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The Cruise of the Cachalot

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fleet of ships engaged in the same bold and hazardous calling.
Therefore, it is the more pleasant to me to be able to chronicle
some of the doings of Captain Gilroy, familiarly known as
"Paddy," the master of the CHANCE, who was unsurpassed as a
whale-fisher or a seaman by any Yankee that ever sailed from
Martha's Vineyard.

He was a queer little figure of a man--short, tubby, with scanty
red hair, and a brogue thick as pea-soup. Eccentric in most
things, he was especially so in his dress, which he seemed to
select on the principle of finding the most unfitting things to
wear. Rumour credited him with a numerous half-breed progeny--
certainly be was greatly mixed up with the Maories, half his crew
being made up of his dusky friends and relations by MARRIAGE.
Overflowing with kindliness and good temper, his ship was a
veritable ark of refuge for any unfortunate who needed help,
which accounted for the numerous deserters from Yankee whalers
who were to be found among his crew. Such whaling skippers as
our late commander hated him with ferocious intensity; and but
for his Maori and half-breed bodyguard, I have little doubt he
would have long before been killed. Living as he had for many
years on that storm-beaten coast, he had become, like his
Maories, familiar with every rock and tree in fog or clear, by
night or day; he knew them, one might almost say, as the seal
knows them, and feared them as little. His men adored him. They
believed him capable of anything in the way of whaling, and would
as soon have thought of questioning the reality of daylight as
the wisdom of his decisions.

I went on board the evening of, our arrival, hearing some rumours
of the doings of the old CHANCE and her crew, also with the idea
that perhaps I might find some countrymen among his very mixed
crowd. The first man I spoke to was Whitechapel to the backbone,
plainly to be spotted as such as if it had been tattooed on his
forehead. Making myself at home with him, I desired to know what
brought him so far from the "big smoke," and on board a whaler of
all places in the world. He told me he had been a Pickford's
van-driver, but had emigrated to New Zealand, finding that he did
not at all like himself in the new country. Trying to pick and
choose instead of manfully choosing a pick and shovel for a
beginning, he got hard up. During one of Captain Gilroy's visits
to the Bluff, he came across my ex-drayman, looking hungry and
woebegone. Invited on board to have a feed, he begged to be
allowed to remain; nor, although his assistance was not needed,
was he refused. "An nar," he said, his face glowing with
conscious pride, "y'ort ter see me in a bloomin' bowt. I ain't
a-goain' ter say as I kin fling wun o' them 'ere bloomin'
'arpoones like ar bowt-steerers kin; but I kin do my bit o'
grawft wiv enny on 'em--don'tchu make no bloomin' herror." The
glorious incongruity of the thing tickled me immensely; but I
laughed more heartily still when on going below I was hailed as
"Wot cher, chummy; 'ow yer hoppin' up?" by another barbarian
from the wilds of Spitalfields, who, from the secure shelter of
his cats'-meat round in 'Oxton, had got adrift, and, after being
severely buffeted by tempestuous ill-fortune, had finally found
himself in the comfortable old CHANCE, a haven of rest in the
midst of storms. There were sixteen white men on board the
CHANCE, including the skipper, drawn as usual from various
European and American sources, the rest of her large crew of over
forty all told being made up of Maories and half-breeds. One
common interest united them, making them the jolliest crowd I
ever saw--their devotion to their commander. There was here to
be found no jealousy of the Maories being officers and
harpooners, no black looks or discontented murmuring; all hands
seemed particularly well satisfied with their lot in all its
bearings; so that, although the old tub was malodorous enough to
turn even a pretty strong stomach, it was a pleasure to visit her
cheerful crowd for the sake of their enlivening society.

Of course, under our present circumstances, with the debris of
our late enormous catch filling every available space and loudly
demanding attention, we had little time to spare for ship
visiting. Some boat or other from the two ships was continually
alongside of us, though, for until the gale abated they could not
get out to the grounds again, and time hung heavy on their hands.
The TAMERLANE's captain avoided Paddy as if he were a leper--
hated the sight of him, in fact, as did most of his CONFRERES;
but our genial skipper, whose crew were every whit as well
treated and contented as the CHANCE's, and who therefore needed
not to dread losing them, met the little philanthropist on the
most friendly terms.

The first fine weather, which came four days after our arrival,
both our harbour mates cleared out. Characteristically, the
CHANCE was away first, before daylight had quite asserted itself,
and while the bases of the cliffs and tops of the rocks were as
yet hidden in dense wreaths of white haze. Paddy lolled on the
taff-rail near the wheel, which was held by an immense half-
breed, who leant back and carried on a desultory, familiar
conversation with his skipper; the rest of the crew were
scattered about the decks, apparently doing what they liked in
any manner they chose. The anchor was being catted, sails going
up, and yards being trimmed; but, to observers like us, no
guiding spirit was noticeable. It seemed to work all right, and
the old ark herself looked as if she was as intelligent as any of
them; but the sight was not an agreeable one to men accustomed to
discipline. The contrast when the TAMERLANE came along an hour
or so after was emphatic. Every man at his post; every order
carried out with the precision of clockwork; the captain pacing
the quarter-deck as if she were a line-of-battle ship--here the
airs put on were almost ludicrous in the other direction.
Although she was only "a good jump" long, as we say, whenever an
order was given, it was thundered out as if the men were a mile
away each officer appearing to vie with the others as to who
could bellow the loudest. That was carrying things to the
opposite extreme, and almost equally objectionable to merchant

We were thus left alone to finish our trying-out except for such
company as was afforded by the only resident's little schooner,
in which he went oyster-dredging. It was exceedingly comfortable
in the small harbour, and the fishing something to remember all
one's life. That part of New Zealand is famous for a fish
something like a bream, but with a longer snout, and striped
longitudinally with black and yellow. I am ignorant of any
polysyllabic prefix for it, only knowing it by its trivial and
local appellation of the "trumpeter," from the peculiar sound it
makes when out of water. But no other fish out of the
innumerable varieties which I have sampled in all parts of the
world could compare with the trumpeter for flavour and delicacy.
These qualities are well known to the inhabitants of the large
towns, who willingly pay high prices for the scanty supply of
these delicious fish which they are able to obtain. Of other
succulent fish there was a great variety, from the majestic
"grouper," running up to over a hundredweight, down to the
familiar flounder. Very little fishing could be done at night.
Just as day was dawning was the ideal time for this enticing
sport. As soon as the first few streaks of delicate light
enlivened the dull horizon, a stray nibble or two gladdened the
patient fishermen; then as the light strengthened the fun became
general, and in about an hour enough fish would be caught to
provide all hands with for the day.

One morning, when a stark calm left, the surface of the bay as
smooth as a mirror, I was watching a few stealthily-gliding
barracouta sneaking about over the plainly visible bottom, though
at a depth of seven or eight fathoms. Ordinarily, these fish
must be taken with a live bait; but, remembering my experience
with the dolphin, I determined to try a carefully arranged strip
of fish from one recently caught. In precisely the same way as
the dolphin, these long, snaky rascals carefully tested the bait,
lying still for sometimes as long as two minutes with the bait in
their mouths, ready to drop it out on the first intimation that
it was not a detached morsel. After these periods of waiting the
artful creature would turn to go, and a sudden jerk of the line
then reminded him that he was no longer a free agent, but
mounting at headlong speed to a strange bourne whence he never
returned to tell the tale. My catch that lovely morning scaled
over a hundredweight in less than an hour, none of the fish being
less than ten pounds in weight.

The Maories have quite an original way of catching barracouta.
They prepare a piece of "rimu" (red pine) about three inches
long, by an inch broad, and a quarter of an inch thick. Through
one end of this they drive an inch nail bent upwards, and filed
to a sharp point. The other end is fastened to about a fathom of
stout fishing-line, which is in turn secured to the end of a
five-foot pole. Seated in a boat with sail set, they slip along
until a school of barracouta is happened upon. Then the peak of
the sail is dropped, so as to deaden the boat's way, while the
fishermen ply their poles with a sidelong sweep that threshes the
bit of shining red through the water, making it irresistibly
attractive to a struggling horde of ravenous fish. One by one,
as swiftly as the rod can be wielded, the lithe forms drop off
the barbless hook into the boat, till the vigorous arm can no
longer respond to the will of the fisherman, or the vessel will
hold no more.

