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‘the Scene Of Slaughter Was Exceedingly Picturesque’
Trapped in its Baja California breeding lagoons, the gray whale was almost harpooned out of existence. Today the growing herd is faced with a different threat that is perhaps just as dangerous
June 1969 | Volume 20, Issue 4
In the late summer of 1857, Charles Melville Scammon, captain of the 181-ton brig Boston , presented his crew with a dangerous proposition. Their voyage, he reminded them, had thus far failed to yield a single barrel of oil or a single sealskin. If the ship returned empty to its home port of San Francisco, there would be no bonus money for the men. Their eight-month contracts were about to expire; what Scammon wanted them to do was to extend their tours and follow the migrating gray whales to a hitherto undiscovered breeding lagoon on the coast of Baja California, in Mexico.
The crew of the Boston agreed, but not without hesitation. Hunting the slow-moving grays in the confines of a shallow lagoon might appear tame compared with the hazards of open-sea whaling, but it was not without hazards of its own: many a tombstone in the cemeteries of New England whaling ports bore the inscription “Killed While Lagoon Whaling.”
Scammon was well aware of the perils, but he was also on the verse of devising a new method of whaling that would reduce “gray fishing” to grim efficiency. In the process he would touch off one of the bloodiest eras in whaling history. Yet Scammon was no ordinary whaling captain. He took a scientist’s interest in the animals he hunted; before he was through, he would assemble a pioneer scientific treatise which would establish him as one of the foremost mammalogists of his age—and which would constitute a useful beginning for modern scientists seeking to prevent the total extinction of the majestic gray whale. In whaling’s heyday the gray, named for the spots that dapple its immense black body, was not a commercially prized species. Its blubber yielded no more than forty barrels of oil—half the yield of a sperm or a bowhead; and its baleen (the tufted gums that filter the animal’s diet of plankton) was too coarse to be used commercially as whalebone for corsets and buggy whips.
But hunting the gray had its advantages. Most large whale species, in retreating from the plankton pastures of the polar seas in late fall, steer clear of coastal waters and head instead for off-island breeding grounds in the open ocean: the Azores, Madagascar, or Micronesia. As a result, the New England whalers were forced to pursue creatures faster and larger than their own ships through gales, dead calms, and uncharted seas. But the gray whale breeds in a much more convenient locale; from the Arctic it swims six thousand miles due south to the warm and placid coastal lagoons of Baja California. Here, hemmed in by constricting shores, the grays could he harpooned in large numbers and their blubber flensed and tried out under a pleasant desert sun. This colossal opportunity had only to be effectively exploited.
In the winter of 1846, a New England whaling ship, waiting for the summer sun and the return of the whales to northern waters, had anchored in Magdalena Bay on the Baja California coast. Spacious lagoons indented the bay’s shore line, and the astonished crew saw countless whale spouts rising above the calm blue surface of the water. The whaler, herself in hibernation, had stumbled across a major breeding ground of the gray whale. A killing spree promptly ensued.
At first lagoon whaling, soon dubbed “the mudhole season,” was merely a diversion for the oft-season. But such a patronizing description in no way obscured the dangers involved; for if the gray whale was particularly vulnerable to a harpoon in the confined space of his breeding ground, the harpooners themselves were just as vulnerable to the survival tactics of a tormented whale. At sea, a harpooned whale tended to run and “sound,” that is, dive for the bottom, in the hope of shaking loose the whaleboat at the end of the harpoon line. Shallow lagoons thwarted this tactic and forced the gray whale to meet its adversaries head on. Since the grays could maneuver much more quickly than the whaleboats, the pursuers could suddenly find themselves the object of pursuit. Sometimes a wounded era y would corner its tormentors and ram their wooden craft. At other times, a whale’s mighty flukes would clear the water and come crashing down on the luckless crew in a devastating tactic called “lobtailing.” Other species of whales resorted to these direct tactics only occasionally; the grays had to rely on them constantly and soon acquired considerable cunning. Sometimes the harpoon line would suddenly go slack. The perplexed crew would look over the side of the boat to see where the whale was, but the waters would be murky with mud and sand churned up by their quarry. Then, in a frightful flash, the men would feel their boat being lifted clear of the water and a moment later find themselves hurtling through the air. The whale, playing possum, had waited for the lagoon current to bring the boat overhead and then had lashed upward with its flukes in a kind of reverse lobtail.
