Page:Journal of a Voyage to Greenland, in the Year 1821.djvu/84

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VOYAGE TO GREENLAND.

want. In ancient times, the whale seems never to have been taken on our coasts, but when it was accidentally thrown ashore by some violent storm or tempest: it was then deemed a royal fish, and, according to legendary history, the king and queen divided the spoil; the king asserting his right to the head, and her majesty to the tail.

On opening the whale we had killed, an extremely thin epidermis or scarf skin covered the main skin, which resembles solid Indian rubber, of a pale blue colour, soft and easily cut, and of an inch in thickness: beneath it, the blubber, which subjects this inoffensive creature to such persecution, was five inches and a half deep; in this substance, the oil is retained, in the same manner as a sponge retains water, and it yields to compression: in a large fish, it is eighteen or twenty inches thick. Next to the blubber lay a thin stratum of extremely tough and stringy white fibre; under this, the muscular membrane and krang surround the cavity of the abdomen containing the intestines. The quantity of blood that flowed from the animal was very great, and prevented a close investigation of the intestines The temperature of the blood was 100°: the flesh resembled beef, and was far from uninviting to the taste; but in an old fish it is black, and very coarse: the liver was like that of other animals, but not so firm in texture: the heart was a firm fleshy substance, having two ventricles and two auricles, with immense cavities for the different blood-vessels; it was flat and broad, and weighed sixty-four pounds: