The captain, being a family man with two young sons and a lovely wife, always struggled to say goodbye at parting. Joseph, having no one to bid him farewell, was content to have a distant sentiment for his captain and the other men leaving loved ones behind. Weeks pass into months whereunto the men begin to harvest Blackfish and Right whales at a noteworthy pace.
All of this was to Joseph's satisfaction, but things were not to be so perpetual. For what Joseph did not know was that as Fortuna, the goddess of the figurehead would have it, not only the natural perils entered the square-rigged barque with him on the Greenland Dock that day of departure. One man, who escaped the city unpunished for his violent executions and another, carrying a deadly disease hidden beneath his clothes, is also counted in the Register.
As whales are killed and their oil is boiled out, Joseph and his fellow crewmen become subjected to torments, struggling to stay alive upon the decks of the Fortune - whose fate is on a collision-course with plague, shipwreck, and murder. The Whaler Fortune is a surprising tale of deliverance; a story of one man's faith, tried in the fires of desperation, hopelessness, and fear. It has some interesting turns towards the end that really keep the reader very interested.
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Singer Books in English. Paperback Books in English Michael Crichton. Little did the landlubber crew dream of what was in store for them, but they were not long kept in ignorance, for as soon as the ships were on the "high seas" the training of the crew began.
Tales of a Traveller by Washington Irving
Deathly seasick, filled with terror and dread at every lurch or roll of the ship, thrown hither and thither by the heaving deck, dazed and confused by their strange surroundings and faint with dizziness each time they looked upward at the soaring, lofty trucks, the greenies were ordered into the rigging. Encouraged by curses, spurred on by the sharp point of a marlinspike or a rope's end the trembling wretches usually managed to crawl for a few feet up the ratlines. It was a case of necessity, for those who failed received kicks or blows and were glad to choose the lesser of two evils and trust to the perilous shrouds rather than to the mercy of the officers.
But "needs must when the devil drives" as the old saying goes and no devil ever drove more relentlessly than a Yankee whaler mate and within a wonderfully short time after leaving port the former vagabonds, farmers and what not were able to go aloft, man the yards and even keep a lookout from the to'gallant cross-trees. Some were far more proficient than others and readily learned the rigging, ropes and sails, but others were hopeless and never learned to distinguish the main-brace. But if they couldn't become able seamen they could learn to pull a boat, and whenever the sea was smooth and the wind light the boats were lowered and the men were drilled in handling them.
The Whaler Fortune (Paperback)
Of course their first efforts with the cumbersome oars were ludicrous, for they had never seen or touched an oar before, but practice will make perfect in almost any profession and no one knew better how to teach men to handle boats than the mates and boat-steerers of the whaling ships. Very soon the men could handle the long oars and could pull in unison; and a keen rivalry springing up between the different boats' crews, the men put heart and soul into this work and became splendid oarsmen, capable of lifting the whaleboats across the seas for hour after hour or pulling towards a whale as silently as ghosts.
From dawn to dark the training was kept up without intermission for the first four or five months or until the "grounds" were. Here a few native Portuguese were sometimes shipped and quantities of fresh fruits, vegetables and supplies were secured. These, known to whalers as "recruits," were divided among the men and if the captain saw fit members of the crew were sometimes given shore leave.
When at last the ships squared away from the Western islands the cruise really commenced and often for years at a time the whalers never touched again at a civilized port, for their search for whales carried them to the utter-most parts of the earth, and the farther they went from the frequented seas the more likelihood there was of finding good grounds. Voyages of three or four years were common; many ships were gone five, six, or more years and one well-known captain stated that he had spent only seventeen months at home during fifteen years. On such long voyages, thousands of miles from home, far from the restraint of law or civilization and by law and custom absolutely.
Of course many of the skippers and their officers were decent, humane, law-abiding and kind-hearted, and treated their crews like human beings. Still other captains were sanctimonious to a degree, and the loneliness of their lives, the mystery of the trackless sea and the ever-present menace of death, unbalanced their minds. Becoming monomaniacs on religion, they endangered their ships and men by their acts while under the spell of their delusions, and often ended their careers by committing suicide. Far too many, however, were naturally brutal, calloused, hard-drinking men and while they kept themselves under reasonable control when at home they threw their masks aside, once they were on the high seas, and appeared in their true forms of fiends incarnate.
