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The Old Harpooner

The Old Harpooner image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

The gallant searaan who in all the books stands in the prow of a whaling boat waving a harpoon over liis head, with the line snaking out into the air behind him, is only to be found now in Paternoster row. The Greenland seas have not known him for more than a hundred years, since first the obvions proposition wasadvanced thatone conld Bhoot both harder and more accurately than one coald throw. The swivel gun. j like a huge horse piatol, with its great oakam wad and 38 dramsof powder, is a more reliable but a far lesa picturesque object. But to aitn with such a gun is an art in itself, as will be seen when one considers that the rope is fastened to tho neck of a barpoon, and that as the missile flies the downward drag of this rope must seriously deflect it. Sodifficult is it to make sure of one's airu, that it is the etiquette of the trade to pull the j boat right onto the creatuie, the prow ; shooting up its soft, gently sloping side and the harpooner firing straight down into its broad back, into which not only I the four foot harpoon but 10 feet nf the ! rope behind it will disappear. Then, should the whalo cast its tail in the air after the time honored fashion of the pictures, that boat would be in evil case, bat fortunately when frightened or hurt it does no such thing, but curia its tail up underneath it, like a cowed dog. and sinks like a stone. Then the bows eplash back into the water, the harpooner bugs nis own soul, the crew light their pipes and keep their legs apart, while the line runs merrily down the middle of the boat and over the bows. There are two railes of it there, and a second boat will He alongside to splice on if the first should mn short, the end being always kept loose for that purpose. And now occurs the one serious danger of whaling. The line has usually been coiled when it was wet, and as it runs out it is very Hable to come in loops, which whiz down tbe boat between the men's legs. A man lassoed in one of these nooses is gone and fifty fathoms deep before the harpooner has time to say, "Where's Jock'r" ür if it be the boat itself which is canght then down it goes like a cork on a trout line, and the inan who can swiin with a whaler'shigh boots on is a svviminer indeed. Many a whale has had a Parthian revenge in this fashion. Some years ago a man was whisked over with a bight of rope round his thigh. "George, man, AJec's gone!" shrieked the boat steerer, heaving up his ax to cut the line. Bnt the harpooner caught his wrist. "Na, na, mun," he cried, "the oil ïnoney'll be a good thing for the widdie." And so it was arranged while Alee shot on upon his terrible


Old News
Ann Arbor Register