Such were the goodly proportions of this first Solander whale of
ours that, in spite of the serious loss of the case, we made
thirteen and a half tuns of oil. When the fifteen huge casks
containing it were stowed in their final positions, they made an
imposing show, inspiring all of us with visions of soon being
homeward bound. For the present we were, perforce, idle; for the
wind had set in to blow steadily and strongly right up the
Straits, preventing any attempts to get out while it lasted. The
time did not hang heavy on our hands, for the surrounding country
offered many attractions, which we were allowed to take full
advantage of. Spearing eels and flounders at night by means of a
cresset hung out over the boat's bow, as she was slowly sculled
up the long, shallow creeks, was a favourite form of amusement.
Mr. Cross, the resident, kindly allowed us to raid his garden,
where the ripe fruit was rotting by the bushel for want of
consumers. We needed no pressing; for fruit, since we left Vau
Vau, of any kind had not come in our way; besides, these were
"homey"--currants, gooseberries, strawberries--delightful to see,
smell, and taste. So it came to pass that we had a high old time,
unmarred by a single regrettable incident, until, after an
enforced detention of twenty days, we were able to get to sea

Halfway down the Straits we sighted the CHANCE, all hands ripping
the blubber off a sizeable whale in the same "anyhow" fashion as
they handled their ship. They were in high glee, giving us a
rousing cheer as we passed them on our westward course. Arriving
on the ground, we found a goodly company of fine ships, which I
could not help thinking too many for so small an area. During
our absence, the TAMERLANE had been joined by the ELIZA ADAMS,
the MATILDA SAYER, the CORAL, and the RAINBOW; and it was evident
that no whale venturing within the radius of the Solander in the
daytime would stand much chance of escaping such a battery of
eager eyes. Only three days elapsed after our arrival when
whales were seen. For the first time, I realized how numerous
those gigantic denizens of the sea really are. As far as the eye
could reach, extending all round one-half of the horizon, the sea
appeared to be alive with spouts--all sperm whales, all bulls of
great size. The value of this incredible school must have been
incalculable. Subsequent experience satisfied me that such a
sight was by no means uncommon here; in fact, "lone whales" or
small "pods" were quite the exception.

Well, we all "waded in," getting, some two, some one whale
apiece, according to the ability of the crews or the fortune of
war. Only one fell to our lot in the CACHALOT, but it was just
as well. We had hardly, got him fast by the fluke alongside when
it began to pipe up from the north-east. In less than one watch
the sea was fairly smoking with the fierceness of the wind. We
were unable to get in anywhere, being, with a whale alongside,
about as handy as a barge loaded with a haystack; while those
unfortunate beggars that had two whales fast to them were utterly
helpless as far as independent locomotion went, unless they could
run dead before the wind. Every ship made all snug aloft, and
hoisted the boats to the top notch of the cranes, fully
anticipating a long, hard struggle with the elements before they
got back to the cruising ground again. Cutting-in was out of the
question in such weather; the only thing possible was to hope for
a shift of wind before she got too far out, or a break in the
weather. Neither of these events was probable, as all
frequenters of South New Zealand know, bad weather having there
an unhappy knack of being as persistent as fine weather is brief.

Night drew on as our forlorn and heavily handicapped little fleet
bore steadily seaward with their burdens, the angry, ever-
increasing sea, battering at us vengefully, while the huge
carcasses alongside tore and strained at their fastenings as if
they would rend the ships asunder. Slowly our companions faded
from sight as the murky sky shut down on us, until in lonely
helplessness we drifted on our weary way out into the vast,
inhospitable Southern Ocean. Throughout the dark and stormy
night our brave old ship held on her unwilling way right
gallantly, making no water, in spite of the fearful strain to
which she was subjected, nor taking any heavy sea over all.
Morning broke cheerlessly enough. No abatement in the gale or
change in its direction; indeed, it looked like lasting a month.
Only one ship was visible far to leeward of us, and she was hull
down. Our whale was beginning to swell rapidly, already floating
at least three feet above the surface instead of just awash, as
when newly killed. The skipper eyed it gloomily, seeing the near
prospect of its entire loss, but he said nothing. In fact, very
little was said; but the stories we had heard in the Bay of
Islands came back to us with significant force now that their
justification was so apparent.

Hour after hour went by without any change whatever, except in
the whale, which, like some gradually filling balloon, rose
higher and higher, till at nightfall its bulk was appalling.
All through the night those on deck did little else but stare at
its increasing size, which when morning dawned again, was so
great that the animal's bilge rode level with the ship's rail,
while in her lee rolls it towered above the deck like a mountain.
The final scene with it was now a question of minutes only, so
most of us, fascinated by the strange spectacle, watched and
waited. Suddenly, with a roar like the bursting of a darn, the
pent-up gases tore their furious way out of the distended
carcass, hurling the entrails in one horrible entanglement
widespread over the sea. It was well for us that it was to
leeward and a strong gale howling; for even then the unutterable
foetor wrought its poisonous way back through that fierce, pure
blast, permeating every nook of the ship with its filthy vapour
till the stoutest stomach there protested in unmistakable terms
against such vile treatment. Knowing too well that the blubber
was now worthless, the skipper gave orders to cut the corrupt
mass adrift. This was speedily effected by a few strokes of a
spade through the small. Away went eight hundred pounds' worth
of oil--another sacrifice to the exigencies of the Solander, such
as had gained for it so evil a reputation.

Doubtless a similar experience had befallen all the other ships,
so that the aggregate loss must have run into thousands of
pounds, every penny of which might have been saved had steam been

That gale lasted, with a few short lulls, for five days longer.
When at last it took off, and was succeeded by fine weather, we
were so far to the southward that we might have fetched the
Aucklands in another twenty-four hours. But, to our great
relief, a strong southerly breeze set in, before which, under
every rag of canvas, we sped north again.

Steady and reliable as ever, that good south wind carried us back
to our old cruising ground ere it blew itself out, and we resumed
our usual tactics as if nothing had happened, being none the
worse as regards equipment for our adventures. Not so fortunate
our companions, who at the same time as ourselves were thrust out
into the vast Southern Ocean, helplessly burdened and exposed
defenceless to all the ferocity of that devouring gale, Two of
them were here prowling about, showing evident signs of their
conflict in the battered state of their hulls. The glaring
whiteness of new planking in many places along the bulwarks told
an eloquent story of seas bursting on board carrying all before
them, while empty cranes testified to the loss of a boat in both
of them. As soon as we came near enough, "gamming" commenced,
for all of us were anxious to know how each other had fared.

As we anticipated, every whale was lost that had been caught that
day. The disappointment was in nowise lessened by the knowledge
that, with his usual good fortune Captain Gilroy had not only
escaped all the bad weather, but while we were being threshed
within an inch of our lives down in the bitter south, he was
calmly trying-out his whale (which we had seen him with on our
outward journey) in the sheltered haven of Port William. Many
and deep were the curses bestowed upon him by the infuriated
crews of those two ships, although he had certainly done them no
harm. But the sight of other people's good fortune is gall and
wormwood to a vast number of people, who seem to take it as a
personal injury done to themselves.

Only two days elapsed, however, before we again saw an immense
school of sperm whales, and each ship succeeded in securing one.
We made no attempt to get more this time, nor do I think either
of the others did; at any rate, one each was the result of the
day's work. They were, as usual, of huge size and apparently
very fat. At the time we secured our fish alongside, a fresh
north-westerly wind was blowing, the weather being clear and
beautiful as heart could wish. But instead of commencing at once
to cut-in, Captain Count gave orders to pile on all sail and keep
her away up the Straits. He was evidently determined to take no
more chances, but, whenever opportunity offered, to follow the
example set by the wily old skipper of the CHANCE. The other
ships both started to cut-in at once, tempted, doubtless, by the
settled appearance of the weather, and also perhaps from their
hardly concealed dislike of going into port. We bowled along at
a fine rate, towing our prize, that plunged and rolled by our
side in eccentric style, almost as if still alive. Along about
midnight we reached Saddle Point, where there was some shelter
from the sea which rolled up the wide open strait, and there we

Leaving me and a couple of Kanakas on watch, the captain, and all
hands besides, went below for a little sleep. My instructions
were to call the captain if the weather got at all ugly-looking,
so that we might run in to Port William at once, but he did not
wish to do so if our present position proved sufficiently
sheltered. He had not been below an hour before there was a
change for the worse. That greasy, filmy haze was again drawn
over the clear blue of the sky, and the light scud began to fly
overhead at an alarmingly rapid rate. So at four bells I called
him again. He came on deck at once, and after one look round
ordered the hands up to man the windlass. By eight bells (four
a.m.) we were rounding the frowning rocks at the entrance of Port
William, and threading our way between the closely-set, kelp-
hidden dangers as if it were broadest, dearest daylight. At 4.30
we let go the anchor again, and all hands, except the regular
"anchor-watch," bolted below to their bunks again like so many

It was very comfortable, cutting-in a sperm whale in harbour,
after the dire difficulty of performing the same operation in a
seaway. And, although it may seem strange, this was the first
occasion that voyage that I had had a really good opportunity of
closely studying the whale's anatomy. Consequently the work was
exceedingly interesting, and, in spite of the labour involved, I
was almost sorry when the job was done. Under the present
favourable circumstances we were ready to cut the carcass adrift
shortly after midday, the head, of course, having been taken off
first. Just after we started to cut-in a boat appeared alongside
with six Maories and half-breeds on board. Their leader came up
and civilly asked the skipper whether he intended doing anything
with the carcass. Upon being promptly answered in the negative,
he said that he and his companions proposed hooking on to the
great mass when we cut it adrift, towing it ashore, and getting
out of it what oil we had been unable to extract, which at sea is
always lost to the ship. He also suggested that he would be
prepared to take reasonable terms for such oil, which we should
be able to mingle with ours to our advantage. An arrangement was
speedily arrived at to give him L20 per tun for whatever oil he
made. They parted on the best of terms with each other, and as
soon as we cut the carcass loose the Maories made fast, to it,
speedily beaching it in a convenient spot near where they had
previously erected a most primitive try-works.

