Our First Whale by Frank T. Bullen
First Mate.

Simultaneous ideas occurring to several people, or thought transference, whatever one likes to call the phenomenon, is too frequent an occurrence in most of our experience to occasion much surprise. Yet on the occasion to which I am about to refer the matter was so very marked that few of us who took part in the day’s proceedings are ever likely to forget it. We were all gathered about the fo’lk’sle scuttle one evening, a few days after the gale, and the question of whale-fishing came up for discussion. Until that time, strange as it may seem, no word of this, the central idea of all our minds, had been mooted. Every man seemed to shun the subject, although we were in daily expectation of being called upon to take an active part in whale-fighting. Once the ice was broken, nearly all had something to say about it, and very nearly as many addle-headed opinions were ventilated as at a Colney Hatch debating society. For we none of us knew anything about it. I was appealed to continually to support this or that theory, but as far as whaling went I could only, like the rest of them, draw upon my imagination for details. How did a whale act, what were the first steps taken, what chance was there of being saved if your boat got smashed, and so on unto infinity. At last, getting very tired of this “Portugee Parliament” of all talkers and no listeners, I went aft to get a drink of water before turning in. The harpooners and other petty officers were grouped in the waist, earnestly discussing the pros and cons of attack upon whales. As I passed I heard the mate’s harpooner say, “Feels like whale about. I bet a plug (of tobacco) we raise sperm whale to-morrow.” Nobody took his bet, for it appeared that they were mostly of the same mind, and while I was drinking I heard the officers in dignified conclave talking over the same thing. It was Saturday evening, and while at home people were looking forward to a day’s respite from work and care, I felt that the coming day, though never taken much notice of on board, was big with the probabilities of strife such as I at least had at present no idea of. So firmly was I possessed by the prevailing feeling.

The night was very quiet. A gentle breeze was blowing, and the sky was of the usual “Trade” character; that is, a dome of dark blue fringed at the horizon with peaceful cumulus clouds, almost motionless. I turned in at 4 A.M. from the middle watch, and, as usual, slept like a babe. Suddenly I started wide awake, a long mournful sound sending a thrill to my very heart. As I listened breathlessly other sounds of the same character, but in different tones, joined in, human voices monotonously intoning in long-drawn-out expirations the single word “bl-o-o-o-o-w.” Then came a hurricane of noise overhead, and adjurations in no gentle language to the sleepers to “tumble up lively there, no skulking; sperm whales.” At last, then, fulfilling all the presentiments of yesterday, the long-dreaded moment had arrived. Happily there was no time for hesitation—in less than two minutes we were all on deck, and hurrying to our respective boats. There was no flurry or confusion, and except that orders were given more quietly than usual, with a manifest air of suppressed excitement, there was nothing to show that we were not going for an ordinary course of boat drill. The skipper was in the main crow’s-nest with his binoculars. Presently he shouted, “Naow, then, Mr. Count, lower away soon’s y’like. Small pod o’ cows, an’ one’r two bulls layin’ off to west’ard of ’em.” Down went the boats into the water quietly enough, we all scrambled in and shoved off. A stroke or two of the oars were given to get clear of the ship and one another, then oars were shipped and up went the sails. As I took my allotted place at the main-sheet, and the beautiful craft started off like some big bird, Mr. Count leaned forward, saying impressively to me, “Y’r a smart youngster, an’ I’ve kinder took t’ yer; but don’t ye look ahead an’ get gallied, ’r I’ll knock ye stiff wi’ th’ tiller; y’hear me? ’N’ don’t ye dare to make thet sheet fast, ’r ye’ll die so sudden y’ won’t know whar y’r hurted.” I said as cheerfully as I could, “All right, sir,” trying to look unconcerned, telling myself not to be a coward, and all sorts of things; but the cold truth is that I was scared almost to death because I didn’t know what was coming. However, I did the best thing under the circumstances, obeyed orders, and looked steadily astern, or up into the bronzed, impassive face of my chief, who towered above me, scanning with eagle eyes the sea ahead. The other boats were coming flying along behind us, spreading wider apart as they came, while in the bows of each stood the harpooner with his right hand on his first iron, which lay ready, pointing over the bow in a raised fork of wood called the “crutch.”

