Page:Journal of a Voyage to Greenland, in the Year 1821.djvu/253

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poon are so formed, (being as already stated, six inches in width,) as to make a wide wound in piercing the fish: it is quite obvious, that, exactly in proportion to the width of the passage, which the weapon cuts in forcing its way into the fish, will be the space left open for its retraction; by the facility thus given for the instrument to withdraw itself, many stricken fish have been lost. I was assured by several masters of Greenland ships, that this accident had occurred to them, and that it will generally take place, when the harpoon is struck into a fish whose back is depressed, or when the flesh is in a relaxed state. When, therefore, the fish were less shy, and could be approached near enough, the hand harpoon frequently failed in its object; and since the fish have grown more difficult of approach, its defect has of course become of greater importance.

To obviate at once, the disadvantages arising from want of force in the hand harpoon, and from the great distance at which the whales often kept their pursuers, a harpoon to be discharged from a gun was suggested, patronised, and the inventor justly rewarded. Such a mode, it was confidently thought, would overcome both difficulties; but this confidence has unfortunately been disappointed.

I am acquainted with the form of three harpoons that have been used from guns, they are correctly represented in the subjoined figures.

1st. A gun harpoon, the shank of which is a solid bar of iron, continued from a cylindrical butt, the size of the caliber of the piece; the rope is secured to a ring that slides on the shank.

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