That afternoon, after the head was inboard, the skipper thought
he would go ashore and see how they were getting on. I was so
fortunate as to be able to accompany him. When we arrived at the
spot, we found them working as I have never seen men work, except
perhaps the small riggers that at home take a job--three or four
of them--to bend or unbend a big ship's sails for a lump sum to
be paid when the work is done. They attacked the carcass
furiously, as if they had a personal enmity against it, chopping
through the massive bones and rending off huge lumps of the flesh
with marvellous speed. They had already laid open the enormous
cavity of the abdomen, and were stripping the interminable
intestines of their rich coating of fat. In the maw there were,
besides a large quantity of dismembered squid of great size, a
number of fish, such as rock-cod, barracouta, schnapper, and the
like, whose presence there was a revelation to me. How in the
name of wonder so huge and unwieldy a creature as the cachalot
could manage to catch those nimble members of the finny tribe, I
could not for the life of me divine! Unless--and after much
cogitation it was the only feasible explanation that I could see
--as the cachalot swims about with his lower jaw hanging down in
its normal position, and his huge gullet gaping like some
submarine cavern, the fish unwittingly glide down it, to find
egress impossible. This may or may not be the case; but I, at
any rate, can find no more reasonable theory, for it is
manifestly absurd to suppose the whale capable of CATCHING fish
in the ordinary sense, indicating pursuit.

Every part of the animal yielded oil. Even the bones, broken up
into pieces capable of entering the pot, were boiled; and by the
time we had finished our trying-out, the result of the Maories'
labour was ready for us. Less than a week had sufficed to yield
them a net sum of six guineas each, even at the very low rate for
which they sold us the oil. Except that it was a little darker
in colour, a defect that would disappear when mixed with our
store, there was no difference between the products that could be
readily detected. And at the price we paid for it, there was a
clear profit of cent. per cent., even had we kept it separate and
sold it for what it was. But I suppose it was worth the Maories'
while thus to dispose of it and quickly realize their hard

So far, our last excursion had been entirely satisfactory. We
had not suffered any loss or endured any hardship; and if only
such comfortable proceedings were more frequent, the Solander
ground would not have any terrors for us at least. But one
afternoon there crept in around the eastern horn of the harbour
three forlorn and half-dismantled vessels, whose weather-worn
crews looked wistfully at us engaged in clearing up decks and
putting away gear upon the finishing of our trying-out. Poor
fellows! they had seen rough times since that unforgettable
evening when we parted from them at the other end of the island,
and watched them slowly fade into the night. Two of them were so
badly damaged that no further fishing was possible for them until
they had undergone a thorough refit, such as they could not
manage there. One was leaking badly, the tremendous strain put
upon her hull in the vain attempt to hold on to the two whales
she had during the gale having racked her almost all to pieces.
The third one was still capable of taking the ground again, with
sundry repairs such as could be effected by her crew. But the
general feeling among all three crews was that there was more
loss than gain to be expected here, in spite of the multitude of
whales visiting the place.

As if to fill up their cup, in came the old CHANCE again, this
time with a whale on each side. Captain Gilroy was on the house
aft, his chubby red face in a ruddy glow of delight, and his crew
exuberant. When he passed the American ships, as he was bound to
do very closely, the sight of their scowling faces seemed to
afford him the most exquisite amusement, and he laughed loud and
long. His crew, on the impulse of the moment, sprang to the rail
and cheered with might and main. No one could gainsay that they
had good reason, but I really feared for a time that we should
have "ructions," As Paddy said, it was not wise or dignified for
those officers to be so angry with him on account of his success,
which he frankly owned was due almost entirely to the local
knowledge he possessed, gained in many years' study of the
immediate neighbourhood. He declared that, as far as the
technical duties of whale-fishing went, all the Americans could
beat him hollow; but they ought to realize that something else
was needed here which no man could hope to have unless he were
content to remain on the coast altogether. With which words of
wisdom our skipper cordially agreed, bearing in mind his own
exploits in the bygone time around those rugged shores.

The strong breeze which brought Paddy and his whales home died
down that night, enabling us to start for the grounds again--a
concession gratefully received, for not the least of the
hindrances felt there was the liability to be "wind-bound" for a
long time, while fine weather was prevailing at the fishing

We made a fine passage down the Straits with a leading wind,
finding our two late companions still cruising, having managed to
get their whales aboard without mishap, and being somewhat
inclined to chaff our old man for running in. He gave a wink
full of wisdom, as he replied, "I'm pretty ole whale myself
naouw; but I guess I ain't too old to learn; 'n wut I learn I'm
goin' ter use. See?" Of course the fine weather did not last
long--it never does; and seeing the gloomy masses of violet-edged
cumuli piling up on the southern horizon, we hugged the Solander
Rock itself pretty close, nor ventured far to seaward. Our two
consorts, on the contrary, kept well out and on the northern
verge, as if they intended the next gale that blew to get north,
IF they could. The old man's object in thus keeping in was
solely in order that he might be able to run for shelter; but,
much to his delight and certainly surprise, as we passed about a
mile to the southward of the lonely, towering crags of the great
rock, there came from aloft the welcome cry of "Sperm whale!"

There was only one, and he was uncomfortably near the rock; but
such a splendid chance was not to be missed, if our previous
training was of any avail. There was some speculation as to what
he could be doing so close inshore, contrary to the habit of this
animal, who seems to be only comfortable when in deep waters; but
except a suggestion that perhaps he had come in to scrape off an
extra accumulation of barnacles, nobody could arrive at any
definite conclusion. When we reached him, we found a frightful
blind swell rolling, and it needed all our seamanship to handle
the boats so that they should not be capsized. Fortunately, the
huge rollers did not break, or we should hardly have got back
safely, whale or no whale.

Two irons were planted in him, of which he took not the slightest
notice. We had taken in sail before closing in to him on account
of the swell, so that we had only to go in and finish him at
once, if he would let us. Accordingly, we went in with a will,
but for all sign of life he showed he might as well have been
stuffed. There be lay, lazily spouting, the blood pouring, or
rather spirting, from his numerous wounds, allowing us to add to
their number at our pleasure, and never moving his vast body,
which was gently swayed by the rolling sea. Seeing him thus
quiescent, the mate sent the other two boats back to the ship
with the good news, which the captain received with a grave smile
of content, proceeding at once to bring the ship as near as might
be consistent with her safety. We were now thoroughly sheltered
from sight of the other ships by the enormous mass of the island,
so that they had no idea of our proceedings.

Finding that it was not wise to take the ship in any closer,
while we were yet some distance from our prize, a boat was sent
to Mr. Cruce with the instructions that he was to run his line
from the whale back to the ship, if the creature was dead. He
(the mate) replied that the whale died as quietly as he had taken
his wounds, and immediately started for the ship. When he had
paid out all his line, another boat bent on, until we got the end
on board. Then we merrily walked him up alongside, while
sufficient sail was kept drawing to prevent her being set in any
nearer. When he was fast, we crowded on all canvas to get away;
for although the sea was deep close up to the cliff, that swell
was a very ugly feature, and one which has been responsible for
the loss of a great number of ships in such places all over the
world. Notwithstanding all our efforts, we did get so near that
every detail of the rock was clearly visible to the naked eye,
and we had some anxious minutes while the old ship, rolling
tremendously, crawled inch after inch along the awful side of
that sea-encircled pyramid.

At one point there was quite a cave, the floor of which would be
some twenty feet above high-water mark, and its roof about the
same distance higher. It appeared to penetrate some distance
into the bowels of the mountain, and was wide and roomy. Sea-
birds in great numbers hovered around its entrance, finding it,
no doubt, an ideal nesting-place. It appeared quite
inaccessible, for even with a perfect calm the swell dashed
against the perpendicular face of the cliff beneath with a force
that would have instantly destroyed any vessel unfortunate enough
to get within its influence.

Slowly, slowly we forged past the danger; but the moment we
opened out the extremity of the island, a fresh breeze, like a
saving hand, swept across the bows, filling the head-sails and
swinging the old vessel away from the island in grand style.
Another minute, and the other sails filled also. We were safe,
all hands breathing freely once more.

Now the wind hung far round to the eastward--far enough to
frustrate any design we might have had of going up the Straits
again. The old man, however, was too deeply impressed with the
paramount necessity of shelter to lightly give up the idea of
getting in somewhere; so he pointed her for Preservation Inlet,
which was only some thirty miles under her lee. We crowded all
sail upon her in the endeavour to get in before nightfall, this
unusual proceeding bringing our two friends up from to leeward
with a run to see what we were after. Burdened as we were, they
sailed nearly two knots to our one, and consequently intercepted
us some while before we neared our port. Great was their
surprise to find we had a whale, and very anxious their queries
as to where the rest of the school had gone. Reassured that they
had lost nothing by not being nearer, it being a "lone" whale,
off they went again.