All of a sudden, at a motion of the chief’s hand, the peak of our mainsail was dropped, and the boat swung up into the wind, lying “hove to,” almost stationary. The centre-board was lowered to stop her drifting to leeward, although I cannot say it made much difference that ever I saw. Now what’s the matter? I thought; when to my amazement the chief, addressing me, said, “Wonder why we’ve hauled up, don’t ye?” “Yes, sir, I do,” said I. “Wall,” said he, “the fish hev sounded, an’ ef we run over ’em, we’ve seen the last ov ’em. So we wait awhile till they rise agin, ’n then we’ll prob’ly git thar’ ’r thareabouts before they sound agin.” With this explanation I had to be content, although if it be no clearer to my readers than it then was to me, I shall have to explain myself more fully later on. Silently we lay, rocking lazily upon the gentle swell, no other word being spoken by any one. At last Louis, the harpooner, gently breathed “blo-o-o-w”; and there, sure enough, not half a mile away on the lee beam, was a little bushy cloud of steam apparently rising from the sea. At almost the same time as we kept away all the other boats did likewise, and just then, catching sight of the ship, the reason for this apparently concerted action was explained. At the main-mast head of the ship was a square blue flag, and the ensign at the peak was being dipped. These were signals well understood and promptly acted upon by those in charge of the boats, who were thus guided from a point of view at least one hundred feet above the sea.

“Stand up, Louey,” the mate murmured softly. I only just stopped myself in time from turning my head to see why the order was given. Suddenly there was a bump; at the same moment the mate yelled, “Giv’t to him, Louey, give’t to him!” and to me, “Haul that main sheet, naow; haul, why don’t ye?” I hauled it flat aft, and the boat shot up into the wind, rubbing sides as she did so with what to my troubled sight seemed an enormous mass of black india-rubber floating. As we crawled up into the wind, the whale went into convulsions befitting his size and energy. He raised a gigantic tail on high, thrashing the water with deafening blows, rolling at the same time from side to side until the surrounding sea was white with froth. I felt in an agony lest we should be crushed under one of those fearful strokes, for Mr. Count appeared to be oblivious of possible danger, although we seemed to be now drifting back on to the writhing leviathan. In the agitated condition of the sea, it was a task of no ordinary difficulty to unship the tall mast, which was of course the first thing to be done. After a desperate struggle, and a narrow escape from falling overboard of one of the men, we got the long “stick,” with the sail bundled around it, down and “fleeted” aft, where it was secured by the simple means of sticking the “heel” under the after thwart, two-thirds of the mast extending out over the stern. Meanwhile, we had certainly been in a position of the greatest danger, our immunity from damage being unquestionably due to anything but precaution taken to avoid it.

By the time the oars were handled, and the mate had exchanged places with the harpooner, our friend the enemy had “sounded”; that is, he had gone below for a change of scene, marvelling no doubt what strange thing had befallen him. Agreeably to the accounts which I, like most boys, had read of the whale fishery, I looked for the rushing of the line round the loggerhead (a stout wooden post built into the boat aft), to raise a cloud of smoke with occasional bursts of flame; so as it began to slowly surge round the post I timidly asked the harpooner whether I should throw any water on it. “Wot for?” growled he, as he took a couple more turns with it. Not knowing “what for,” and hardly liking to quote my authorities here, I said no more, but waited events. “Hold him up, Louey, hold him up, caint ye?” shouted the mate, and to my horror, down went the nose of the boat almost under water, while at the mate’s order everybody scrambled aft into the elevated stern sheets.

