all
hollow. Delighted to get ashore again, pleased with the fine
axes as children with new toys, they laid about them in grand
style, the young trees falling right and left in scores. Anybody
would have judged that we were working piece-work, at so much a
cord, the pile grew so fast. There was such a quantity collected
that, instead of lightering it off in the boats, which is very
rough and dirty usage for them, I constructed a sort of raft
with four large spars arranged in the form of an oblong, placing
an immense quantity of the smaller stuff in between. Upright
sticks were rudely lashed here and there, to keep the pile from
bobbing out underneath, and thus loaded we proceeded slowly to
the ship with sufficient wood for our wants brought in one
journey. It was immediately hoisted on board, sawn into
convenient lengths, and stowed away, the whole operation being
completed, of getting between eight and ten tons of firewood cut,
ferried, and stowed, in less than eight hours.

Next day was devoted to watering; but as I have elsewhere
described that necessary if prosaic occupation, I will not repeat
the story. Sufficient to say that the job was successfully "did"
in the course of the day.

All the work being accomplished for which we had come, it only
remained to give the crew "liberty." So the port watch, in their
best (?) rig, were mustered aft; each man received ten shillings,
and away they went in glee for the first genuine day's liberty
since leaving Honolulu. For although they had been much ashore
in Vau Vau, that was not looked upon in the same light as a day's
freedom in a town where liquor might be procured, and the
questionable privilege of getting drunk taken advantage of.
Envious eyes watched their progress from the other ships, but,
much to my secret satisfaction, none of their crews were allowed
ashore at the same time. There were quite sufficient
possibilities of a row among our own crowd, without farther
complications such as would almost certainly have occurred had
the strangers been let loose at the same time. Unfortunately, to
the ordinary sailor-man, the place presented no other forms of
amusement besides drinking, and I was grieved to see almost the
whole crowd, including the Kanakas, emerge from the grog-shop
plentifully supplied with bottles, and, seating themselves on the
beach, commence their carouse. The natives evinced the greatest
eagerness to get drunk, swallowing down the horrible "square gin"
as if it were water. They passed with the utmost rapidity
through all the stages of drunkenness. Before they had been
ashore an hour, most of them were lying like logs, in the full
blaze of the sun, on the beach. Seeing this, the captain
suggested the advisability of bringing them on board at once, as
they were only exposed to robbery by the few prowling Maories
that loafed about the beach--a curious contrast to the stately
fellows met with in other parts of New Zealand.

So we set to work, and brought them on board again, handing them
over to their compatriots by way of warning against similar
excesses, although, it must be confessed, that they were hardly
to blame, with the example of their more civilized shipmates
before their eyes. Sam was energetic in his condemnation of both
the Kanakas for getting drunk, and the captain for giving them
any money wherewith to do so. The remainder of the watch
fortunately concluded their carouse without any serious disorder.
A few bruises bestowed upon one another, more in clumsy horseplay
than real fighting summed up the casualties among them. By ten
o'clock that evening we had them all safely on board again, ready
for sore heads and repentance in the morning.

During the day I had evolved a scheme, which I had great hopes of
carrying out when our watch should be let loose on the morrow.
When morning came, and the liberty men received their money, I
called them together and unfolded my plan. Briefly, I proposed a
sort of picnic at a beautiful spot discovered during our wooding
expedition. I was surprised and very pleased at the eager way in
which all, with the sole exceptions of Tui and his fellow-
harpooner, a Portuguese, fell in with my suggestions. Without
any solicitation on my part, my Kanakas brought me their money,
begging me to expend it for them, as they did not know how, and
did not want to buy gin.

Under such favourable auspices as these, we landed shortly after
eight a.m., making a bee-line for the only provision shop the
place boasted. Here we laid in a stock of such savouries as we
had long been strangers to, both eatables and drinkables,
although I vetoed fire-water altogether. Beer in bottle was
substituted, at my suggestion, as being, if we must have drinks
of that nature, much the least harmful to men in a hot country,
besides, in the quantity that we were able to take, non-
intoxicant. We also took tea, sugar, milk, and a kettle, Thus
furnished, we struck for the country, merry as a group of
schoolboys, making the quiet air ring again with song, shout, and
laughter--all of which may seem puerile and trivial in the
extreme; but having seen liberty men ashore in nearly every big
port in the world, watched the helpless, dazed look with which
they wander about, swinging hands, bent shoulders, and
purposeless rolling gait, I have often fervently wished that some
one would take a party of them for a ramble with a definite
purpose, helping them to a little enjoyment, instead of them
falling, from sheer lack of knowing what else to do, into some
dirty, darksome gin-mill, to be besotted, befooled, and debased.

