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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/845

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821
LIFE ON A SOUTH SEA WHALER.

she remained at anchor that night I verily believe some of the poor wretches would have tried to escape.

The anchor came aweigh, the sails were sheeted home, and I returned on deck to find the ship gathering way for the heads, fairly started on her long voyage.

Before nightfall we were fairly out to sea, and the ceremony of dividing the crew into watches was gone through. I found myself in the chief mate's or "port" watch (they called it "larboard," a term I had never heard used before, it having long been obsolete in merchant ships), though the huge negro fourth mate seemed none too well pleased that I was not under his command, his being the starboard watch under the second mate.

I was pounced upon next morning by "Mistah" Jones, the fourth mate, whom I heard addressed familiarly as "Goliath" and "Anak" by his brother officers, and ordered to assist him in rigging the "crow'snest" at the main royal-mast head. It was a simple affair. There were a pair of cross-trees fitted to the mast, upon which was secured a tiny platform about a foot wide on each side of the mast, while above this foothold a couple of padded hoops like a pair of giant spectacles were secured at a little higher than a man's waist. When all was fast one could creep up on the platform, through the hoop, and, resting his arms upon the latter, stand comfortably and gaze around, no matter how vigorously the old barky plunged and kicked beneath him. From that lofty eerie I had a comprehensive view of the vessel. She was about three hundred and fifty tons and full ship-rigged—that is to say, she carried square sails on all three masts. Her deck was flush fore and aft, the only obstructions being the brick-built "try-works" in the waist, the galley, and cabin skylight right aft by the taffrail. Her bulwarks were set thickly round with clumsy-looking wooden cranes, from which depended five boats. Two more boats were secured bottom up upon a gallows aft, so she seemed to be well supplied in that direction.

The weather being fine, with a steady northeast wind blowing, so that the sails required no attention, work proceeded steadily all the morning. The oars were sorted,-examined for flaws, and placed in the boats; the whale line, Manilla rope like yellow silk, an inch and a half round, was brought on deck, stretched, and coiled down with the greatest care into tubs holding, some two hundred fathoms, and others one hundred fathoms each. New harpoons were fitted to poles of rough but heavy wood, without any attempt at neatness but every attention to strength. The shape of these weapons was not, as is generally thought, that of an arrow, but rather like an arrow with one huge barb, the upper part of which curved out from the shaft. The whole of the barb turned on a stout pivot of steel, but was kept in line with