The line sang quite a tune as it was grudgingly allowed to surge round the loggerhead, filling one with admiration at the strength shown by such a small rope. This sort of thing went on for about twenty minutes, in which time we quite emptied the large tub and began on the small one. As there was nothing whatever for us to do while this was going on, I had ample leisure for observing the little game that was being played about a quarter of a mile away, Mr. Cruce, the second mate, had got a whale and was doing his best to kill it; but he was severely handicapped by his crew, or rather had been, for two of them were now temporarily incapable of either good or harm. They had gone quite “batchy” with fright, requiring a not too gentle application of the tiller to their heads in order to keep them quiet. The remedy, if rough, was effectual, for “the subsequent proceedings interested them no more.” Consequently his manœuvres were not so well or rapidly executed as he, doubtless, could have wished, although his energy in lancing that whale was something to admire and remember. Hatless, his shirt-tail out of the waist of his trousers streaming behind him like a banner, he lunged and thrust at the whale alongside of him as if possessed of a destroying devil, while his half-articulate yells of rage and blasphemy were audible even to us.

Suddenly our boat fell backward from her “slantin-dicular” position with a jerk, and the mate immediately shouted, “Haul line, there! look lively, now! you”—so on, et cetera, et cetera (he seemed to invent new epithets on every occasion). The line came in hand over hand, and was coiled in a wide heap in the stern sheets, for, silky as it was, it could not be expected in its wet state to lie very close. As it came flying in, the mate kept a close gaze upon the water immediately beneath us, apparently for the first glimpse of our antagonist. When the whale broke water, however, he was some distance off, and apparently as quiet as a lamb. Now, had Mr. Count been a prudent or less ambitious man, our task would doubtless have been an easy one, or comparatively so; but, being a little over-grasping, he got us all into serious trouble. We were hauling up to our whale in order to lance it, and the mate was standing, lance in hand, only waiting to get near enough, when up comes a large whale right alongside of our boat, so close, indeed, that I might have poked my finger in his little eye, if I had chosen. The sight of that whale at liberty, and calmly taking stock of us like that, was too much for the mate. He lifted his lance and hurled it at the visitor, in whose broad flank it sank, like a knife into butter, right up to the pole-hitches. The recipient disappeared like a flash, but before one had time to think, there was an awful crash beneath us, and the mate shot up into the air like a bomb from a mortar. He came down in a sitting posture on the mast-thwart; but as he fell, the whole framework of the boat collapsed like a derelict umbrella. Louis quietly chopped the line and severed our connection with the other whale, while in accordance with our instructions we drew each man his oar across the boat and lashed it firmly down with a piece of line spliced to each thwart for the purpose. This simple operation took but a minute, but before it was completed we were all up to our necks in the sea. Still in the boat, it is true, and therefore not in such danger of drowning as if we were quite adrift; but, considering that the boat was reduced to a mere bundle of loose planks, I, at any rate, was none too comfortable. Now, had he known it, was the whale’s golden opportunity; but he, poor wretch, had had quite enough of our company, and cleared off without any delay, wondering, no doubt, what fortunate accident had rid him of our very unpleasant attentions.

I was assured that we were all as safe as if we were on board the ship, to which I answered nothing; but, like Jack’s parrot, I did some powerful thinking. Every little wave that came along swept clean over our heads, sometimes coming so suddenly as to cut a breath in half. If the wind should increase—but no—I wouldn’t face the possibility of such a disagreeable thing. I was cool enough now in a double sense, for although we were in the tropics, we soon got thoroughly chilled.

By the position of the sun it must have been between ten A.M. and noon, and we, of the crew, had eaten nothing since the previous day at supper, when, as usual, the meal was very light. Therefore, I suppose we felt the chill sooner than the better-nourished mate and harpooner, who looked rather scornfully at our blue faces and chattering teeth.

