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ashore in the Frith of Forth; and about thirty years afterwards another, somewhat more than seventy feet in length, near Peterhead, in Scotland. Whales are supposed to live to a great age. The marks of age are an increase in the quantity of grey colour in the skin, and a change to a yellowish tinge of the white parts about the head, a decrease in the quantity of oil yielded by a certain weight of blubber, and an increase of hardness in the blubber itself.
"The earliest authenticated account of a fishery for whales," says Scoresby, "is probably that contained in Ohthere's voyage, translated by Alfred the Great. This voyage was undertaken by Ohthere, a native of Halgoland, in the diocese of Drontheim, a person of considerable wealth in his own country, from motives of mere curiosity, at his own risk and under his own personal superintendence. This enterprise was communicated by the navigator himself to King Alfred, who has preserved it, and has handed it down to us in his translation o^Orosius."* In various ancient authors we have accounts of whales as an object of pursuit, and of their being held in high estimation as an article of food. We find, in the eleventh century, a donation of William the Conqueror to the convent of the Holy Trinity of Caen, of the tithe of whales captured at or brought to Dive; and in a bull of Pope Eugene III., in 1145, we find again a donation in favour of the church of Coutances, of the tithe of the tongues of whales taken at Merry, a gift which was confirmed to this church by an act of Philip, king of France, in 1319. Edward III., King of England, had a revenue of six pounds sterling upon every whale taken and brought into the harbour of Beariz, which, in 1338, was so considerable, as to be petitioned for by the admiral of the British fleet stationed at Bayonne.
* Orosius was a Christian and a Spaniard. The work here mentioned is his "Summary of Ancient History," ending with the year 417, at which period he lived.
Whilst the Norwegians, Flemings, French, and the Spaniards of Biscay, seem to have thus early subjected the largest animal in the creation, the English, it is to be supposed, did not remain behind, though we are not aware of any very early attempts to capture the whale made by them. When they are mentioned in ancient documents, it seems doubtful whether the whales were such as were run on shore by accident, or attacked and subdued on the high seas. By an act of Edward II., 1315, in an agreement with the lady of Belino, he reserves to himself the right of all whales cast by chance on the shore; and by a subsequent act decreed that the wreck of whales throughout the realm, or whales and great sturgeons taken in the sea, or elsewhere within the realm, excepting certain privileged places, should belong to the king. Henry IV. gave, in 1415, to the church of Rochester the tithe of whales taken along the shore of that bishopric.
By the laws of Scotland, as well as other countries, whales of a certain size belong to the king, and are therefore called royal fish. Such whales appear to be of the largest dimensions; for it is stated, that "all great whales belong to the king, and also such smaller whales as may not be drawn from the water to the nearest part of the land on a wain with six oxen." Frequent disputes have taken place in Zetland about the division of whales
betwixt the admiral, the landholders, and their tenants, the tenants having never silently submitted to the alleged right of their superiors.
"In August or September, 1784, several fishermen, belonging to the parish of Sansting, in Zetland, fell in with a great number of whales at sea, and with great labour and difficulty drove them into Sella-voe, where, with guns, spits, and scythes, they killed and brought on shore twenty-three of them. The largest was scarcely twenty-three feet long, and the smallest only six. One whale, being severely wounded in the throat by a gun-shot, ran on shore; but all the rest were killed by the people in three or four fathoms water; or they were so much exhausted by fatigue and wounds, that the people were able to fasten ropes to them and bring them on shore. The greater part of the whales were landed on a beach belonging to the glebe, and the others on a beach belonging to the estate of Sir John Mitchell, of Wesshore.
The fishermen underwent great fatigue, and ran the risk of their lives in killing and capturing these whales. One boat was completely destroyed, and others much damaged. The day after the whales had been killed the late Walter Scott, Esq., appeared on the ground, and claimed the whole in name of the admiral. He employed the people to flench the whales, and transport the blubber to a neighbouring booth, for which he paid them. The blubber was hastily sold by auction. Mr. Ross, of Sand, was the purchaser. But there was an extraordinary article in the sale, 'That none of the men who had assisted in killing the whales should be permitted to bid for them.' The fishermen petitioned Lord Dundas to restore them their share, and I understand his lordship sent peremptory orders to refund the tenants every farthing claimed in his name; but it is a certain fact that they have never received any part of it to this day."*