The life of the common seaman was bad enough on a whaler under the best of conditions and one can well imagine what it must have been when left to the tender mercies of a captain and mates who devoted their spare moments to devising new deviltries to prac-. Now and again the tales of their inhuman acts reached the authorities at home or abroad and the brutes were arrested and tried, but the word of a common whaleman carried little weight against that of a captain or his officers and money from the ship's owners was always forthcoming to purchase the acquittal of skippers or mates thus haled to court.
The tortures and cruelties which some of these men inflicted upon their crews are almost incredible and yet they are beyond dispute and are borne out by entries in journals and log-books, the records of courts; and the reports of consuls and other reliable men. One captain was wont to amuse himself by sending the men aloft and taking pot-shots at them with his revolver. Others strung the men up by their thumbs for hours at a time for the most trivial offenses and one well-known captain, who still lives in New Bedford, caused one of the crew to be stripped and scrubbed with a brick and lye daily.
This terrible torture drove the victim mad and while the captain escaped unscathed he is mild and gentle enough to-day he came far too near. These are but a few instances culled at random and scores of other cases, fully as bad or even worse, might be mentioned. Moreover, such inconceivably brutal and inhuman acts are not all confined to the past. Hardly a season goes by without complaints of unbearable cruelty and even murder being made, and while these are usually hushed up, once in a while they are brought to the attention of the public.
Only a few weeks ago the mate of a New Bedford whaling schooner complained that the captain had gagged him by a belaying-pin forced into his mouth and tied by rope around his head and that in this condition he had been confined for a long time. If skippers still treat their officers in such a manner we can imagine the treatment their crews receive and of which the world never hears.
As a rule, however, the men probably fared far better and were treated with more humanity than they were accustomed to when ashore. The hard knocks they received, the miserable food they ate, and the filthy work they were obliged to perform, while appearing awful to. To a vagrant who is accustomed to being roused from drunken slumber by a policeman's club, a rope's end or even a belaying-pin is scarcely more than a caress. To one who has toiled at building stone walls or plowing a rocky New England farm, heaving on a windlass or tailing onto a tackle is child's play.
To the waif who picks his living from the garbage of the slums, the worm-eaten biscuit and the rotten meat of the whaleship is welcome fare; and to him whose life ashore is constantly menaced by a stone cell or the hangman's noose anything is bearable as long as the law cannot reach him. We should not waste too much sympathy on the whalemen, for the majority richly deserved all they received and despite their rough life, their abuse, their miserable fare and their ill- treatment, the one-time "bums" became brave, efficient and hard workers — at least while aboard ship. Whaling was a hard school and the whaling captains were severe teachers, but they turned out men from mighty raw material and what they had to endure, the difficulties they.
Until the "grounds" were reached the whaleman's life was one of constant drudgery, endless tasks and incessant training, but once in the region where whales were likely to be found, every attention was given solely to the expected chase. From their lofty station on the to'gallant cross-trees, the lookouts scan the sea, watching with straining eyes to catch the faint blur of vapor which marks the presence of a whale — and at their glad cry of "There she blows" the ship instantly springs into life, bustle and activity.
With all possible speed, boats are prepared, men hurry to their places, and the boats are lowered away, the mainyard is swung, and the ship is hove-to, and pulled by the long ash oars in the hands of the brawny men, the boat fairly steams through the water toward the great creatures lazily swimming along just ahead.
As the boat approaches closely not a sound is made, not a word uttered by the men, for while his sight is not particularly keen a whale's ears can catch the slightest unusual noise even at a long distance. Stealthily, as if stalking a. Perchance the great creature "sounds" and his mighty flukes flash for an instant in the air as he dives to the depths, or perhaps some slight noise, some suspicion of danger or a glimpse of his enemies causes him to become "gallied" or frightened.
In the former case the boat waits motionless until the whale again reappears, and so practised have the whalers become that many of them can foresee, merely by the position of the whale's flukes as he sounds, just where and when the whale will rise or "breach" to "blow.
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If, on the other hand, he is gallied, a long, hard chase commences, the men striving to reach within striking distance and get fast, the whale striving to evade the boat and leading the straining men for weary hours and for mile after mile before the iron at last is fast in the creature's. But if all goes well the tiny whaleboat is soon within a score of feet of the huge, black mass that rolls majestically upward — like the bottom of a capsized ship — and which gives no hint of the stupendous power, the awful fury, and the terrible dangers which lurk within.