In spite of all assurances to the contrary, I have not the least doubt in my own mind that a very little longer would have relieved us of all our burdens finally, because the heave of the sea had so loosened the shattered planks upon which we stood that they were on the verge of falling all asunder. Had they done so we must have drowned, for we were cramped and stiff with cold and our constrained position. However, unknown to us, a bright look-out upon our movements had been kept from the crow’s-nest the whole time. We should have been relieved long before, but that the whale killed by the second mate was being secured, and another boat, the fourth mate’s, being picked up, having a hole in her bilge you could put your head through. With all these hindrances, especially securing the whale, we were fortunate to be rescued as soon as we were, since it is well known that whales are of much higher commercial value than men.

However, help came at last, and we were hauled alongside. Long exposure had weakened us to such an extent that it was necessary to hoist us on board, especially the mate, whose “sudden stop,” when he returned to us after his little aërial excursion, had shaken his sturdy frame considerably, a state of body which the subsequent soaking had by no means improved. In my innocence I imagined that we should be commiserated for our misfortunes by Captain Slocum, and certainly be relieved from further duties until we were a little recovered from the rough treatment we had just undergone. But I never made a greater mistake. The skipper cursed us all (except the mate, whose sole fault the accident undoubtedly was) with a fluency and vigor that was, to put it mildly, discouraging. Moreover, we were informed that he “wouldn’t have no [adjective] skulking;” we must “turn to” and do something after wasting the ship’s time and property in such a blank manner. There was a limit, however, to our obedience, so although we could not move at all for awhile, his threats were not proceeded with farther than theory.

A couple of slings were passed around the boat, by means of which, she was carefully hoisted on board, a mere dilapidated bundle of sticks and raffle of gear. She was at once removed aft out of the way, the business of cutting in the whale claiming precedence over everything else just then. The preliminary proceedings consisted of rigging the “cutting stage.” This was composed of two stout planks a foot wide and ten feet long, the inner ends of which were suspended by strong ropes over the ship’s side about four feet from the water, while the outer extremities were upheld by tackles from the main rigging, and a small crane abreast the try-works.

These planks were about thirty feet apart, their two outer ends being connected by a massive plank, which was securely bolted to them. A handrail about as high as a man’s waist, supported by light iron stanchions, ran the full length of this plank on the side nearest the ship, the whole fabric forming an admirable standing-place from whence the officers might, standing in comparative comfort, cut and carve at the great mass below to their hearts’ content.

So far the prize had been simply held alongside by the whale-line, which at death had been “rove” through a hole cut in the solid gristle of the tail; but now it became necessary to secure the carcass to the ship in some more permanent fashion. Therefore, a massive chain like a small ship’s cable was brought forward, and in a very ingenious way, by means of a tiny buoy and a hand-lead, passed round the body, one end brought through a ring in the other, and hauled upon until it fitted tight round the “small” or part of the whale next the broad spread of the tail. The free end of the fluke-chain was then passed in through a mooring-pipe forward, firmly secured to a massive bitt at the heel of the bowsprit (the fluke-chain-bitt), and all was ready.

If ... too much stress has been laid upon the smashing of our own boat and consequent sufferings, while little or no notice was taken of the kindred disaster to Mistah Jones’ vessel, my excuse must be that the experience “filled me right up to the chin,” as the mate concisely, if inelegantly, put it. Poor Goliath was indeed to be pitied, for his well-known luck and capacity as a whaleman seemed on this occasion to have quite deserted him. Not only had his boat been stove upon first getting on to the whale, but he hadn’t even had a run for his money. It appeared that upon striking his whale, a small, lively cow, she had at once “settled,” allowing the boat to run over her; but just as they were passing, she rose, gently enough, her pointed hump piercing the thin skin of half-inch cedar as if it had been cardboard. She settled again immediately, leaving a hole behind her a foot long by six inches wide, which effectually put a stop to all further fishing operations on the part of Goliath and his merry men for that day, at any rate. It was all so quiet, and so tame and so stupid, no wonder Mistah Jones felt savage. When Captain Slocum’s fluent profanity flickered around him, including vehemently all he might be supposed to have any respect for, he did not even look as if he would like to talk back; he only looked sick and tired of being himself.

