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Cape Cod Capturing A Whale

When the spout of a whale was sighted, there was heard the famous cry of the lookout man: “Thar’ she blows!” Sails were trimmed according to distance, and the ship made to head as directly as possible towards the prey.

When she was about a mile away, she dropped anchor, and the whale boats were lowered. If the whale had gone under, each boat took the station where they thought he might come up. The unpredictable habits of the Sperm Whale made it a baffling situation. When the whale did come up, the harpooner let him have it.

The iron harpoons were fastened to a line three hundred fathoms long (300 x 6 feet per fathom = 1800 feet), and coiled in a tub. If the harpoon hit right, the whale would die in a few minutes. But the irons were not intended to kill so much as they were to fasten the whale to the whaling skiff. If the whale was not injured badly by the harpoon, it would pull the whale boat. What often ensued was called the “Nantucket Sleighride” with the skiff often being pulled by the whale for miles.

Lances were used for the killing. Lances with a three-foot shank, fixed to an eight foot pole. They could be darted six or eight fathoms. Or they could be used for close-up work, and the whale stabbed at arm’s length.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 10/13/06
Categories: History
Keywords: history, whaling


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