I do earnestly wish that some of the good folk in London and
Liverpool, who are wringing their hands for want of something to
do among their fellow-men, would pay a visit to sailor-town for
the purpose of getting up a personally-conducted party of sailors
to see the sights worth seeing. It is a cheap form of pleasure,
even if they paid all expenses, though that would not be likely.
They would have an uphill job at first, for the sailor has been
so long accustomed to being preyed upon by the class he knows,
and neglected by everybody else except the few good people who
want to preach to him, that he would probably, in a sheepish
shame-faced sort of way, refuse to have any "truck" with you, as
he calls it. If the "sailors' home" people were worth their
salt, they would organize expeditions by carriage to such
beautiful places as--in London, for instance--Hampton Court,
Zoological Gardens, Crystal Palace, Epping Forest, and the like,
with competent guides and good catering arrangements. But no;
the sailor is allowed to step outside the door of the "home" into
the grimy, dismal streets with nothing open to him but the dance-
house and brothel on one side, and the mission hall or reading-
room on the other. God forbid that I should even appear to sneer
at missions to seamen; nothing is farther from my intention; but
I do feel that sailors need a little healthy human interest to be
taken in providing some pleasure for them, and that there are
unorthodox ways of "missioning" which are well worth a trial.

I once took a party (while I was an A.B.) from Wells-street Home
to the South Kensington Museum. There were six of them--a
Frenchman, a Dane, a Russian Finn, two Englishmen, and an
Irishman. Though continually sailing from London for years, this
was the first occasion they had ever been west of Aldgate. The
only mistake I made was in going too deep at one step. The
journey from Shadwell to South Kensington, under the guidance of
one familiar, through the hardest personal experiences, with
every corner of the vast network, was quite enough for one day.
So that by the time we entered the Museum they were surfeited
temporarily with sight-seeing, and not able to take in the
wonders of the mighty place. Seeing this, I did not persist,
but, after some rest and refreshment, led them across the road
among the naval models. Ah! it was a rare treat to see them
there. For if there is one thing more than another which
interests a sailor, it is a well-made model of a ship. Sailors
are model-makers almost by nature, turning out with the most
meagre outfit of tools some wonderfully-finished replicas of the
vessels is which they have sailed. And the collection of naval
models at South Kensington is, I suppose, unsurpassed in the
world for the number and finish of the miniature vessels there

Our day was a great success, never to be forgotten by those poor
fellows, whose only recreation previously had been to stroll
listlessly up and down the gloomy, stone-flagged hall of the
great barracks until sheer weariness drove them out into the
turbid current of the "Highway," there to seek speedily some of
the dirty haunts where the "runner" and the prostitute: awaited

But I have wandered far from the Bay of Islands while thus
chattering of the difficulties that beset the path of rational
enjoyment for the sailor ashore. Returning to that happy day, I
remember vividly how, just after we got clear of the town, we
were turning down a lane between hedgerows wonderfully like one
of our own country roads, when something--I could not tell what--
gripped my heart and sent a lump into my throat. Tears sprang
unbidden to my eyes, and I trembled from head to foot with
emotion. Whatever could it be? Bewildered for the moment, I
looked around, and saw a hedge laden with white hawthorn blossom,
the sweet English "may." Every Londoner knows how strongly that
beautiful scent appeals to him, even when wafted from draggled
branches borne slumwards by tramping urchins who have been far
afield despoiling the trees of their lovely blossoms, careless of
the damage they have been doing. But to me, who had not seen a
bit for years, the flood of feeling undammed by that odorous
breath, was overwhelming. I could hardly tear myself away from
the spot, and, when at last I did, found myself continually
turning to try and catch another whiff of one of the most
beautiful scents in the world.

Presently we came to a cottage flooded from ground to roof-ridge
with blossoms of scarlet geranium. There must have been
thousands of them, all borne by one huge stem which was rooted by
the door of the house. A little in front of it grew a fuchsia,
twelve or fourteen feet high, with wide-spreading branches,
likewise loaded with handsome blooms; while the ground beneath
was carpeted with the flowers shaken from their places by the
rude wind.

So, through scenes of loveliness that appealed even to the dusky
Kanakas, we trudged gaily along, arriving pretty well fagged at
our destination--a great glade of tenderest green, surrounded by
magnificent trees on three sides; the fourth opening on to a
dazzling white beach sloping gently down to the sea. Looking
seaward, amidst the dancing, sparkling wavelets, rose numerous
tree-clothed islets, making a perfectly beautiful seascape. On
either side of the stretch of beach fantastic masses of rock lay
about, as if scattered by some tremendous explosion. Where the
sea reached them, they were covered with untold myriads of
oysters, ready to be eaten and of delicious flavour.

