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mission for twenty hours. Before dark of the 16th, Captain Bennet, of the Venerable, saw several icebergs, at which time he believed the Royalist was lying to windward of an extensive chain of these islands of ice, among which she was wrecked in the course of the same night. Captain Edmonds and his unfortunate crew probably perished immediately, as the sea was uncommonly high.
It is somewhat remarkable that Captain Matthews, of the London, was engaged as chief mate of the Royalist for the voyage in which she was wrecked. He was prevented from sailing in her. Three years after he perished from a similar cause in the ship of which he was captain.
The English (Bingley informs us) send out with every ship six or seven boats; each of these has one harpooner, one man at the rudder, one to manage the line, and four seamen as rowers. In each boat there are also two or three harpoons, several lances, and six lines, each 120 fathoms long, fastened together. As soon as the whale is struck by the harpoon, he darts down into the deep, carrying off the instrument in his body, and so extremely rapid is his motion, that if the line entangle, it will either snap like a thread, or overset the boat. One man is therefore stationed to attend only to the line, that it may go regularly out; and another is employed in continually wetting the place against which it runs, that the wood may not take fire by friction. When the whale returns to breathe, the harpooner inflicts a fresh wound; until at length the immense animal faints from loss of blood. The men now venture to row the boat quite up to him, and a long steel lance is thrust into his breast, and through the intestines, which soon puts an end to his existence.
The carcass no sooner begins to float, than holes are cut in the fins and tail; and ropes being placed in these, it is towed to the ship, where it is fastened in such a manner that the back floats in the water. The blubber and whalebone is then removed. Several men get upon the animal with a sort of iron spurs, (to prevent them from slipping) and separate the tail, which is hoisted on deck. They then cut out square pieces of blubbar, weighing two or three thousand pounds each; which are also hoisted up. These are here cut into smaller pieces, which are thrown into the hold, and left for three or four days to drain. After all the blubber is removed, they cut out the two large upper jaw-bones; which being hoisted on deck, are cleansed and fastened to the shrouds, and tubs are placed under them to receive the oil which they discharge. This oil is a perquisite belonging to the captain. The remainder of the body is then allowed to float away. In three or four days the seamen hoist the pieces of blubber out of the hold, chop them, and put them by small pieces into casks, through the bungholes.
A whale, the longest blade of whose mouth measures nine or ten feet, will yield about thirty butts of blubber; but some of the largest yield upwards of seventy. One of the latter is generally worth about 1000/. sterling; and a full ship of 300 tons burden will produce more than 5,000/. from one voyage.
The year 1814 was an unusually prosperous one, seventy-six British ships procured 1,437 whales, besides seals; the produce of which in oil only, was 12,132 tons, and the gross value of the freight was estimated at about 700,000/. The fishing season begins in May, and continues through the months of June and July.
The Greenlanders spend much time in fishing for the whale, which to them is an animal of essential importance. Fifty persons, men and women, set out together in one of their large boats, dressed in their best apparel, for they fancy that the whale dislikes dirty and slovenly dress, and would get out of their way. The women take with them needles, and other implements, to mend their husbands' coats if they should be torn, or to repair the boat if it should be damaged. When a whale is discovered, the men strike it with their harpoons, to which are fastened strips of seal-skin, two or three fathoms long, having at the end a bag made of a whole seal-skin inflated. The huge animal, by means of the bag, is in some degree compelled to keep near the surface of the water.
When he is fatigued, and rises, the men attack him with their speais till he is killed. They now put on jackets made of seal-skin, and inflated with
air, with boots, gloves, and caps so tightly laced to each other, that no water can penetrate them; in this dress they plunge into the sea, and begin to slice off the fat all round the animal's body, even from those parts that are under water, their air jacket preventing the men from sinking; some are daring enough to mount the whale's back while he is still alive, and kill him from thence.
The whales which produce spermaceti are in herds of as many as two hundred; in which there may often be seen one, two, or three, old bull whales, who are the lords of the herd, the rest being principally, if not all, females. When a fish belonging to the herd is struck, it generally takes the lead, and the whole herd follow it. When killed, the heads of the smaller kind are cut off, and hoisted on deck to secure the spermaceti. This is taken out of the larger ones in buckets, while they are in the water; when warm, it is in a fluid state, but congeals when it is cold. This valuable produce is directly put into casks, and refined on shore at the end of the voyage.
The uses of whale oil are well known, but in its