With all our efforts, evening was fast closing in when we entered
the majestic portals of Preservation Inlet, and gazed with
deepest interest upon its heavily wooded shores.




New Zealand is pre-eminently a country of grand harbours; but I
think those that are least used easily hear the palm for grandeur
of scenery and facility of access. The wonderful harbour, or
rather series of harbours, into which we were now entering for
the first time, greatly resembled in appearance a Norwegian
fjord, not only in the character of its scenery, but from the
interesting, if disconcerting, fact that the cliffs were so
steep-to that in some places no anchorage is found alongside the
very land itself. There are, however, many places where the best
possible anchorage can be obtained, so securely sheltered that a
howling south-wester may be tearing the sea up by the roots
outside, and you will know nothing of it within, except what may
be surmised from the motion of the clouds overhead. It was an
ideal place for a whaling station, being right on the Solander.

We found it exceedingly convenient, and much nearer than Port
William, but, from the prevailing winds, difficult of access in
nine cases out of ten, especially when hampered with a whale.
Upon cutting-in our latest catch, an easy explanation of his
passive attitude was at once forthcoming. He had been attacked
by some whale-ship, whose irons had drawn, leaving deep traces of
their presence; but during the battle he had received SEVEN
bombs, all of which had entered around his small, but had not
exploded. Their general effect had been, I should think, to
paralyze the great muscles of his flukes, rendering him unable to
travel; yet this could not have taken place until some time after
he had made good his escape from those aggressors. It was
instructive, as demonstrating what amount of injury these colossi
really can survive, and I have no doubt that, if he had been left
alone, he would have recovered his normal energy, and been as
well as ever. From our point of view, of course, what had
happened was the best possible thing, for he came almost as a
gift--the second capture we had made on these grounds of a like

At the close of our operations the welcome news was made public
that four more fish like the present one would fill us bung-up,
and that we should then, after a brief visit to the Bluff, start
direct for home. This announcement, though expected for some
time past, gave an amazing fillip to everybody's interest in the
work. The strange spectacle was witnessed of all hands being
anxious to quit a snug harbour for the sea, where stern, hard
wrestling with the elements was the rule. The captain, well
pleased with the eagerness manifested, had his boat manned for a
trip to the entrance of the harbour, to see what the weather was
like outside, since it was not possible to judge from where the
ship lay. On his return, he reported the weather rough, but
moderating, and announced his intention of weighing at daylight
next morning. Satisfied that our days in the southern hemisphere
were numbered, and all anxiety to point her head for home, this
news was most pleasing, putting all of us in the best of humours,
and provoking quite an entertainment of song and dance until
nearly four bells.

During the grey of dawn the anchor was weighed. There was no
breath of wind from any quarter, so that it was necessary to
lower boats and tow the old girl out to her field of duty.
Before she was fairly clear of the harbour, though, there came a
"snifter" from the hills that caught her unprepared, making her
reel again, and giving us a desperate few minutes to scramble on
board and hoist our boats up. As we drew out from the land, we
found that a moderate gale was blowing, but the sky was clear,
fathomless blue, the sun rose kindly, a heavenly dream of soft
delicate colour preceding him; so that, in spite of the strong
breeze, all looked promising for a good campaign. At first no
sign could be seen of any of the other ships, though we looked
long and eagerly for them. At last we saw them, four in all,
nearly hull down to seaward, but evidently coming in under press
of sail. So slow, however, was their approach that we had made
one "leg" across the ground and halfway back before they were
near enough for us to descry the reason of their want of speed.
They had each got a whale alongside, and were carrying every rag
of canvas they could spread, in order to get in with their

Our old acquaintance, the CHANCE, was there, the three others
being her former competitors, except those who were disabled,
still lying in Port William. Slowly, painfully they laboured
along, until well within the mouth of the Straits, when, without
any warning, the wind which had been bringing them in suddenly
flew round into the northward, putting them at once in a most
perilous position. Too far within the Straits to "up helm" and
run for it out to sea; not far enough to get anywhere that an
anchor might hold; and there to leeward, within less than a dozen
miles, loomed grim and gloomy one of the most terrific rock-bound
coasts in the world. The shift of wind had placed the CHANCE
farther to leeward than all the rest, a good mile and a half
nearer the shore; and we could well imagine how anxiously her
movements were being watched by the others, who, in spite of
their jealousy of his good luck, knew well and appreciated fully
Paddy's marvellous seamanship, as well as his unparalleled
knowledge of the coast.

Having no whale to hamper our movements, besides being well to
windward of them all, we were perfectly comfortable as long as we
kept to seaward of a certain line and the gale was not too
fierce, so for the present all our attention was concentrated
upon the labouring ships to leeward. The intervention of the
land to windward kept the sea from rising to the awful height it
attains under the pressure of a westerly, or a south-westerly
gale, when, gathering momentum over an area extending right round
the globe, it hurls itself upon those rugged shores. Still, it
was bad enough. The fact of the gale striking across the regular
set of the swell and current had the effect of making the sea
irregular, short, and broken, which state of things is considered
worse, as far as handling the ship goes, than a much heavier,
longer, but more regular succession of waves.

As the devoted craft drifted helplessly down upon that frowning
barrier, our excitement grew intense. Their inability to do
anything but drift was only too well known by experience to every
one of us, nor would it be possible for them to escape at all if
they persisted in holding on much longer. And it was easy to see
why they did so. While Paddy held on so far to leeward of them,
and consequently in so much more imminent danger than they were,
it would be derogatory in the highest degree to their reputation
for seamanship and courage were they to slip and run before he
did. He, however, showed no sign of doing so, although they all
neared, with an accelerated drift, that point from whence no
seamanship could deliver them, and where death inevitable, cruel,
awaited them without hope of escape. The part of the coast upon
which they were apparently driving was about as dangerous and
impracticable as any in the world. A gigantic barrier of black,
naked rock, extending for several hundred yards, rose sheer from
the sea beneath, like the side of an ironclad, up to a height of
seven or eight hundred feet. No outlying spurs of submerged
fragments broke the immeasurable landward rush of the majestic
waves towards the frowning face of this world-fragment. Fresh
from their source, with all the impetus accumulated in their
thousand-mile journey, they came apparently irresistible.
Against this perpendicular barrier they hurled themselves with a
shock that vibrated far inland, and a roar that rose in a
dominating diapason over the continuous thunder of the tempest-
riven sea. High as was the summit of the cliff, the spray,
hurled upwards by the tremendous impact, rose higher, so that the
whole front of the great rock was veiled in filmy wreaths of
foam, hiding its solidity from the seaward view. At either end
of this vast, rampart nothing could be seen but a waste of
breakers seething, hissing, like the foot of Niagara, and
effectually concealing the CHEVAUX DE FRISE of rocks which
produced such a vortex of tormented waters.

Towards this dreadful spot, then, the four vessels were being
resistlessly driven, every moment seeing their chances of escape
lessening to vanishing-point. Suddenly, as if panic-stricken,
the ship nearest to the CHANCE gave a great sweep round on to the
other tack, a few fluttering gleams aloft showing that even in
that storm they were daring to set some sail. What the manoeuvre
meant we knew very well--they had cut adrift from their whale,
terrified at last beyond endurance into the belief that Paddy was
going to sacrifice himself and his crew in the attempt to lure
them with him to inevitable destruction. The other two did not
hesitate longer. The example once set, they immediately
followed; but it was for some time doubtful in the extreme
whether their resolve was not taken too late to save them from
destruction. We watched them with breathless interest, unable
for a long time to satisfy ourselves that they were out of
danger. But at last we saw them shortening sail again--a sure
sign that they considered themselves, while the wind held in the
same quarter, safe from going ashore at any rate, although there
was still before them the prospect of a long struggle with the
unrelenting ferocity of the weather down south.

Meanwhile, what of the daring Irishman and his old barrel of a
ship? The fugitives once safe off the land, all our interest
centred in the CHANCE. We watched her until she drew in so
closely to the seething cauldron of breakers that it was only
occasionally we could distinguish her outline; and the weather
was becoming so thick and dirty, the light so bad, that we were
reluctantly compelled to lose sight of her, although the skipper
believed that he saw her in the midst of the turmoil of broken
water at the western end of the mighty mass of perpendicular
cliff before described. Happily for us, the wind veered to the
westward, releasing us from the prospect of another enforced
visit to the wild regions south of the island. It blew harder
than ever; but being now a fair wind up the Straits, we fled
before it, anchoring again in Port William before midnight. Here
we were compelled to remain for a week; for after the gale blew
itself out, the wind still hung in the same quarter, refusing to
allow us to get back again to our cruising station.