What need to say more? With oyster-feeding, fishing, bathing,
tree-climbing, tea-making, song-singing the hours fled with
pitiless haste, so that, before we had half emptied the brimming
cup of joys proffered us, the slanting rays of the setting sun
warned us to return lest we should get "hushed" in the dark. We
came on board rejoicing, laden with spoils of flowers and fish,
with two-thirds of our money still in our pockets, and full of
happy memories of one of the most delightful days in our whole

A long night's sound sleep was rudely broken into in the morning
by the cry of "Man the windlass." Having got all we wanted, we
were bound away to finish, if luck were with us, the lading of
our good ship from the teeming waters of the Solander grounds. I
know the skipper's hopes were high, for he never tired of telling
how, when in command of a new ship, he once fished the whole of
his cargo--six thousand barrels of sperm oil--from the
neighbourhood to which we were now bound. He always admitted,
though, that the weather he experienced was unprecedented.
Still, nothing could shake his belief in the wonderful numbers of
sperm whales to be found on the south coasts of New Zealand,
which faith was well warranted, since he had there won from the
waves, not only the value of his new ship, but a handsome profit
in addition, all in one season.

Hearing this kind of thing every day made me feel quite hungry to
reach the battle-field; but, for reasons which doubtless were
excellent, although I cannot pretend to explain them, we started
north about, which not only added nearly one hundred miles to the
distance we had to go, but involved us in a gale which
effectually stopped our progress for a week. It was our first
taste of the gentle zephyrs which waft their sweetness over New
Zealand, after sweeping over the vast, bleak, iceberg-studded
expanse of the Antarctic Ocean. Our poor Kanakas were terribly
frightened, for the weather of their experience, except on the
rare occasions when they are visited by the devastating
hurricane, is always fine, steady, and warm. For the first time
in their lives they saw hail, and their wonder was too great for
words. But the cold was very trying, not only to them, but to
us, who had been so long in the tropics that our blood was almost
turned to water. The change was nearly as abrupt as that so
often experienced by our seamen, who at the rate of sixteen knots
an hour plunge from a temperature of eighty degrees to one of
thirty degrees in about three days.

We, with the ready adaptability of seamen, soon got accustomed to
the bleak, bitter weather, but the Kanakas wilted like hothouse
plants under its influence. They were well fed and well clothed,
yet they seemed to shrivel up, looking thinner every day, several
of them getting deep coughs strongly suggestive of a cemetery.
It was no easy task to get them to work, or even move, never a
one of them lumbering aloft but I expected him to come down by
the run. This was by no means cheering, when it was remembered
what kind of a campaign lay before us. Captain Count seemed to
be quite easy in his mind, However, and as we had implicit
confidence in his wisdom and judgment, we were somewhat

The gale at last blew itself out, the wind veering to the
northward again, with beautiful, spring-like weather, just cool
enough to be pleasant, and, withal, favourable for getting to our
destination. We soon made the land again about New Plymouth,
jogging along near enough to the coast to admire the splendid
rugged scenery of the Britain of the south. All hands were kept
busily employed preparing for stormy weather--reeving new
running-gear, bending the strongest suit of sails, and looking
well to all the whaling gear.

In this active exercise of real sailor-work, the time, though
long for an ordinary passage, passed quickly and pleasantly away,
so that when we hauled round the massive promontory guarding the
western entrance to Foveaux Straits, we were almost surprised to
find ourselves there so soon.

This, then, was the famous and dreaded Solander whaling ground.
Almost in the centre of the wide stretch of sea between
Preservation Inlet, on the Middle Island, and the western end of
the South, or Stewart's Island, rose a majestic mass of wave-
beaten rock some two thousand feet high, like a grim sentinel
guarding the Straits. The extent of the fishing grounds was not
more than a hundred and fifty square miles, and it was rarely
that the vessels cruised over the whole of it. The most likely
area for finding whales was said to be well within sight of the
Solander Rock itself, but keeping on the western side of it.

It was a lovely day when we first entered upon our cruising
ground, a gentle north-east wind blowing, the sky a deep,
cloudless blue, so that the rugged outline of Stewart's Island
was distinctly seen at its extreme distance from us. To the
eastward the Straits narrowed rapidly, the passage at the other
end being scarcely five miles wide between the well-known harbour
of the Bluff, the port of Invercargill, and a long rocky island
which almost blocked the strait. This passage, though cutting
off a big corner, not only shortening the distance from the
westward considerably, but oftentimes saving outward bounders a
great deal of heavy weather off the Snares to the south of
Stewart's Island, is rarely used by sailing-ships, except
coasters; but steamers regularly avail themselves of it, being
independent of its conflicting currents and baffling winds.




