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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/849

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LIFE ON A SOUTH SEA WHALER.

among them. Louis let drive, "fastening" a whopper about twenty feet long. The injured animal plunged madly forward, accompanied by his fellows, while Louis calmly bent another iron to a "short warp," or piece of whale line, the loose end of which he made a bowline with round the main line which was fast to the "fish." Then he fastened another "fish," and the queer sight was seen of these two monsters each trying to flee in opposite directions, while the second one ranged about alarmingly as his "bridle" ran along the main line. Another one was secured in the same way, then the game was indeed great. The school had by this time taken the alarm and cleared out, but the other boats were all fast to fish, so that didn't matter. Now, at the rate our "game" were going, it would evidently be a long while before they died, although, being so much smaller than a whale proper, a harpoon will often kill them at a stroke. Yet they were now so tangled or "snarled erp," as the mate said, that it was no easy matter to lance them without great danger of cutting the line. However, we hauled up as close to them as we dared, and the harpooner got a good blow in, which gave the biggest of the three "Jesse," as he said, though why "Jesse" was a stumper. Anyhow, it killed him promptly, while almost directly after another one saved further trouble by passing in his own checks. But he sank at the same time, drawing the first one down with him, so that we were in considerable danger of having to cut them adrift or be swamped. The "wheft" was waved thrice as an urgent signal to the ship to come to our assistance with all speed, but in the meantime our interest lay in the surviving blackfish keeping alive. Should he die and, as was most probable, sink, we should certainly have to cut and loose the lot, tools included.

We waited in grim silence while the ship came up, so slowly, apparently, that she hardly seemed to move, but really at a good pace of about four knots an hour, which for her was not at all bad. She got alongside of us at last, and we passed up the bight of our line, our fish all safe, very much pleased with ourselves, especially when we found that the other boats had only five between the three of them.

Chain slings were passed around the carcasses, the end of the "fall," or tackle rope, was taken to the windlass, and we hove away cheerily, lifting the monsters right on deck. A mountainous pile they made. After dinner all hands turned to again to "flench" the blubber and prepare for trying out. This was a heavy job, keeping us busy until it was quite dark, the latter part of the work being carried on by the light of a "cresset," the flames of which were fed with "scrap," which blazed brilliantly, throwing a big glare over all the ship. The last of the carcasses was launched overboard by about eight o'clock that evening, but not before some vast junks of beef had been cut off and hung up in the rigging for our food supply.