The third mate, again, was of a different category altogether. He had distinguished himself by missing every opportunity of getting near a whale while there was a “loose” one about, and then “saving” the crew of Goliath’s boat, who were really in no danger whatever. His iniquity was too great to be dealt with by mere bad language. He crept about like a homeless dog—much, I am afraid, to my secret glee, for I couldn’t help remembering his untiring cruelty to the green hands on first leaving port.

In consequence of these little drawbacks we were not a very jovial crowd forward or aft. Not that hilarity was ever particularly noticeable among us, but just now there was a very decided sense of wrong-doing over us all, and a general fear that each of us was about to pay the penalty due to some other delinquent. But fortunately there was work to be done. Oh, blessed work! how many awkward situations you have extricated people from! How many distracted brains have you soothed and restored, by your steady, irresistible pressure of duty to be done and brooking of no delay!

The first thing to be done was to cut the whale’s head off. This operation, involving the greatest amount of labor in the whole of the cutting-in, was taken in hand by the first and second mates, who, armed with twelve-foot spades, took their station upon the stage, leaned over the handrail to steady themselves, and plunged their weapons vigorously down through the massive neck of the animal,—if neck it could be said to have,—following a well-defined crease in the blubber. At the same time the other officers passed a heavy chain sling around the long, narrow lower jaw, hooking one of the big cutting tackle into it, the “fall” of which was then taken to the windlass and hove tight, turning the whale on her back. A deep cut was then made on both sides of the rising jaw, the windlass was kept going, and gradually the whole of the throat was raised high enough for a hole to be cut through its mass, into which the strap of the second cutting tackle was inserted, and secured by passing a huge toggle of oak through its eye. The second tackle was then hove taut, and the jaw, with a large piece of blubber attached, was cut off from the body with a boarding-knife, a tool not unlike a cutlass blade set into a three-foot-long wooden handle.

Upon being severed the whole piece swung easily inboard and was lowered on deck. The fast tackle was now hove upon while the third mate on the stage cut down diagonally into the blubber on the body, which the purchase ripped off in a broad strip or “blanket” about five feet wide and a foot thick. Meanwhile the other two officers carved away vigorously at the head, varying their labors by cutting a hole right through the snout. This when completed received a heavy chain for the purpose of securing the head. When the blubber had been about half stripped off the body, a halt was called in order that the work of cutting off the head might be finished, for it was a task of incredible difficulty. It was accomplished at last, and the mass floated astern by a stout rope, after which the windlass pawls clattered merrily, the “blankets” rose in quick succession, and were cut off and lowered into the square of the main hatch or “blubber-room.” A short time sufficed to strip off the whole of the body-blubber, and when at last the tail was reached, the backbone was cut through, the huge mass of flesh floating away to feed the innumerable scavengers of the sea. No sooner was the last of the blubber lowered into the hold than the hatches were put on and the head hauled up alongside. Both tackles were secured to it and all hands took to the windlass levers. This was a small cow whale of about thirty barrels, that is, yielding that amount of oil, so it was just possible to lift the entire head on board; but as it weighed as much as three full-grown elephants, it was indeed a heavy lift for even our united forces, trying our tackle to the utmost. The weather was very fine, and the ship rolled but little; even then, the strain upon the mast was terrific, and right glad was I when at last the immense cube of fat, flesh, and bone was eased inboard and gently lowered on deck.

As soon as it was secured the work of dividing it began. From the snout a triangular mass was cut, which was more than half pure spermaceti. This substance was contained in spongy cells held together by layers of dense white fibre, exceedingly tough and elastic, and called by the whalers “white-horse.” The whole mass, or “junk” as it is called, was hauled away to the ship’s side and firmly lashed to the bulwarks for the time being, so that it might not “take charge” of the deck during the rest of the operations.