Our opening day was an auspicious one. We had not been within
the cruising radius more than four hours before the long-silent;
cry of "Blo-o-o-w!" resounded from the mainmast head. It was a
lone whale, apparently of large size, though spouting almost as
feebly as a calf. But that, I was told by the skipper, was
nothing to go by down here. He believed right firmly that there
were no small whales to be found in these waters at all. He
averred that in all his experience he had never seen a cow-
cachalot anywhere around Stewart's Island, although, as usual, he
did no theorizing as to the reason why.

Eagerly we took to the boats and made for our first fish, Setting
alongside of him in less than half an hour from our first glimpse
of his bushy breath. As the irons sank into his blubber, he
raised himself a little, and exposed a back like a big ship
bottom up. Verily, the skipper's words were justified, for we
had seen nothing bigger of the whale-kind that voyage. His
manner puzzled us not a little. He had not a kick in him.
Complacently, as though only anxious to oblige, he laid quietly
while we cleared for action, nor did he show any signs of
resentment or pain while he was being lanced with all the vigour
we possessed. He just took all our assaults with perfect
quietude and exemplary patience, so that we could hardly help
regarding him with great suspicion, suspecting some deep scheme
of deviltry hidden by this abnormally sheep-like demeanour. But
nothing happened. In the same peaceful way he died, without the
slightest struggle sufficient to raise even an eddy on the almost
smooth sea.

Leaving the mate by the carcass, we returned on board, the
skipper hailing us immediately on our arrival to know what was
the matter with him. We, of course, did not know, neither did
the question trouble us. All we were concerned about was the
magnanimous way in which he, so to speak, made us a present of
himself, giving us no more trouble to secure his treasure than as
if he had been a lifeless thing. We soon had him alongside,
finding, upon ranging him by the ship, that he was over seventy
feet long, with a breadth of bulk quite in proportion to such
a vast length.

Cutting-in commenced at once, for fine weather there was by no
means to be wasted, being of rare occurrence and liable at the
shortest notice to be succeeded by a howling gale. Our latest
acquisition, however, was of such gigantic proportions that the
decapitation alone bade fair to take us all night. A nasty cross
swell began to get up, too--a combination of north-westerly and
south-westerly which, meeting at an angle where the Straits
began, raised a curious "jobble," making the vessel behave in a
drunken, uncertain manner. Sailors do not mind a ship rolling or
pitching, any more than a rider minds the motion of his horse;
but when she does both at once, with no approach to regularity in
her movements, it makes them feel angry with her. What, then,
must our feelings have been under such trying conditions, with
that mountain of matter alongside to which so much sheer hard
labour had to be done, while the sky was getting greasy and the
wind beginning to whine in that doleful key which is the certain
prelude to a gale?

Everybody worked like Chinamen on a contract, as if there was no
such feeling as fatigue. Little was said, but we all realized
that unless this job was got over before what was brooding burst
upon us, we should certainly lose some portion of our hard-won
whale. Still, our utmost possible was all we could do; and when
at daylight the head was hauled alongside for cutting up, the
imminent possibility of losing it, though grievous to think of,
worried nobody, for all had done their best. The gale had
commenced in business-like fashion, but the sea was horrible. It
was almost impossible to keep one's footing on the stage. At
times the whole mass of the head would be sucked down by the lee
roll of the ship, and go right under her keel, the fluke-chain
which held it grinding and straining as if it would tear the bows
out of her. Then when she rolled back again the head would
rebound to the surface right away from the ship, where we could
not reach it to cut. Once or twice it bounced up beneath our
feet, striking the stage and lifting it with its living load
several inches, letting it fall again with a jerk that made us
all cling for dear life to our precarious perch.

In spite of these capers, we managed to get the junk off the
head. It was a tremendous lift for us; I hardly think we had
ever raised such a weight before. The skipper himself estimated
it at fifteen tons, which was no small load for the tackles in
fine weather, but with the ship tumbling about in her present
fashion, it threatened to rip the mainmast out by the roots--not,
of course, the dead-weight strain; but when it was nearly aboard,
her sudden lee wallow sometimes floated the whole mass, which the
next instant, on the return roll, would be torn out of water,
with all the force of the ship suddenly rolling the other way.
Every splinter, every rope-yarn of her groaned again under this
savage treatment; but so splendid was her construction that she
never made a drop of water more than just sufficient to sweeten
the limbers.