The gray’s ferocity began destroying the reputations of many bonus mates, boatheaders who received extra pay in recognition of their skill in hunting whales. After a luckless encounter with a gray, one mate returned forlornly to his ship and reported to the captain, a well-known New Bedford skipper named Simmons, ihat there “ain’t enough left of the whaling boat to kindle the cook’s fire.” Simmons reminded his mate in no uncertain terms that he was being paid to “turn up” whales, not to reduce the ship’s valuable complement of whaleboats. “I shipped to go a-whaling,” complained the frustrated mate. “I’d no idea of beiii’ required to go into a duck pond to whale after spotted hyenas. Why, Cap’n, these here critters ain’t whales.” Then what were they? Simmons inquired. “I have a strong notion that they are a cross ‘tween a sea-serpent and an alligator,” declared the disgruntled bonus mate.
Mistaking a calf for an adidt whale frequently resulted in loss of life as well as reputation. After interviewing Captain J. L. Eddy, a veteran of lagoon whaling, a correspondent of the Wilmington, Delaware, Journal reported: “Woe to the boats if they kill the young one first. The mother rushes at them with the utmost fury and stoves them in with her flukes. Such is the female devil; and Captain Eddy says as many men are lost in catching them as in all the other whaling grounds put together.”
This bad press acted to the gray’s temporary advantage, for whaling captains were loath to pit their men and boats against the “devilfish” or the “hardhead.” The more fearless—or reckless—among them who did hunt during the mudholc season sought to discourage possible competitors by embellishing tales of the gray’s known ferocity. One captain invariably sailed into Honolulu with a stove boat prominently displayed on his main deck. Once ashore, with a few lots of rum under his belt, the captain would recount how one of his novice harpouners had darted a calf by mistake. The mother promptly charged, and the nervous occupants of the boat, including the captain, barely managed to beach the craft on the lagoon shore. But still they were not safe. The distraught harpoonist shouted, “Cap’n, the old whale is after us still,” and ran into the desert. “I then told all hands,” declared the grinning captain, “to climb trees.”
For a decade after its inital discovery, then, lagoon whaling remained a limited diversion. Hut the supply of bowheads and sperms was not unlimited, and by 185;) the industrious New England whaling fleet was under increasing pressure to confront the devilfish and to locate more of the lagoons where it bred.
“Being on the coast of California in 18^2, when the ‘gold lever’ raged,” Scammon later explained, “the force of circumstances compelled me to take command of a brig, bound on a sealing, sea-elephant and whaling voyage, or abandon sea life, at least temporarily.” Only twenty-seven at the time, Scammon was already an alert, experienced, and knowledgeable man of the sea. Born in Maine into the family of a Methodist preacher who doubled as treasurer of the township, he had been raised in comfortable surroundings in which a love of learning was encouraged. One of his brothers, Eliakim, became a Union general who numbered James Garfield and William McKiiiley among his subordinates during the Civil War. Another brother, Jonathan, became a Chicago railroad financier and a prime mover in the city’s public school system. Charles’s avocations were reading, sketching, and writing poetry for his invalid sister, but he decided to make his living on the sea. As in the case of another New Englander, Herman Melville, this dual temperament eventually enabled Scammon to rccognixc that whales had much more than commercial significance.