Closer and closer the boat steals, and with the mate's shout of "Give it to him" the iron is hurled with all the power of the boat-steerer's knotted muscles and the keen steel buries itself in the blubber of the whale. Springing aft, and seizing the great steering oar, the boat-steerer takes the mate's place, while the latter rushes forward to the bow and then commences a battle royal — a fight to the death between the mightiest, most powerful of creatures and six puny men in a cockleshell of a boat.
Stung by the barbed iron in his flesh the whale dashes forward, while the line, attached to the iron, whirrs with a roar through the bow-chock and leaps from the tubs like a living serpent. The stricken creature may sound and seek the unfathomed depths as he strives to rid himself of the smarting iron in his side, or he may rush. In either case every second is fraught with the greatest danger and most imminent peril of death for the whalemen, and the utmost skill, judgment and rapidity of action are necessary to save themselves and their captive.
But they give no heed to the risks, to the menace which confronts them or to their own safety — their one thought is to make a catch, to keep fast until the cetacean is tired out and then to kill him with the lance. If the whale sounds too far and the last of the line is run out it must be cut to save the boat from being pulled beneath the sea. If the monster dashes straight away the boat may be carried beyond sight of the ship ere the whale can be killed. If he swims rapidly round and round in a circle or "mills" the boat may be capsized, despite every effort of the boat-steerer; or, if this is avoided, it may be impossible to get close enough to use the lance.
And meanwhile there are a thousand lesser dangers to avoid, a score of other matters to attend to, a myriad of details to think of. The whizzing line must be kept clear and must be cooled by throwing water on it. If the line leaps about a man's leg the limb is torn off or the man pulled bodily into the sea. The line must be kept constantly taut by hauling in any slack and coiling it on the bottom of the boat. The mate must watch every opportunity, every chance, to haul close in and kill. The men must obey every order, every gesture, instantly, or lose their lives and the whale, and the boat-steerer with set jaws, gritted teeth and straining muscles must use every ounce of his weight, every atom of his strength and all the skill he possesses to swing the rushing boat, to guide it on its mad course and to prevent it from capsizing as it is towed, hurtling through the sea by the wounded, terrified mountain of flesh and blood to which it is fast.
Sometimes two or more boats get fast to one whale, but often the battle is fought entirely by one boat and between shouts of "now haul up," "haul line," "there he mills round," and similar orders, the boat is gradually brought closer and closer to the tired, wounded whale, who by now may have several "irons" in him and may be fast to several boats.
The Real Story of the Whaler: Whaling, Past and Present by A. Hyatt Verrill
If the captive is a right whale a single sweep of the gigantic flukes may smash the boat to atoms and wound, maim or kill men, while if the quarry is a sperm whale there is not only the danger of the ponderous tail, but the far greater peril of the enormous, armed, lower jaw, with its row of gleaming, pointed teeth — a titanic sword wielded by the power of hundreds of tons of muscle. And there is no way of avoiding flukes or jaw, no avenue of escape left open for the men; their tiny craft is attached to the monster by stout, hempen line, they must approach within the very heart of the danger zone; their lives depend upon the nerves and skill of the mate and a slender lance; their duty is to kill or be killed, and their motto is, "a stove boat or a dead whale.
Dangerous as the landsman might think it to approach a whale and "fasten" with the iron, the perils of "going on and striking" are as nothing compared to making the kill. The smart of the iron, the panic of fright and his efforts to escape cause the whale to seek. But it is quite a different matter when using the lance to give the coup-de-grace to the wounded whale.
Tired, feeling escape impossible, gallied, nervous, maddened and realizing who and what his assailants are, the monster seeks to destroy them and only waits for them to come within reach ere turning to wreak vengeance with all his fury. Moreover, to kill the whale — by the old-fashioned hand lance — the frail boat must be brought actually alongside the whale, for the lance is not thrown like the iron but is shoved into the whale's vitals by placing the keen point against the creature's side and actually pushing the lance in by main strength.