It was with great and genuine satisfaction that we saw it at last
safely lowered on deck and secured. But when we turned our
attention to the case, which, still attached to the skull,
battered alongside, any chance of saving it was at once seen to
be hopeless. Indeed, as the old man said, it was time for us to
"up stick" and run for shelter. We had been too fully occupied
to notice the gradual increase of the wind; but when we did,
there was no gainsaying the fact that it was blowing a very stiff
breeze (ANGLICE, a violent gale). Fortunately for us, it was
from the westward, fair for the harbour of Port William, on the
Stewart's Island side of the Straits, so that we were free from
the apprehension of being blown out to sea or on a jagged lee

While we were thus thinking during a brief pause to take breath,
the old packet herself solved our last difficulty in emphatic
fashion. She gave a tremendous lee lurch, which would inevitably
have destroyed the cutting stage if we had not hoisted it,
driving right over the head, which actually rose to the surface
to windward, having passed under her bottom. The weather roll
immediately following was swift and sudden. From the nature of
things, it was evident that something must give way this time.
It did. For the first and only time in my experience, the fluke-
chain was actually torn through the piece to which it was fast
--two feet of solid gristle ripped asunder. Away went the head
with its L150 to L200 worth of pure spermaceti, disappearing from
view almost immediately.

It had no sooner gone than more sail was set, the yards were
squared, and the vessel kept away up the Straits for shelter. It
was a big improvement, for she certainly had begun to make dirty
weather of it, and no wonder. Now, however, running almost dead
before the gale, getting into smoother water at every fathom, she
was steady as a rock, allowing us to pursue our greasy avocation
in comparative comfort. The gale was still increasing, although
now blowing with great fury; but, to our satisfaction, it was dry
and not too cold. Running before it, too, lessened our
appreciation of its force; besides which, we were exceedingly
busy clearing away the enormous mass of the junk, which, draining
continually, kept the decks running with oil.

We started to run up the Straits at about ten a.m. At two p.m. we
suddenly looked up from our toil, our attention called by a
sudden lull in the wind. We had rounded Saddle Point, a
prominent headland, which shut off from us temporarily the
violence of the gale. Two hours later we found ourselves hauling
up into the pretty little harbour of Port William, where, without
taking more than a couple of hands off the work, the vessel was
rounded-to and anchored with quite as little fuss as bringing a
boat alongside a ship. It was the perfection of seamanship.

Once inside the bay, a vessel was sheltered from all winds, the
land being high and the entrance intricate. The water was smooth
as a mill-pond, though the leaden masses of cloud flying overhead
and the muffled roar of the gale told eloquently of the
unpleasant state affairs prevailing outside. Two whale-ships lay
here--the TAMERANE, of New Bedford, and the CHANCE, of Bluff
Harbour. I am bound to confess that there was a great difference
is appearance between the Yankee and the colonial--very much in
favour of the former. She was neat, smart, and seaworthy,
looking as if just launched; but the CHANCE looked like some poor
old relic of a bygone day, whose owners, unable to sell her, and
too poor to keep her in repair, were just letting her go while
keeping up the insurance, praying fervently each day that she
might come to grief, and bring them a little profit at last.

But although it is much safer to trust appearances in ships than
in men, any one who summed up the CHANCE from her generally
outworn and poverty-stricken looks would have been, as I was,
"way off." Old she was, with an indefinite antiquity, carelessly
rigged, and vilely unkempt as to her gear, while outside she did
not seem to have had a coat of paint for a generation. She
looked what she really was--the sole survivor of the once great
whaling industry of New Zealand. For although struggling bay
whaling stations did exist in a few sheltered places far away
from the general run of traffic, the trade itself might
truthfully be said to be practically extinct. The old CHANCE
alone, like some shadow of the past, haunted Foveaux Straits,
and made a better income for her fortunate owners than any of the
showy, swift coasting steamers that rushed contemptuously past
her on their eager way.

In many of the preceding pages I have, though possessing all an
Englishman's pride in the prowess of mine own people, been
compelled to bear witness to the wonderful smartness and courage
shown by the American whalemen, to whom their perilous calling
seems to have become a second nature. And on other occasions I
have lamented that our own whalers, either at home or in the
colonies, never seemed to take so kindly to the sperm whale
fishery as the hardy "down Easters," who first taught them the
business; carried it on with increasing success, in spite of
their competition and the depredations of the ALABAMA; flourished
long after the English fishery was dead; and even now muster a

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