But on the second day of our enforced detention a ship poked her
jibboom round the west end of the little bay. No words could
describe our condition of spellbound astonishment when she
rounded-to, cumbrously as befitting a ship towing a whale, and
revealed to us the well-remembered outlines of the old CHANCE.
It was like welcoming the first-fruits of the resurrection; for
who among sailor men, having seen a vessel disappear from their
sight, as we had, under such terrible conditions, would ever have
expected to see her again? She was hardly anchored before our
skipper was alongside, thirsting to satisfy his unbounded
curiosity as to the unheard-of means whereby she had escaped such
apparently inevitable destruction. I was fortunate enough to
accompany him, and hear the story at first-hand.

It appeared that none of the white men on board, except the
redoubtable Paddy himself, had ever been placed in so seemingly
hopeless and desperate a position before. Yet when they saw how
calm and free from anxiety their commander was, how cool and
business-like the attitude of all their dusky shipmates, their
confidence in his ability and resourcefulness kept its usual high
level. It must be admitted that the test such feelings were then
subjected to was of the severest, for to their eyes no possible
avenue of escape was open. Along that glaring line of raging,
foaming water not a break occurred, not the faintest indication
of an opening anywhere wherein even so experienced a pilot as
Paddy might thrust a ship. The great black wall of rock loomed
up by their side, grim and pitiless as doom--a very door of
adamant closed against all hope. Nearer and nearer they drew,
until the roar of the baffled Pacific was deafening, maddening,
in its overwhelming volume of chaotic sound. All hands stood
motionless, with eyes fixed in horrible fascination upon the
indescribable vortex to which they were being irresistibly

At last, just as the fringes of the back-beaten billows hissed up
to greet them, they felt her motion ease. Instinctively looking
aft, they saw the skipper coolly wave his hand, signing to them
to trim the yards. As they hauled on the weather braces, she
plunged through the maelstrom of breakers, and before they had
got the yards right round they were on the other side of that
enormous barrier, the anchor was dropped, and all was still. The
vessel rested, like a bird on her nest, in a deep, still tarn,
shut in, to all appearance, on every side by huge rock barriers.
Of the furious storm but a moment before howling and raging all
around them, nothing remained but an all-pervading, thunderous
hum, causing the deck to vibrate beneath them, and high overhead
the jagged, leaden remnants of twisted, tortured cloud whirling
past their tiny oblong of sky. Just a minute's suspension of all
faculties but wonder, then, in one spontaneous, heartfelt note of
genuine admiration, all hands burst into a cheer that even
overtopped the mighty rumble of the baffled sea.

Here they lay, perfectly secure, and cut in their whale as if in
dock; then at the first opportunity they ran out, with fearful
difficulty, a kedge with a whale-line attached, by which means
they warped the vessel out of her hiding-place--a far more
arduous operation than getting in had been. But even this did
not exhaust the wonders of that occasion. They had hardly got
way upon her, beginning to draw out from the land, when the
eagle-eye of one of the Maories detected the carcass of a whale
rolling among the breakers about half a mile to the westward.
Immediately a boat was lowered, a double allowance of line put
into her, and off they went to the valuable flotsam. Dangerous
in the highest degree was the task of getting near enough to
drive harpoons into the body; but it was successfully
accomplished, the line run on board, and the prize hauled
triumphantly alongside. This was the whale they had now brought
in. We shrewdly suspected that it must have been one of those
abandoned by the unfortunate vessels who had fled, but etiquette
forbade us saying anything about it. Even had it been, another
day would have seen it valueless to any one, for it was by no
means otto of roses to sniff at now, while they had certainly
salved it at the peril of their lives.

When we returned on board and repeated the story, great was the
amazement. Such a feat of seamanship was almost beyond belief;
but we were shut up to believing, since in no other way could the
vessel's miraculous escape be accounted for. The little, dumpy,
red-faced figure, rigged like any scarecrow, that now stood on
his cutting-stage, punching away vigorously at the fetid mass of
blubber beneath him, bore no outward visible sign of a hero about
him; but in our eyes he was transfigured--a being to be thought
of reverently, as one who in all those dualities that go to the
making of a man had proved himself of the seed royal, a king of
men, all the more kingly because unconscious that his deeds were
of so exalted an order.

I am afraid that, to a landsman, my panegyric may smack strongly
of gush, for no one but a seaman can rightly appraise such doings
as these; but I may be permitted to say that, when I think of men
whom I feel glad to have lived to know, foremost among them rises
the queer little figure of Paddy Gilroy.




The wind still holding steadily in the old quarter, our skipper
got very restless. He recalled his former exploits, and, firing
at the thought, decided then and there to have a trip round to
Port Pegasus, in the hope that he might meet with some of his
former good luck in the vicinity of that magnificent bay. With
the greatest alacrity we obeyed his summons, handling the old
barky as if she were a small boat, and the same morning, for the
first time, ran out of the Straits to the eastward past Ruapuke
Island. Beautiful weather prevailed, making our trip a
delightful one, the wonderful scenery of that coast appealing to
even the most callous or indifferent among us. We hugged the
land closely, the skipper being familiar with all of it in a
general way, so that none of its beauties were lost to us. The
breeze holding good, by nightfall we had reached our destination,
anchoring in the north arm near a tumbling cascade of glittering
water that looked like a long feather laid on the dark-green
slope of the steep hill from which it gushed.

We had not been long at anchor before we had visitors--half-breed
Maories, who, like the Finns and Canadians, are farmers,
fishermen, sailors, and shipwrights, as necessity arises. They
brought us potatoes--most welcome of all fruit to the sailor--
cabbages, onions, and "mutton birds." This latter delicacy is a
great staple of their flesh food, but is one of the strangest
dishes imaginable. When it is being cooked in the usual way,
i.e. by grilling, it smells exactly like a piece of roasting
mutton; but it tastes, to my mind, like nothing else in the world
so much as a kippered herring. There is a gastronomical paradox,
if you like. Only the young birds are taken for eating. They
are found, when unfledged, in holes of the rocks, and weigh
sometimes treble as much as their parents. They are exceedingly
fat; but this substance is nearly all removed from their bodies
before they are hung up in the smoke-houses. They are split open
like a haddock, and carefully smoked, after being steeped in
brine. Baskets, something like exaggerated strawberry pottles of
the old conical shape, are prepared, to hold each about a dozen
birds. They are lined with leaves, then packed with the birds,
the melted fat being run into all the interstices until the
basket is full. The top is then neatly tied up with more leaves,
and, thus preserved, the contents will keep in cool weather an
indefinite length of time.

Captain Count was soon recognized by some of his old friends, who
were delighted to welcome him again. Their faces fell, however,
when he told them that his stay was to be very brief, and that he
only required four good-sized fish to fill up. Inquiry as to the
prevalence of sperm whales in the vicinity elicited the news that
they were as plentiful as they had ever been--if anything, more
so, since the visits of the whalers had become fewer. There were
a couple of "bay" whaling stations existing; but, of course,
their success could not be expected to be great among the
cachalots, who usually keep a respectful distance from harbours,
while they had driven the right whales away almost entirely.

No one could help being struck by the manly hearing, splendid
physique, and simple manners of the inhabitants. If ever it
falls to the lot of any one, as I hope it will, to establish a
sperm whale fishery in these regions, there need be no lack of
workers while such grand specimens of manhood abound there as we
saw--all, moreover, fishermen and whalers from their earliest

We did not go far afield, but hovered within ten or fifteen miles
of the various entrances, so as not to be blown off the land in
case of sudden bad weather. Even with that timid offing, we were
only there two days, when an enormous school of sperm whales hove
in sight. I dare not say how many I believe there were, and my
estimate really might be biassed; but this I know, that in no
given direction could one look to seaward and not see many

We got among them and had a good time, being more hampered by the
curiosity of the unattached fish than by the pugnacity of those
under our immediate attention. So we killed three, and by
preconcerted signal warned the watchers on the lofty points
ashore of our success. As speedily as possible off came four
boats from the shore stations, and hooked on to two of our fish,
while we were busy with the third. The wind being off shore,
what there was of it, no time was to be lost, in view of the
well-known untrustworthiness of the weather; so we started to
cut-in at once, while the shore people worked like giants to tow
the other two in. Considering the weakness of their forces, they
made marvellous progress; but seeing how terribly exhausting the
toil was, one could not help wishing them one of the small London
tugs, familiarly known as "jackals," which would have snaked
those monsters along at three or four knots an hour.

However, all went well; the usual gale did blow but not till we
had got the last piece aboard and a good "slant" to run in,
arriving at our previous moorings at midnight. In the morning
the skipper went down in his boat to visit the stations, and see
how they had fared. Old hand as he was, I think he was
astonished to see what progress those fellows had made with the
fish. They did not reach the stations till after midnight, but
already they had the whales half flenched, and, by the way they
were working, it looked as if they would be through with their
task as soon as we were with ours. Their agreement with the
skipper was to yield us half the oil they made, and, if agreeable
to them, we would take their moiety at L40 per tun. Consequently
they had something to work for, even though there were twenty of
them to share the spoil. They were a merry party, eminently good
tempered, and working as though one spirit animated them all. If
there was a leader of the band, he did his office with great
subtilty, for all seemed equal, nor did any appear to need
directing what to do. Fired by their example, we all worked our
hardest; but they beat us by half a day, mainly, I think, by dint
of working nearly all the time with scarce any interval for
sleep. True, they were bound to take advantage of low water when
their huge prize was high and dry--to get at him easily all
round. Their method was of the simplest. With gaff-hooks to
haul back the pieces, and short-handled spades for cutting, they
worked in pairs, taking off square slabs of blubber about a
hundredweight each. As soon as a piece was cut off, the pair
tackled on to it, dragging it up to the pots, where the cooks
hastily sliced it for boiling, interspersing their labours with
attention to the simmering cauldrons.

