traordinary degree, as it is not at any great distance alarmed at the noise of danger preparing for it: on the top of the head is the protuberance, termed the crown, in the front of which are two orifices for the convenience of respiration. Through these it ejects its breath with a degree of force, that often makes it appear like water: they are placed in the part that, in the natural progress of motion, comes first to the surface of the water; the fins are articulated, and placed a little behind that part of the mouth, where the jaw-bones terminate; their use seems to be to give steadiness in the water by balancing the animal, for, as soon as life is extinct, it falls on its side or turns on its back; with the fins it also affords protection to its young; behind these is the thickest part, which is cylindrical; and this form continues to some distance, and decreases like a cone towards the tail. The tail is the formidable weapon, from which the whale derives its astonishing strength for motion and defence: by means of this, it advances through the ocean, and the greatest velocity is produced by powerful strokes against the water, impelled alternately upward or downward. To give a slow motion, the tail cuts the water laterally and obliquely downward, in the manner of an oar when used at the stern of a boat, in what is called "skulling." The position of the tail is horizontal, indented in the middle; it has two lobes, pointed, and turned rather backward, and is composed of sinewy fibres, with two large layers of tendons, leading both above and below, from the back and belly of the
Page:Journal of a Voyage to Greenland, in the Year 1821.djvu/77
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VOYAGE TO GREENLAND.