The upper part of the head was now slit open lengthwise, disclosing an oblong cistern or “case” full of liquid spermaceti, clear as water. This was bailed out with buckets into a tank, concreting as it cooled into a wax-like substance, bland and tasteless. There being now nothing more remaining about the skull of any value, the lashings were loosed, and the first leeward roll sent the great mass plunging overboard with a mighty splash. It sank like a stone, eagerly followed by a few small sharks that were hovering near.

As may be imagined, much oil was running about the deck, for so saturated was every part of the creature with it that it really gushed like water during the cutting-up process. None of it was allowed to run to waste, though, for the scupper-holes which drain the deck were all carefully plugged, and as soon as the “junk” had been dissected all the oil was carefully “squeegeed” up and poured into the try-pots.

Two men were now told off as “blubber-room men,” whose duty it became to go below, and squeezing themselves in as best they could between the greasy masses of fat, cut it up into “horse-pieces” about eighteen inches long and six inches broad. Doing this they became perfectly saturated with oil, as if they had taken a bath in a tank of it; for as the vessel rolled it was impossible to maintain a footing, and every fall was upon blubber running with oil. A machine of wonderful construction had been erected on deck in a kind of shallow trough about six feet long by four feet wide and a foot deep. At some remote period of time it had no doubt been looked upon as a triumph of ingenuity, a patent mincing machine. Its action was somewhat like that of a chaff-cutter, except that the knife was not attached to the wheel, and only rose and fell, since it was not required to cut right through the “horse-pieces” with which it was fed. It will be readily understood that in order to get the oil quickly out of the blubber it needs to be sliced as thin as possible, but for convenience in handling the refuse (which is the only fuel used) it is not chopped up in small pieces, but every “horse-piece” is very deeply scored, as it were, leaving a thin strip to hold the slices together. This, then, was the order of work. Two harpooners attended the try-pots, replenishing them with minced blubber from the hopper at the port side, and bailing out the sufficiently boiled oil into the great cooling tank on the starboard. One officer superintended the mincing, another exercised a general supervision over all. There was no man at the wheel and no look-out, for the vessel was “hove-to” under two close-reefed topsails and foretopmast-staysail, with the wheel lashed hard down. A look-out man was unnecessary, since we could not run anybody down, and if anybody ran us down, it would only be because all hands were asleep, for the glare of our try-works fire, to say nothing of the blazing cresset before mentioned, could have been seen for many miles. So we toiled watch and watch, six hours on and six off, the work never ceasing for an instant night or day. Though the work was hard and dirty, and the discomfort of being so continually wet through with oil great, there was only one thing dangerous about the whole business. That was the job of filling and shifting the huge casks of oil. Some of these were of enormous size, containing three hundred and fifty gallons when full, and the work of moving them about the greasy deck of a rolling ship was attended with a terrible amount of risk. For only four men at most could get fair hold of a cask, and when she took it into her silly old hull to start rolling, just as we had got one half-way across the deck, with nothing to grip your feet, and the knowledge that one stumbling man would mean a sudden slide of the ton and a half weight, and a little heap of mangled corpses somewhere in the lee scuppers,—well, one always wanted to be very thankful when the lashings were safely passed.

The whale being a small one, as before noted, the whole business was over within three days, and the decks scrubbed and re-scrubbed until they had quite regained their normal whiteness. The oil was poured by means of a funnel and long canvas hose into the casks stowed in the ground tier at the bottom of the ship, and the gear, all carefully cleaned and neatly “stopped up,” stowed snugly away below again.

