Page:Journal of a Voyage to Greenland, in the Year 1821.djvu/261

This page has been validated.



of itself, I venture to assert, be no slight improvement. It is well known frequently to happen, especially in what are called slack-backed fish, that the spasmodic convulsion and contraction, which attend the stroke of the harpoon, is instantly followed by a violent heaving and distention of the part, by which the wound is presented twice as wide as the barbs of the instrument which made it, and is therefore often cast back out of it. A great many fish have thus escaped, as I have already had occasion to observe. I trust, therefore, I shall not be thought presumptuous, when I say, that, if I obviated this risque alone, (which I am confident I have done,) my harpoon would merit a preference to all hitherto in use.

To the letter which Captain Scoresby so politely sent me, he added, in the most handsome manner, the gratifying present of his account of the Arctic Regions, with a history and description of the Northern Whale Fishery; a work, to which the deep science and long experience of the author have combined to give the utmost value; and I gladly avail myself of it, as the highest authority both to corroborate what I had before stated on the subject, and to give weight to some further observations.

Captain Scoresby remarks, that "thee is a great difficulty, in calm clear weather, to approach a whale near enough to be struck by the hand."

"In calm clear weather, the whales take the alarm; when boats approach within fifteen or twenty yards of them."

"Much address is requisite to get near enough for the harpooner to strike a fish by the hand; and, if it indicates an intention of diving before the boat is near enough for that purpose, the harpoon is thrown by the hand, which a skilful man would accomplish at a distance of eight to ten yards.

It must be concluded from these remarks, that, in calm