Their efforts realized twenty-four tuns of clear oil and
spermaceti, of which, according to bargain, we took twelve, the
captain buying the other twelve for L480, as previously arranged.
This latter portion, however, was his private venture, and not on
ship's account, as he proposed selling it at the Bluff, when we
should call there on our way home. So that we were still two
whales short of our quantity. What a little space it did seem to
fill up! Our patience was sorely tested, when, during a whole
week following our last haul, we were unable to put to sea. In
vain we tried all the old amusements of fishing, rambling,
bathing, etc.; they had lost their "bite;" we wanted to get home.
At last the longed-for shift of wind came and set us free. We
had hardly got well clear of the heads before we saw a school of
cachalots away on the horizon, some twelve miles off the land to
the southward. We made all possible sail in chase, but found, to
our dismay, that they were "making a passage," going at such a
rate that unless the wind freshened we could hardly hope to come
up with them. Fortunately, we had all day before us, having
quitted our moorings soon after daylight; and unless some
unforeseen occurrence prevented us from keeping up our rate of
speed, the chances were that some time before dark they would
ease up and allow us to approach them. They were heading to the
westward, perhaps somewhat to the northward withal, to all
appearance making for the Solander. Hour after hour crawled by,
while we still seemed to preserve our relative distance, until we
had skirted the southern shore of the island and entered the
area, of our old fishing ground. Two vessels were cruising
thereon, well to the northward, and we thought with glee of the
excitement that would seize them did they but gain an inkling of
our chase.

To our great delight, what we had hoped, but hardly dared expect,
came to pass. The school, as if with one impulse, hauled up on
their course four points, which made them head direct for the
western verge of the Solander ground, and--what was more
important to us--made our coming up with them a matter of a short
time. We made the customary signals with the upper sails to our
friends to the northward, who recognized them immediately, and
bore down towards us. Not only had the school shifted their
course, but they had slackened speed; so that by four o'clock we
were able to lower for them at less than a mile distance.

It was an ideal whaling day--smooth water, a brisk breeze, a
brilliant sun, and plenty of whales. I was, as became my
position, in the rear when we went into action, and hardly hoped
for an opportunity of doing much but dance attendance upon my
seniors. But fortune favoured me. Before I had any idea whether
the chief was fast or not, all other considerations were driven
clean out of my head by the unexpected apparition of a colossal
head, not a ship's length away, coming straight for us, throwing
up a swell in front of him like an ironclad. There was barely
time to sheer to one side, when the giant surged past us in a
roar of foaming sea, the flying flakes of which went right over
us. Samuela was "all there," though, and as the great beast
passed he plunged a harpoon into him with such force and vigour
that the very socket entered the blubber it needed all the
strength I could muster, even with such an aid as the nineteen-
feet steer-oar, to swing the boat right round in his wake, and
prevent her being capsized by his headlong rush.

For, contrary to the usual practice, he paused not an instant,
but rather quickened his pace, as if spurred. Heavens, how he
went! The mast and sail had to come down--and they did, but I
hardly know how. The spray was blinding, coming in sheets over
the bows, so that I could hardly see how to steer in the
monster's wake. He headed straight for the ship, which lay-to
almost motionless, filling me with apprehension lest he should in
his blind flight dash that immense mass of solid matter into her
broadside, and so put an inglorious end to all our hopes. What
their feelings on board must have been, I can only imagine, when
they saw the undeviating rush of the gigantic creature straight
for them. On he went, until I held my breath for the crash, when
at the last moment, and within a few feet of the ship's side, he
dived, passing beneath the vessel. We let go line immediately,
as may be supposed; but although we had been towing with quite
fifty fathoms drift, our speed had been so great that we came up
against the old ship with a crash that very nearly finished us.
He did not run any further just then, but sounded for about two
hundred and fifty fathoms, rising to the surface in quite another
mood. No more running away from him. I cannot say I felt any of
the fierce joy of battle at the prospect before me. I had a
profound respect for the fighting qualities of the sperm whale,
and, to tell the truth, would much rather have run twenty miles
behind him than have him turn to bay in his present parlous
humour. It was, perhaps, fortunate for me that there was a crowd
of witnesses, the other ships being now quite near enough to see
all that was going on, since the feeling that my doings were full
in view of many experts and veterans gave me a determination that
I would not disgrace either myself or my ship; besides, I felt
that this would probably be our last whale this voyage, if I did
not fail, and that was no small thing to look forward to.

All these things, so tedious in the telling, flashed through my
mind, while, with my eyes glued to the huge bulk of my antagonist
or the hissing vortices above him when he settled, I manoeuvred
my pretty craft with all the skill I could summon. For what
seemed a period of about twenty minutes we dodged him as he made
the ugliest rushes at us. I had not yet changed ends with
Samuela, as customary, for I felt it imperative to keep the helm
while this game was being played. My trusty Kanaka, however, had
a lance ready, and I knew, if he only got the ghost of a chance,
no man living would or could make better use of it.

The whole affair was growing monotonous as well as extremely
wearying. Perhaps I was a little off my guard; at any rate, my
heart almost leaped into my mouth when just after an ugly rush
past us, which I thought had carried him to a safe distance, he
stopped dead, lifted his flukes, and brought them down edgeways
with a vicious sweep that only just missed the boat's gunwale and
shore off the two oars on that side as if they had been carrots.
This serious disablement would certainly have led to disaster
but for Samuela. Prompt and vigorous, he seized the opportune
moment when the whale's side was presented just after the blow,
sending his lance quivering home all its length into the most
vital part of the leviathan's anatomy. Turning his happy face to
me, he shouted exultingly, "How's dat fer high?"--a bit of slang
he had picked up, and his use of which never failed to make me
smile. "High" it was indeed--a master-stroke. It must have
pierced the creature's heart, for he immediately began to spout
blood in masses, and without another wound went into his flurry
and died.

Then came the reaction. I must have exerted myself beyond what I
had any idea of, for to Samuela I was obliged to delegate the,
task of fluke-boring, while I rested a little. The ship was soon
alongside, though, and the whale secured. There was more yet to
be done before we could rest, in spite of our fatigue. The other
boats had been so successful that they had got two big fish, and
what we were to do with them was a problem not easily solvable.
By dint of great exertion, we managed to get another whale
alongside, but were fain to come to some arrangement with the
ELIZA ADAMS, one of the ships that had been unsuccessful, to take
over our other whale on an agreement to render us one-third of
the product either in Port William or at home, if she should not
find us is the former place.

Behold us, then, in the gathering dusk with a whale an either
side, every stitch of canvas we could show set and drawing,
straining every nerve to get into the little port again, with the
pleasant thought that we were bringing with us all that was
needed to complete our well-earned cargo. Nobody wanted to go
below; all hands felt that it was rest enough to hang over the
rail on either side and watch the black masses as they surged
through the gleaming sea. They represented so much to us. Very
little was said, but all hearts were filled with a deep content,
a sense of a long season of toil fitly crowned with complete
success; nor was any depression felt at the long, long stretch of
stormy ocean between us and our home port far away in the United
States. That would doubtless come by-and-by, when within less
than a thousand miles of New Bedford; but at present all sense of
distance from home was lost in the overmastering thought that
soon it would be our only business to get there as quickly as
possible, without any avoidable loitering on the road.

