The Tatler 1830 THE NORTHERN WHALE FISHERY.
"The crew of Mr Scoresby, the elder, in 1807, had struck a whale, which soon reappeared, but in a state of such violent agitation that no one durst approach it. The captain courageously undertook to encounter it in a boat by himself; and succeeded in sticking a second harpoon; but another boat having advanced too close, the animal brandished its tail with so much fury, that the harpooner, who was directly under, judged it most prudent to leap into the sea. The tail then struck the very place that he had left, and cut the boat entirely asunder, with the exception of two planks, which were saved by having a coil of ropes laid over them; so that, had he remained, he must have been dashed to pieces. Happily all the others escaped injury. The issues however were not always so fortunate. The Aimwell of Whitby, in 1810, lost three men out of seven, and, in 1812, the Henrietta, of the same port, lost four out of six, by the boats being upset and the crews thrown into the sea.
"In 1809, one of the men belonging to the Restitution of Whitby, struck a sucking whale; after which the mother, being seen rapidly wheeling round the spot, was eagerly watched. Mr Scoresby, being on this occasion in the capacity of harpooner, in another boat, was selecting a situation for the probable reappearance of the parent fish, when suddenly an invisible blow stove in fifteen feet of the bottom of his barge, which filled with water and instantly sunk. The crew were saved.
"Entanglement in the line, while the retreating whale is drawing off with rapidity, is often productive of great disaster. A sailor belonging to the John of Greenock, in 1818, having happened to step into the centre of a coil of running rope, had a foot entirely carried off, and was obliged to have the lower part of the leg amputated. A harpooner, belonging to the Henrietta of Whitby, had incautiously cast some part of the line under his feet; when a sudden dart of the fish made it twist round his body. He had just time to cry out," - Clear away the line! Oh, dear!" when he was cut almost asunder, dragged overboard, and never more seen. - 'A whale sometimes causes danger by proving to be alive after having exhibited every symptom of death. Mr Scoresby mentions the instance of one which appeared so decidedly dead, that he himself had leaped on the tail, and was busy putting on a rope through it, when he suddenly felt the animal sinking from beneath him. He made a spring towards a boat that was some yards distant, and, grasping the gunwale, was assisted on board. The fish then moved forward, reared his tail aloft, and shook it with such prodigious violence, that it resounded to the distance of several miles. After two or three minutes of this violent exertion, he rolled on his side and expired.
"Even after life is extinct, all danger is not off. In the operation of flensing, the harpooners sometimes fall into the whale's mouth, with the imminent danger of being drowned. In the case of a heavy swell they are drenched, and sometimes washed over by the surge. Occasionally they have their ropes broken, and are wounded by each other's knives. Mr Scoresby mentions a harpooner who, after the flensing was completed, happened to have his foot attached by a hook to the kreng or carcass, when the latter was inadvertedly cut away. The man caught hold of the gunwale of the boat; but the whole immense mass was now suspended by his body, occasioning the most excruciating torture, and even exposing him to the danger of being torn asunder, when his companions contrived to hook the kreng with, a grapnel, and bring it back to the surface.
"The whale, in attempting to escape, sometimes exerts prodigious strength, and inflicts upon its pursuers not only danger, but the loss of their property. In 1812, a boat's crew belonging to the Resolution of Whitby, struck a whale on the margin of a floe. Supported by a second boat, they felt much at their ease, there being scarcely an instance in which the assistance of a third was required in such circumstances. Soon, however, a signal was made for more line, and as Mr Scoresby was pushing with his utmost speed, four oars were raised in signal of the utmost distress. The boat was now seen with its bow on a level with the water, while the harpooner, from the friction of the line, was enveloped in smoke. At length, when the relief was within a hundred yards, the crew were seen to throw their jackets upon the nearest ice, and then leap into the sea; after which the boat rose into the air, and, making a majestic curve, disappeared beneath the waters, with all the line attached to it. The crew were saved. A vigorous pursuit was immediately commenced ; and the whale, being traced through narrow and intricate channels, was discovered considerably to the eastward, when three harpoons were darted at him. The line of two other boats was then run out, when by an accidental enlargement, it broke, and enabled the whale to carry off in all about four miles of rope, which, with the boat, were valued at Â£150. The daring fishers again gave chase; the whale was seen, but missed. A third time it appeared, and was reached; two more harpoons were struck, and the animal being plied with lances, became entirely exhausted, and yielded to its fate. It had by that lime drawn out 10,440 yards, or about six miles of line. Unluckily, through the disengagement of a harpoon, a boat and thirteen lines, nearly two miles in length, were detached and never recovered.
"Whale-fishers sometimes meet with agreeable surprise. The crew of the ship Nautilus had captured a fish, which being disentangled and drawn to the ship, some of them were employed to haul in the line. Suddenly they felt it pulled away as if by another whale, and having made signals for more line, were soon satisfied, by the continued movements, that this was the case. At length a large one rose up close to them, and was quickly killed. It then proved, that the animal, while moving through the waters, had received the rope into its open mouth, and, struck by the unusual sensation, held it fast between its jaws, and thus became the prey of its enemy. - The Prince of Brazils of Hull had struck a small, fish, which sunk apparently dead. The crew applied all their strength to heave it up; but sudden and violent jerks on the line convinced them that it was still alive. They persevered, and at length brought up two fishes in succession, one of which had many turns of the rope wound round its body. Having been entangled under water, it had, in its attempt to escape, been more and more implicated, till, in the end, it shared the fate of its companion.'