Steady must be the nerves of men to accomplish such a feat, strong their muscles, stout their hearts, great their courage and wonderful their self-reliance, for upon that slender bit of steel, the accuracy of its thrust and the power that drives it, their lives depend. Lashing the waves into a maelstrom of churning froth and foam, spouting blood and crimsoning the sea, lifting his mighty flukes and smashing them down with the power of a hundred steam-hammers, rearing his stupendous head and dropping it again to the sea like a descending avalanche and darting, thrusting and sweeping to right and left with his enormous, armed jaw, a sperm whale in his flurry fights furiously to the end and strives to destroy everything within reach ere he breathes his last.
Menaced by the sweeps of his flukes, threatened by the awful jaw, thrown hither and thither by the crimsoned waves created by the writhing giant beside them, the whalemen must strive like madmen to preserve their lives and they only draw calm breaths when at last their victim rolls over on his side, the glad cry of "fin out" rings forth and the chase is over.
If there were other whales about and within sight a barbed iron staff bearing a flag and known as a "waif" was planted in the dead whale's side and the tired men resumed the hunt and attacked another monster; perhaps to meet with success, perhaps to have their boat smashed, their bones broken or to find an unmarked watery grave.
If, on the other hand, there were no other whales to be taken the crew proceeded to prepare the dead whale for towing to their ship. This consisted in getting a chain around the flukes and while this may sound like easy, simple work compared to capturing and killing the whale, yet it was often difficult and dangerous in the extreme. Often darkness fell and the sea rose ere the whale was killed, and the boat's crew thus found themselves miles from their ship, a gale blowing, a heavy sea running and inky blackness hiding everything but the combing crests of the waves from view.
Beside them, wallowing sluggishly in the sea, just awash, and as dangerous as a reef, lay the carcass of the whale, and to approach the great flukes, to secure a chain to the "small" at the root of the tail and to tow the body to their ship was a Herculean task. Sometimes a light line, with a six- or ten- pound shot attached to its middle, was taken in tow by two boats — when two boats were at hand — and by allowing the weighted line to sink and by dragging the ends towards the whale's head a bight of line was passed under the flukes.
To this a heavier rope was bent, and to which a chain was fastened and passed by this means around the tail. But if only one boat was at hand the difficulties were tremendous. Only by actually clinging to the whale was it possible to pass a line around the flukes at times, and held only by a rope around his waist, some daring man would clamber onto the slippery carcass and while half smothered in the waves would succeed in getting a line around the whale's tail and thus enable the crew to secure the fluke-chain and tow their prize to the ship. At other times, ere darkness fell, or if a storm was seen approaching, the boats would be recalled to the ship by signals and were obliged to leave their hard-earned catch to the mercy of the wind and waves, perchance to find it again, perhaps to lose it forever.
With the ship shorthanded and often miles from the scene of the chase and the kill it was. Moreover, from the lofty lookout on the ships' masts, the whales and boats could be seen at far greater distances and much better than from the boats themselves, with their limited horizon, and when rising and falling on the waves, and by means of the prearranged signals the movements of the boats' crews could be directed from the ships.
Frequently the distance between boats and ships was too great to permit of regular signal flags being seen or distinguished, and hence most of the signals were given by means of the yards, sails and colors, with the addition of a "masthead waif," a canvas-covered hoop at the end of an eight-foot pole. In order that there should be no confusion and that each ship should be able to direct its own boats without others in the vicinity knowing the significance of the signals, each whaling ship had its private code, but as all were more or less alike the following will serve as a very good example of all:.
Thus by watching the signals set on their ship the boats' crews could locate whales which they could not see; they knew if an accident had happened to their companions and could go to their rescue; they knew if their presence was required on board, and they felt that at all times they were under the watchful eye of their captain and could place implicit faith in the signals that he set for their guidance. These humorous lines may not have been strictly true, but many an old whaler found the "land full of cannibals" who often made it highly "interesting" for their white visitors, and the song may well have originated by the recital of an actual happening.
Cannibals were among the least of the risks the whalers ran, however. In addition to the perils of the sea to which merchant sailors are exposed, the whalemen faced innumerable dangers absolutely unknown to other seamen, and yet the losses among whaling.
Moreover, comparatively few of the whalers' losses were due to causes which destroy merchant vessels and their men and the very dangers which merchant sailors dread the most played a very small part in the casualties of the whalemen. Fire, collisions at sea, wrecks on rocks or reefs and vessels foundering in storms are the commonest of ocean tragedies in the merchant marine, even though the vessels sail on regular routes and through familiar seas and are hedged about with every care and precaution for their safety. But among whalemen such perils were of little moment and were quite lost to sight amid the greater dangers peculiar to their calling.