We made an amazing disturbance in the darkness of the sea with
our double burthen, so much so that one of the coasting steamers
changed her course a bit to range up by our side in curiosity.
We were scarcely going two and a half knots, in spite of the row
we made, and there was hardly room for wonder at the steamboat
captain's hail, "Want any assistance?" "No, thank you," was
promptly returned, although there was little doubt that all hands
would have subscribed towards a tow into port, in case the
treacherous weather should, after all, play us a dirty trick.
But it looked as if our troubles were over. No hitch occurred in
our steady progress, slow though it necessarily was, and as
morning lifted the heavy veil from the face of the land, we
arrived at our pretty little haven, and quietly came to an
anchor. The CHANCE was in port wind-bound, looking, like
ourselves, pretty low in the water. No sooner did Paddy hear the
news of our arrival in such fine trim than he lowered his boat
and hurried on board of us, his face beaming with delight. Long
and loud were his congratulations, especially when be heard that
we should now be full. Moreover, he offered--nor would he take
any denial--to come with the whole of his crew and help us

For the next four days and nights, during which the wind
prevented the CHANCE from leaving us, our old ship was a scene of
wild revelry, that ceased not through the twenty-four hours--
revelry entirely unassisted by strong waters, too, the natural
ebullient gaiety of men who were free from anxiety on any account
whatever, rejoicing over the glad consummation of more than two
years toil, on the one hand; on the other, a splendid sympathy in
joy manifested by the satisfied crew under the genial command of
Captain Gilroy. With their cheerful help we made wonderful
progress; and when at last the wind hauled into a favourable
quarter, and they were compelled to leave us, the back of our
work was broken, only the tedious task of boiling being left to

Never, I am sure, did two ships' companies part with more hearty
good-will than ours. As the ungainly old tub surged slowly out
of the little harbour, her worn-out and generally used-up
appearance would have given a Board of Trade Inspector the
nightmare; the piratical looks of her crowd were enough to
frighten a shipload of passengers into fits; but to us who had
seen their performances in all weathers, and under all
circumstances, accidental externals had no weight in biassing our
high opinion of them all. Good-bye, old ship; farewell, jolly
captain and sturdy crew; you will never be forgotten any more by
us while life lasts, and in far other and more conventional
scenes we shall regretfully remember the free-and-easy time we
shared with you. So she slipped away round the point and out of
our lives for ever.

By dint of steady hard work we managed to get the last of our
greasy work done in four days more, then faced with a will the
job of stowing afresh the upper tiers of casks, in view of our
long journey home. The oil bought by the skipper on private
venture was left on deck, secured to the lash-rail, for
discharging at the Bluff, while our stock of water-casks were
carefully overhauled and recoopered prior to being stowed in
their places below. Of course, we had plenty of room in the
hold, since no ship would carry herself full of casks of oil; but
I doubt whether, if we had borne a "Plimsoll's mark," it would
not have been totally submerged, so deep did we lie. Wooding and
watering came next--a different affair to our casual exercises in
those directions before. Provision had to be made now for a
possible four or five months' passage, during which we hoped to
avoid any further calls, so that the accumulation of firewood
alone was no small matter. We cleared the surrounding
neighbourhood of potatoes at a good price, those useful tubers
being all they could supply us with for sea-stock, much to their

Then came the most unpleasant part of the whole business--for me.
It had been a part of the agreement made with the Kanakas that
they were not to be taken home with us, but returned to their
island upon the termination of the whaling. Now, the time had
arrived when we were to part, and I must confess that I felt very
sorry to leave them. They had proved docile, useful, and
cheerful; while as for my harpooner and his mate Polly, no man
could have wished for smarter, better, or more faithful helpers
than they were. Strong as their desire was to return to their
homes, they too felt keenly the parting with us; for although
they had unavoidably suffered much from the inclemency of the
weather--so different from anything they had ever previously
experienced--they had been kindly treated, and had moved on
precisely the same footing as the rest of the crew. They wept
like little children when the time arrived for them to leave us,
declaring that if ever we came to their island again they would
use all their endeavours to compel us to remain, assuring us that
we should want for nothing during the rest of our lives, if we
would but take up our abode with them. The one exception to all
this cordiality was Sam. His ideas were running in quite other
channels. To regain his lost status as ruler of the island, with
all the opportunities for indulging his animal propensities which
such a position gave him, was the problem he had set himself, and
to the realization of these wishes he had determinedly bent all
his efforts.

Thus he firmly declined the offer of a passage back in the ELIZA
ADAMS, which our captain secured for all the Kanakas; preferring
to be landed at the Bluff, with the goodly sum of money to which
he was entitled, saying that he had important business to
transact in Sydney before he returned. This business, he
privately informed me, was the procuring of arms and ammunition
wherewith to make war upon his rival. Of course we could not
prevent him, although it did seem an abominable thing to let
loose the spirit of slaughter among those light-hearted natives
just to satisfy the ambition of an unscrupulous negro. But, as I
have before noticed, from information received many years after I
learned that he had been successful in his efforts, though at
what cost to life I do not know.

So our dusky friends left us, with a good word from every one,
and went on board the ELIZA ADAMS, whose captain promised to land
them at Futuna, within six months. How he carried out his
promise, I do not know; but, for the poor fellows' sakes, I trust
he kept his word.




And now the cruise of the good old whaling barque CACHALOT, as
far as whaling is concerned, comes to an end. For all practical
purposes she becomes a humdrum merchantman in haste to reach her
final port of discharge, and get rid of her cargo. No more will
she loiter and pry around anything and everything, from an island
to a balk of drift-wood, that comes in her way, knowing not the
meaning of "waste of time." The "crow's-nests" are dismantled,
taut topgallant-masts sent up, and royal yards crossed. As soon
as we get to sea we shall turn-to and heave that ancient fabric
of bricks and mortar--always a queer-looking erection to be
cumbering a ship's deck--piecemeal over the side. It has long
been shaky and weather-beaten; it will soon obstruct our
movements no more. Our rigging has all been set up and tarred
down; we have painted hull and spars, and scraped wherever the
wood-work is kept bright. All gear belonging to whaling has been
taken out of the boats, carefully cleaned, oiled, and stowed away
for a "full due." Two of the boats have been taken inboard, and
stowed bottom-up upon the gallows aft, as any other merchantman
carries them. At last, our multifarious preparations completed,
we ride ready for sea.

It was quite in accordance with the fitness of things that, when
all things were now ready for our departure, there should come a
change of wind that threatened to hold us prisoners for some days
longer. But our "old man" was hard to beat, and he reckoned
that, if we could only get out of the "pond," he would work her
across to the Bluff somehow or other. So we ran out a kedge with
a couple of lines to it, and warped her out of the weather side
of the harbour, finding, when at last we got her clear, that she
would lay her course across the Straits to clear Ruapuke--nearly;
but the current had to be reckoned with. Before we reached that
obstructing island we were down at the eastern end of it, and
obliged to anchor promptly to save ourselves from being swept
down the coast many miles to leeward of our port.

But the skipper was quite equal to the occasion. Ordering his
boat, he sped away into Bluff harbour, only a matter of six or
seven miles, returning soon with a tug, who for a pound or two
placed us, without further trouble, alongside the wharf, amongst
some magnificent clipper ships of Messrs. Henderson's and the New
Zealand Shipping Co.'s, who seemed to turn up their splendid
noses at the squat, dumpy, antiquated old serving-mallet that
dared to mingle with so august a crowd. There had been a time,
not so very far back, when I should have shared their apparent
contempt for our homely old tub; but my voyage had taught me,
among other things, that, as far as true comfort went at sea, not
a "three-skysail-yarder" among them could compare with the
CACHALOT. And I was extremely glad that my passage round the
Horn was to be in my own ship, and not in a long, snaky tank
that, in the language of the sailor, takes a header when she gets
outside the harbour, and only comes up two or three times to blow
before she gets home.

Our only reason for visiting this place being to discharge
Captain Count's oil, and procure a sea-stock of salt provisions
and hard bread, these duties were taken in hand at once. The
skipper sold his venture of oil to good advantage, being so
pleased with his success that he gave us all a good feed on the
strength of it.

As soon as the stores were embarked and everything ready for sea,
leave was given to all hands for twenty-four hours, upon the
distinct understanding that the privilege was not to be abused,
to the detriment of everybody, who, as might be supposed, were
anxious to start for home. In order that there might be less
temptation to go on the spree generally, a grand picnic was
organized to a beautiful valley some distance from the town.
Carriages were chartered, an enormous quantity of eatables and
drinkables provided, and away we went, a regular wayzgoose or
bean-feast party. It was such a huge success, that I have ever
since wondered why such outings cannot become usual among sailors
on liberty abroad, instead of the senseless, vicious waste of
health, time, and hard-earned wages which is general. But I must
not let myself loose upon this theme again, or we shall never get
to sea.

Liberty over without any trouble arising, and all hands
comfortably on board again, the news ran round that we were to
sail in the morning. So, after a good night's rest, we cast
loose from the wharf, and, with a little assistance from the same
useful tug that brought us in, got fairly out to sea. All sail
was set to a strong, steady north-wester, and with yards canted
the least bit in the world on the port tack, so that every stitch
was drawing, we began our long easterly stretch to the Horn,
homeward bound at last.

Favoured by wind and weather, we made an average run of one
hundred and eighty miles per day for many days, paying no
attention to "great circle sailing," since in such a slow ship
the net gain to be secured by going to a high latitude was very
small, but dodging comfortably along on about the parallel of
48deg. S., until it became necessary to draw down towards "Cape
Stiff," as that dreaded extremity of South America, Cape Horn, is
familiarly called by seamen. As we did so, icebergs became
numerous, at one time over seventy being in sight at once. Some
of them were of immense size--one, indeed, that could hardly be
fitly described as an iceberg, but more properly an ice-field,
with many bergs rising out of it, being over sixty miles long,
while some of its towering peaks were estimated at from five
hundred to one thousand feet high. Happily, the weather kept
clear; for icebergs and fog make a combination truly appalling to
the sailor, especially if there be much wind blowing.