This long and elaborate process is quite different from that followed on board the Arctic whale ships, whose voyages are of short duration, and who content themselves with merely cutting the blubber up small and bringing it home to have the oil expressed. But the awful putrid mass discharged from a Greenlander’s hold is of a very different quality and value, apart from the nature of the substance, from the clear and sweet oil which after three years in cask is landed from a south-seaman as inoffensive in smell and flavor as the day it was shipped. No attempt is made to separate the oil and spermaceti beyond boiling the “head matter,” as it is called, by itself first, and putting it into casks which are not filled up with the body oil. Spermaceti exists in all the oil, especially that from the dorsal hump; but it is left for the refiners ashore to extract and leave the oil quite free from any admixture of the wax-like substance, which causes it to become solid at temperatures considerably above the freezing-point.

Uninteresting as the preceding description may be, it is impossible to understand anything of the economy of a south-sea whaler without giving it, and I have felt it the more necessary because of the scanty notice given to it in the only two works published on the subject, both of them highly technical, and written for scientific purposes by medical men. Therefore I hope to be forgiven if I have tried the patience of my readers by any prolixity.

It will not, of course, have escaped the reader’s notice that I have not hitherto attempted to give any details concerning the structure of the whale just dealt with. The omission is intentional. During this, our first attempt at real whaling, my mind was far too disturbed by the novelty and danger of the position in which I found myself for the first time, for me to pay any intelligent attention to the party of the second part.

But I may safely promise that from the workman’s point of view, the habits, manners, and build of the whales shall be faithfully described as I saw them during my long acquaintance with them, earnestly hoping that if my story be not as technical or scientific as that of Drs. Bennett and Beale, it may be found fully as accurate and reliable; and perhaps the reader, being like myself a mere layman, so to speak, may be better able to appreciate description free from scientific formula and nine-jointed words.

Two things I did notice on this occasion which I will briefly allude to before closing this chapter. One was the peculiar skin of the whale. It was a bluish-black, and as thin as gold-beater’s skin; so thin, indeed, and tender, that it was easily scraped off with the fingernail. Immediately beneath it, upon the surface of the blubber, was a layer or coating of what for want of a better simile I must call fine, short fur, although unlike fur it had no roots or apparently any hold upon the blubber. Neither was it attached to the skin which covered it; in fact, it seemed merely a sort of packing between the skin and the surface of the thick layer of solid fat which covered the whole area of the whale’s body. The other matter which impressed me was the peculiarity of the teeth. For up till that time I had held, in common with most seamen, and landsmen, too, for that matter, the prevailing idea that a “whale” lived by “suction” (although I did not at all know what that meant), and that it was impossible for him to swallow a herring. Yet here was a mouth manifestly intended for greater things in the way of gastronomy than herrings; nor did it require more than the most casual glances to satisfy one of so obvious a fact. Then the teeth were heroic in size, protruding some four or five inches from the gum, and solidly set more than that into its firm and compact substance. They were certainly not intended for mastication, being, where thickest, three inches apart, and tapering to a short point, curving slightly backwards. In this specimen, a female, and therefore small, as I have said, there were twenty of them on each side, the last three or four near the gullet being barely visible above the gum.

Another most convincing reason why no mastication could have been possible was that there were no teeth visible in the upper jaw. Opposed to each of the teeth was a socket where a tooth should apparently have been, and this was conclusive evidence of the soft and yielding nature of the great creature’s food. But there were signs that at some period of the development of the whale it had possessed a double row of teeth, because at the bottom of these upper sockets we found in a few cases what seemed to be an abortive tooth, not one that was growing, because they had no roots, but a survival of teeth that had once been perfect and useful, but from disuse, or lack of necessity for them, had gradually ceased to come to maturity. The interior of the mouth and throat was of a livid white, and the tongue was quite small for so large an animal. It was almost incapable of movement, being somewhat like a fowl’s. Certainly it could not have been protruded even from the angle of the mouth, much less have extended along the parapet of that lower mandible, which reminded one of the beak of some mighty albatross or stork.