Fire was very rare, although the grease-soaked planks and timbers of the ships were highly inflammable; the vessels weathered the heaviest seas and strongest gales of the stormiest and most tempestuous parts of the oceans for years at a time and seldom did the whalers touch bottom, even when cruising on unknown seas bristling with uncharted reefs and rocks. Terrific indeed was the storm. Many a whaleship left her bones to bleach upon reefs, rocks or islands thousands of miles from home; many foundered in mid-ocean; many were destroyed by fire and many met a fate unknown; but when we consider the many hundred vessels that were devoted to whaling through more than two centuries, the length of time they were at sea, the risks they ran, and the out-of-the-world places they visited the total losses were marvelously small.
Many of the ships went forth time after time on cruises of several years' duration; sailed to the uttermost parts of the world, braved the elements of the frigid and the tropic zones on every sea, held their own most creditably through several generations of skippers, and are still strong, staunch and seaworthy today.
Many an old whaleman sailed forth from New Bedford or some other port in the same ship throughout his long life and never had a mishap and never lost a man on all his voyages. This man was not exceptional; there were scores, yes hundreds, who could say as much, for the Yankee whaling captains were unequaled seamen, born navigators, and never shirked their duty; but through fair weather or foul, through calm and storm, amid vast ice-floes or roaring breakers, followed their quarry round the world and back with consummate skill and wondrous courage.
Of all dangers which beset the whalemen perhaps the least expected was that of a whale ramming the ship itself and yet this happened many times and many a ship was sent to the bottom by a maddened whale smashing in her planks with the tremendous force of his massive bulk and enormous strength. Among the numerous records of such castrophes is the case of the Nantucket ship Essex , in charge of Captain George Pollard, Jr. No doubt other ships had met the same fate previously, but no records are available, and the Essex is probably the first-known instance of a ship sunk by being rammed by a whale, as well as one of the most awful of ocean tragedies of which we have authentic details.
On August 12, , the Essex sailed from Nantucket for the Pacific grounds and after a fair passage and no unusual events rounded Cape Horn and bore northward, cruising for spum whales, until November 29, when the call of "There she blows" rang from the lookout, the ship was hove-to, and the boats were lowered. The chief mate's boat was soon fast, but no sooner did the whale feel the "iron" than with a stroke of his flukes he stove the boat and the men were obliged to cut loose.
Stripping off their jackets they stuffed the garments into the gaping holes in the planking and by means of this makeshift and by constant bailing managed to reach their ship in safety.
Meanwhile the captain's and second mate's boats were fast to a whale and the chief. The men were busily at work, repairing their stove boat, and the mate was in charge of the quarter-deck when a whale of about eighty- five feet in length breached from the water less than twenty rods distant. Without an instant's hesitation the monster headed for the Essex at full speed and with a terrific crash struck her just forward of the fore chains.
For a few moments the creature lay as if stunned, and then recovering, started away to leeward. As the ship was leaking rapidly the pumps were at once started and signals were set recalling the absent boats to the ship. Suddenly the whale reappeared, rested for a few moments thrashing the sea with his flukes and opening and closing his gigantic jaws, and then gathering all his strength, once more dashed full into the vessel, staving in her heavy planks close to the catheads.
Within two minutes the ship was on her beam-ends and seeing that it was hopeless to try to save her the injured boat was gotten over and the mate and the men on board hastily tumbled into her. This was done, the decks were scuttled in order to reach supplies and for three days the boats stood by their ship, repairing and building up their frail whaleboats, one of which had been stove.
At the end of the third day the seas had greatly enlarged the holes made by the infuriated whale and the Essex was seen to be going to pieces very rapidly. There was nothing to be gained by waiting longer and in the three tiny boats the men headed for the coast of Peru, nearly 3, miles away.
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This was on the twenty-third of November and day after day the men toiled at the oars; scorched by a tropic sun, parched with thirst, and faint with hunger, for the provisions and water they had been able to secure from the ship were scarce enough to preserve life. Five days after deserting the Essex , barren Ducie's Island was reached and the crews landed. Aside from a few shellfish and seabirds there was nothing to eat upon the place and no water could be obtained, and on December 27 they again set forth, after leaving three men who refused to go farther, and who preferred to die upon this wave-washed islet, rather than endure the tortures of hunger and thirst in the open boats.