Needless, perhaps, to say, our look-out was of the best, for all
hands had a double interest in the safety of the ship. Perhaps
it may be thought that any man would have so much regard for the
safety of his life that he would not think of sleeping on his
look-out; but I can assure my readers that, strange as it may
seem, such is not the case, I have known men who could never be
trusted not to go to sleep, no matter how great the danger. This
is so well recognized in merchant ships that nearly every officer
acts as if there was no look-out at all forward, in case his
supposed watchman should be having a surreptitious doze.

Stronger and stronger blew the brave west wind; dirtier,
gloomier, and colder grew the weather, until, reduced to two
topsails and a reefed foresail, we were scudding dead before the
gale for all we were worth. This was a novel experience for us in
the CACHALOT, and I was curious to see how she would behave. To
my mind, the supreme test of a ship's sea-kindliness is the
length of time she will scud before a gale without "pooping" a
sea, or taking such heavy water on board over her sides as to do
serious damage. Some ships are very dangerous to run at all.
Endeavouring to make the best use of the gale which is blowing in
the right direction, the captain "hangs on" to all the sail he
can carry, until she ships a mighty mass of water over all, so
that the decks are filled with wreckage, or, worse still, "poops"
a sea. The latter experience is a terrible one, even to a
trained seaman. You are running before the wind and waves,
sometimes deep in the valley between two liquid mountains,
sometimes high on the rolling ridge of one. You watch anxiously
the speed of the sea, trying to decide whether it or you are
going the faster, when suddenly there seems to be a hush, almost
a lull, in the uproar. You look astern, and see a wall of water
rising majestically higher and higher, at the same time drawing
nearer and nearer. Instinctively you clutch at something firm,
and hold your breath. Then that mighty green barrier leans
forward, the ship's stern seems to settle at the same time, and,
with a thundering noise as of an avalanche descending, it
overwhelms you. Of course the ship's way is deadened; she seems
like a living thing overburdened, yet struggling to be free; and
well it is for all hands if the helmsman be able to keep his
post and his wits about him. For if he be hurt, or have fled
from the terrible wave, it is an even chance that she "broaches
to;" that is to say, swings round broadside on to the next great
wave that follows relentlessly its predecessor. Then, helpless
and vulnerable, she will most probably be smashed up and founder.
Many a good ship has gone with all hands to the bottom just as
simply as that.

In order to avoid such a catastrophe, the proper procedure is to
"heave-to" before the sea has attained so dangerous a height; but
even a landsman can understand bow reluctant a shipmaster may be
to lie like a log just drifting, while a more seaworthy ship is
flying along at the rate of, perhaps, three hundred miles a day
in the desired direction. Ships of the CACHALOT's bluff build
are peculiarly liable to delays of this kind from their slowness,
which, if allied to want of buoyancy, makes it necessary to
heave-to in good time, if safety is at all cared for.

To my great astonishment and delight, however, our grand old
vessel nobly sustained her character, running on without shipping
any heavy water, although sometimes hedged in on either side by
gigantic waves that seemed to tower as high as her lowermast
heads. Again and again we were caught up and passed by the
splendid homeward-bound colonial packets, some of them carrying
an appalling press of canvas, under which the long, snaky hulls,
often overwhelmed by the foaming seas, were hardly visible, so
insignificant did they appear by comparison with the snowy
mountain of swelling sail above.

So we fared eastward and ever southward, until in due time up
rose the gloomy, storm-scarred crags of the Diego Ramirez rocks,
grim outposts of the New World. To us, though, they bore no
terrific aspect; for were they not the turning-point from which
we could steer north, our head pointed for home? Immediately
upon rounding them we hauled up four points, and, with daily
improving weather climbed the southern slopes towards the line.

Very humdrum and quiet the life appeared to all of us, and had it
not been for the saving routine of work by day, and watch by
night, kept up with all our old discipline, the tedium would have
been insupportable after the incessant excitement of expectation
to which we had so long been accustomed. Still, our passage was
by no means a bad one for a slow ship, being favoured by more
than ordinarily steadfast winds until we reached the zone of the
south-east trades again, where the usual mild, settled wind and
lovely weather awaited us. On and on, unhasting but unresting,
we stolidly jogged, by great good fortune slipping across the
"doldrums"--that hateful belt of calms about the line so much
detested by all sailor-men--without losing the south-east wind.

Not one day of calm delayed us, the north-east trades meeting us
like a friend sent to extend a welcoming hand and lend us his
assistance on our homeward way. They hung so far to the
eastward, too--sometimes actually at east-by-north-that we were
able to steer north on the starboard tack--a slice of luck not
usually met with. This "slant" put all hands in the best of
humours, and already the date of our arrival was settled by the
more sanguine ones, as well as excellent plans made for spending
the long voyage's earnings.

For my part, having been, in spite of my youth, accustomed to so
many cruel disappointments and slips between the cup and lip, I
was afraid to dwell too hopefully upon the pleasures (?) of
getting ashore. And after the incident which I have now to
record occurred, I felt more nervous distrust than I had ever
felt before at sea since first I began to experience the many
vicissitudes of a sailor's life.

We had reached the northern verge of the tropics in a very short
time, owing to the favourable cant in the usual direction of the
north-east trades before noted, and had been met with north-
westerly winds and thick, dirty weather, which was somewhat
unusual in so low a latitude. Our look-outs redoubled their
vigilance, one being posted on each bow always at night, and
relieved every hour, as we were so well manned. We were now on
the port tack, of course, heading about north-east-by-north, and
right in the track of outward-hound vessels from both the United
Kingdom and the States. One morning, about three a.m.--that
fateful time in the middle watch when more collisions occur than
at any other--suddenly out of the darkness a huge ship seemed to
leap right at us. She must have come up in a squall, of which
there were many about, at the rate of some twelve knots an hour,
having a fair wind, and every rag of sail set. Not a gleam of
light was visible anywhere on board of her, and, to judge from
all appearances, the only man awake on board was the helmsman.

We, being "on the wind, close-hauled," were bound by the "rule of
the road at sea" to keep our course when meeting a ship running
free. The penalty for doing ANYTHING under such circumstances is
a severe one. First of all, you do not KNOW that the other
ship's crew are asleep or negligent, even though they carry no
lights; for, by a truly infernal parsimony, many vessels actually
do not carry oil enough to keep their lamps burning all the
voyage, and must therefore economize in this unspeakably
dangerous fashion. And it may be that just as you alter your
course, daring no longer to hold on, and, as you have every
reason to believe, be run down, the other man alters his. Then a
few breathless moments ensue, an awful crash, and the two vessels
tear each other to pieces, spilling the life that they contain
over the hungry sea. Even if you escape, YOU are to blame for
not keeping your course, unless it can be proved that you were
not seen by the running ship.

Well, we kept our course until, I verily believe, another plunge
would have cut us sheer in two halves. At the last moment our
helm was put hard down, bringing our vessel right up into the
wind at the same moment as the helmsman on board the other vessel
caught sight of us, and instinctively put his helm down too. The
two vessels swung side by side amidst a thunderous roar of
flapping canvas, crackling of fallen spars, and rending of wood
as the shrouds tore away the bulwarks. All our davits were
ripped from the starboard side, and most of our bulwarks too;
but, strangely enough, we lost no spars nor any important gear.
There seemed to be a good deal of damage done on board the
stranger, where, in addition, all hands were at their wits' end.
Well they might be, aroused from so criminal a sleep as theirs.
Fortunately, the third mate had powerful bull's-eye lantern,
which in his watch on deck he always kept lighted. Turning it on
the stern of the delinquent vessel as she slowly forged clear of
us, we easily read her name, which, for shame's sake as well as
for prudential reasons, I withhold. She was a London ship, and a
pretty fine time of it I had for the next day or two, listening
to the jeers and sarcasms on the quality of British seamanship.

Repairing damages kept us busy for a few days; but whatever of
thankfulness we were capable of feeling was aroused by this
hairbreadth escape from death through the wicked neglect of the
most elementary duty of any man calling himself a seaman.

Then a period of regular Western-ocean weather set in. It was
early spring in the third year since our departure from this part
of the world, and the north-easter blew with bitter severity,
making even the seasoned old captain wince again; but, as he
jovially said, "it smelt homey, n' HE warn't a-goin' ter growl at
thet." Neither were any of us, although we could have done with
less of a sharp edge to it all the same.

Steadily we battled northward, until at last, with full hearts,
me made Cape Navesink ("Ole Neversunk"), and on the next day took
a tug and towed into New Bedford with every flag we could scare
up flying, the centre of admiration--a full whale-ship safe back
from her long, long fishing round the world.

My pleasant talk is done. I wish from my heart it were better
performed; but, having done my best, I must perforce be content.
If in some small measure I have been able to make you, my
friendly reader, acquainted with a little-known or appreciated
side of life, and in any wise made that life a real matter to
you, giving you a fresh interest in the toilers of the sea, my
work has not been wholly in vain. And with that fond hope I give
you the sailor's valedictory--


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