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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/842

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The tortoise lays a thousand eggs and tells no one; the hen lays a single egg and tells all the world.
Those will die of thirst who empty the jar when it thunders in a dry time.
Handsome as a princess, poisonous as a snake.
Small as an ant, wise as a mouse-deer.

 

LIFE ON A SOUTH SEA WHALER.[1]
By FRANK T. BULLEN.

CACHALOTS, or sperm whales, must have been captured on the coasts of Europe in a desultory way from a very early date, by the incidental allusions to the prime products spermaceti and ambergris which are found in so many ancient writers. Shakespeare's reference—"The sovereign'st thing on earth was parmaceti for an inward bruise"—will be familiar to most people, as well as Milton's mention of the delicacies at Satan's feast—"Grisamber steamed"—not to carry quotation any further.

But in the year 1690 the brave and hardy fishermen of the northeast coasts of North America established that systematic pursuit of the cachalot which has thriven so wonderfully ever since, although it must be confessed that the last few years have witnessed a serious decline in this great branch of trade.

For many years the American colonists completely engrossed this branch of the whale fishery, contentedly leaving to Great Britain and the continental nations the monopoly of the northern or arctic fisheries, while they cruised the stormy, if milder, seas around their own shores.

As, however, the number of ships engaged increased, it was inevitable that the known grounds should become exhausted, and in 1788, Messrs. Enderby's ship, the Emilia, first ventured round Cape Horn, as the pioneer of a greater trade than ever. The way once pointed out, other ships were not slow to follow, until, in 1819, the British whale ship Syren opened up the till then unexplored tract of ocean in the western part of the North Pacific, afterward familiarly known as the "Coast of Japan." From these teeming waters alone, for many years an average annual catch of forty thousand barrels of oil was taken, which, at the average price of £8 per barrel, will give some idea of the value of the trade generally.


  1. From The Cruise of the Cachalot. By Frank T. Bullen. (Illustrated.) New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 379.