Great as had been their privations before reaching the island they were as nothing compared to the torments the men underwent on that long, terrible row of 2, miles to Juan Fernandez. On January 10, , the second mate died and two days later the boats became separated. One by one the members of the crew succumbed to their thirst, hunger and exposure, and as they died their companions fell upon their bodies, cut them to pieces and devoured the raw flesh like famished wolves.
Two of the boats, those of the captain and the second mate, remained together until January 29, by which time four men had died and had been devoured and the survivors once more faced death by starvation, when the captain suggested they should draw lots to see who would be killed to save the others.
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But deliverance was now close at hand, and on February 17 the chief mate's boat was sighted by the British brig Indian and the three survivors were taken aboard. Five days later the ship Dauphin of Nantucket sighted a weather- beaten, tossing whaleboat, and bearing down upon her found Captain Pollard and Charles Ramsdale still alive, the sole survivors of their boat's crew. The third boat was never heard from and the story of her occupants was never known, but those who were saved ultimately recovered and Captain Pollard, in later years, was employed as a deck-hand on Fulton's famous steamboat, the Hudson.
Deblois, which sailed on a whaling cruise on January 1, On August 20, the mate's boat was fast to a whale when the creature suddenly turned, seized the boat in his jaws and smashed it to bits. The captain at once hurried to the assistance of the struggling men, took them into his boat and headed for the ship. Meanwhile the whterboat had been lowered and sent to assist the captain with his over-crowded boat, the crews were divided between the two boats, and once more the indomitable whalers attacked the whale, but again the monster turned and in an instant stove the second boat.
The captain's boat was now loaded to the water's edge with eighteen men and as it was useless to attempt to capture the whale under these conditions the boat was again headed. Hardly had they started when the whale gave chase with open jaws and the men felt their last hour had come; but for some reason the creature veered off, passed the boat within a few feet and disappeared, leaving the boat to reach the Alexander unharmed.
As soon as the men were on board, the boat was sent back to pick up the oars and fittings of the other boats and the whale again appearing, the chase was resumed, but when within fifty rods of the creature, he sounded, and the attempt at capture was abandoned and the boat was pulled slowly towards the approaching ship.
The captain was standing at the vessel's knightheads watching the boat draw near when suddenly the whale rose close at hand and before an order could be shouted dashed into the ship, staving a huge hole two feet from the keel and just abaft the foremast. Into the torn and started planking the sea rushed in a torrent and the men had barely time to toss a few provisions into a boat and launch it, ere the ship plunged beneath the waves.
The predicament of the men, thus suddenly left afloat in mid-ocean, was a serious one indeed, for one of the boats had been badly stove and. Undismayed, however, the crews started to pull across the sea toward land, but two days later, on August 22, their troubles came to an end as the ship Nantucket of Nantucket was sighted. Strangely enough the whale which attacked and sunk the Alexander was afterwards captured by a New Bedford whaling ship, the Rebecca Simms. Five months after the foundering of the Ann Alexander a whale was killed by the Simms and pieces of ship's timbers and planks were noticed embedded in his head and an examination revealed two of the Alexander's irons in his body.
Still another whaling ship which was deliberately rammed and sunk by a whale was the bark Kathleen of New Bedford. This, moreover, is one of the most recent, if not the latest instance of its sort, for it occurred in , when the Kathleen was cruising in the Atlantic to the east of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies. A whale had been struck but the iron drew and the wounded creature turned and hurled itself at the bark. The blow tore away several. Fortunately for them land was not far-distant, and although the boats separated all arrived safely without the loss of a life, one boat reaching Dominica, another Barbados and a third being picked up by a passing ship.
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Had their vessel been sunk in mid-ocean their fate might have been far more terrible than that of the survivors of the Essex. Many another similar case is to be found in the log-books, journals and records of whalers, but these will serve as examples. Still a stranger fate, which befell several whalers and merchantships as well, was running onto whales — the result being the same as if they had struck a rock or a reef — and while some were actually sunk in this manner the majority of the vessels which ran onto whales were brought into port, though leaking badly.
