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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/846

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the shaft by a tiny wooden peg which passed through barb and shaft, being then cut off smoothly on both sides. The point of the harpoon had at one side a wedge-shaped edge, ground to razor keenness; the other side was flat. The shaft, about thirty inches long, was of the best malleable iron, so soft that it would tie into a knot and straighten out again without fracture. Three harpoons, or "irons" as they were always called, were placed in each boat, fitted one above the other in the starboard bow, the first for use being always one unused before. Opposite to them in the boat were fitted three lances for the purpose of killing whales, the harpoons being only the means by which the boat was attached to a fish, and quite useless to inflict a fatal wound. These lances were slender spears of malleable iron about four feet long, with oval or heart-shaped points of fine steel about two inches broad, their edges kept keen as a surgeon's lancet. By means of a socket at the other end they were attached to neat handles, or "lance poles," about as long again, the whole weapon being thus about eight feet in length, and furnished with a light line, or "lance warp," for the purpose of drawing it back again when it had been darted at a whale. The other furniture of a boat comprised five oars of varying lengths from sixteen to nine feet, one great steering oar of nineteen feet, a mast and two sails of great area for so small a craft, spritsail shape; two tubs of whale line containing together eigheen hundred feet, a keg of drinking water, and another long, narrow one with a few biscuits, a lantern, candles and matches therein; a bucket and "piggin" for baling, a small spade, a flag or "wheft," a shoulder bomb gun and ammunition, two knives, and two small axes. A rudder hung outside by the stern.

With all this gear, although snugly stowed, a boat looked so loaded that I could not help wondering how six men would be able to work in her; but, like most "deep-water" sailors, I knew very little about boating. I was going to learn.

The reports I had always heard of the laziness prevailing on board whale ships were now abundantly falsified. From dawn to dark work went on without cessation. Everything was rubbed and scrubbed and scoured until no speck or soil could be found; indeed, no gentleman's yacht or man-of-war is kept more spotlessly clean than was the Cachalot.

On the fourth day after leaving port we were all busy as usual except the four men in the "crow's-nests," when a sudden cry of "Porps! porps!" brought everything to a standstill. A large school of porpoises had just joined us, in their usual clownish fashion, rolling and tumbling around the bows as the old barky wallowed along, surrounded by a wide ellipse of snowy foam. All work was instantly suspended, and active preparations made for securing a few of these