The earliest record of a vessel thus ramming a whale was in , when a ship ran upon a whale during a gale and struck with such force as to put the ship "in stays" besides staving in the planks, six timbers and a beam, as well. In March, , the ship Harmony of Rochester, Captain George Blankenship, ran on a whale when off the coast of Brazil and was sunk, but while the ship and cargo were lost the crew escaped in the boats.
In the ship Herald of the Morning arrived at Hampton Roads leaking badly and reported striking a whale when off Cape Horn. The force of the blow had started seven feet of her stem as far as the wood-ends and the bobstay had been carried away. That the whale suffered even more as a result of the collision was proven by the fact that it was seen to "spout blood" as it swam away — a sure sign of a fatal injury. A year later, in , the steamer Eastern City ran into a whale while en route to St.
John, and although this creature was a mere infant fifty feet in length, the impact displaced the steamer's cutwater. Again in the British schooner Forest Oak , bound from Boston to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, struck a whale with such force as to loosen the foremast and throw all the men off their feet.
Then in the three-masted schooner, Watanga of Wilmington, North Carolina, while running at a speed of six or seven knots, struck a whale and tore off the false stem, split the stem, and started the planks. The bobstay parted, the bowsprit went adrift and it was with the greatest difficulty that the vessel was kept afloat until reaching port. There are many other instances of a similar sort and the terrific impact of a ship thus striking a motionless whale may be appreciated by the report of the captain of the merchant ship Cuban , of Greenock, which ran onto a sleeping whale while sailing to Demerara in Although this was a five-hundred-ton ship under full sail and was deeply laden, yet her headway was stopped and she was brought to a standstill as suddenly and completely as if she had been run upon the solid shore.
But of all shipwrecks caused by running onto a whale, that of the ship Union , of Nantucket, captain Edward Gardner, is the most noteworthy and interesting. The Union sailed from Nantucket for Brazil on September 19, , and when twelve days out and while proceeding under easy sail at a speed of seven knots she suddenly. The shock was so great that those on board thought the vessel had run onto a rock until the animal was seen and a hasty examination showed that the planking on the starboard bow had been smashed in and two timbers had been broken.
The pump were started but the water rapidly gained and the crew prepared to leave the ship. The accident occurred at ten o'clock at 'night — it was no doubt owing to the darkness that the whale was not sighted — and by midnight the boats were lowered and pulled away from the sinking vessel. A heavy sea was running, and the crew of sixteen men were scattered among three boats. Fearing that the boats might become separated in the darkness and in order to give more shifts at the oars one boat was abandoned and the men were divided equally in the two remaining boats, which then headed for the Azores, over miles distant.
By October 2 the men managed to rig up sails, but during the next two days the wind rose to a gale, the extemporized sails were carried away and the two boats were lashed together and allowed to drift. Owing to the haste in which the men left the ship very few provisions and an insufficient supply of water had been put in. Starvation was staring them in the face, their thirst was terrible, and their case seemed hopeless, when on October 9, they sighted the island of Flores and landed safely after being adrift for seven days and eight nights, during which time they had rowed, sailed and drifted for six hundred miles.
I have mentioned the irons of the Alexander being found in the whale which sank that ship and which was later taken by the Rebecca Simms , and while this may seem like a most remarkable coincidence, a mere chance, and in a work of fiction would appear highly improbable, yet such cases were of common occurrence. Among the thousands of whales taken by the hundreds of whaling vessels, which scoured the oceans in the heyday of the industry, it would have been strange indeed if now and then irons were not found in the whales captured.
Countless irons were lost by the whales escaping, the boats being obliged to cut loose or the whale destroying the boats and going off with all their gear sticking in his side. As all the irons were. At times some whale would be killed bearing irons which told of a lapse of years since he was first struck and which threw light upon the movements of whales or upon channels unknown to man.
Thus in , Captain Peter Paddok of the Lady Adams killed a whale which contained an iron thrown by the same captain when in command of the ship Lion thirteen years before and in a far-distant part of the Pacific. So, too, irons used in Davis' Straits were found on several occasions in whales captured in the Arctic and this proved to whalers as well as to geographers and explorers that an open Northwest Passage really existed. Sometimes stories of a "mad whale" were spread among the whalers — tales of some monster of exceptional ferocity and courage — a whale warrior who destroyed lives and boats and invariably escaped, and when at last some vessel captured such a fighter and identified him by.
Such an incident was reported by the ship Hector of New Bedford.