Scammon’s nautical career began in the coastal trade, transporting turpentine, peanuts, and resin up and down the eastern seaboard. It was not gold that brought him to California, but rather the opportunities for promotion to merchant master. A scarcity of berths, however, forced him into whaling, and he soon became the chief whaling captain for A. L. Tubbs and Company, the San Francisco branch of a Boston wholesale house. Scammon’s wife and son came to San Francisco to settle; occasionally they accompanied the head of the family on a whaling expedition.
They were not aboard the Boston , however, on her epic voyage in 1857 when Scammon talked his crew into trying lagoon whaling. No one had any illusions about the dangers ahead, least of all Scammon himself: in Magclalena Bay the season before, he had lost two boats altogether; the others were stove a total of fifteen times. Six of his crew were badly injured: one had both legs broken. But the experience did not discourage Scammon; rather, it inspired him. Now, having secured the agreement of the Boston ’s crew, he reprovisioned at Santa Catalina Island, rendezvoused with a small schooner sent down from San Francisco by Mr. Tubbs, and began to trail the migrating grays southward along the seven-hundrcd-mile Baja coastline. About halfway down, a desert headland extends into the Pacific to form the immense and open Sebastian Vizcaino Bay. Here the observant Scammon previously had seen gray whales, their blows ascending into the air like fountains, disappear—apparently into the desert. The schooner was dispatched to follow the coastline and search for an entrance to the lagoon. Two clays later, a messenger from the schooner reported the existence of an entrance large enough to accommodate the brig. The Boston got under sail and, helped through the narrow and shallow entrance by a providential breeze, soon found herself gliding on a large, placid lagoon some thirty-five miles long and up to eleven miles wide; it had no name. Fish, porpoises, green turtles, and waterfowl were in abundance, but there were only a few whales. Undaunted, Scammon decided that he had simply gotten there ahead of the main body of migrating grays.
While he waited he was not idle. He dispatched the Boston ’s four whaling boats to collect driftwood on the ocean side of the lagoon. This errand almost doomed the voyage. To protect the boats from the surf, the sailors tied them together and left them just inside the lagoon entrance in the care of a boatkeeper. After basking in the warm sun for a while, the sentry decided to pull the plug in one boat and cool off in an impromptu bathtub. The “bathtub” promptly became waterlogged and capsized, and the floundering boatkeeper abandoned the boats and swam for the safety of the shore. Soon the astonished driftwood collectors saw their sole means of pursuing whales drifting through the lagoon entrance into the Pacific on the outgoing tide. A few of them, strong-swimming Kanakas from Hawaii, desperately paddled through the surf on makeshift surfboards of planking. The ship’s carpenter, also a strong swimmer, joined the chase, which soon turned into a losing contest with the surf. The exhausted Kanakas managed to return to shore, but the carpenter was never seen again. The tragedy seemed complete until the tide changed and washed three of the boats back to shore. This sight, according to Scammon, evoked “a spontaneous cheer from the men.”
The boats were recovered just in time, for whales now began to appear in large numbers. Scammon was jubilant. “Two large cows were captured without difficulty, which gave all hands confidence in our ultimate success,” he noted in the ship’s log. This confidence crumbled the next day. Before a single whale could be harpooned, two of the three whaleboats were stove in by a succession of flashing flukes. The Boston ’s remaining boat and the schooner’s lone boat undertook to rescue men trying to keep afloat in the lagoon with fractured legs and twisted arms. Amidst this human carnage, a gray whale would casually emerge to blow and then slip back beneath the blue cover of the lagoon. “When the first boat arrived with her freight of crippled passengers, it could only be compared to a floating ambulance crowded with men—the uninjured supporting the helpless,” observed Scammon, who now found himself in command not of a whaling ship but of a hospital ship, and a crowded one at that. “No whaling was attempted,” he wrote, “as nearly half the crew were unfit for duty and a large portion of the rest were demoralized by fright.”
To make matters worse, Scammon had two badly damaged boats and no carpenter to repair them. After scveral days, he did manage to outfit the schooner’s boat for whale pursuit, but when the boat approached a slumbering whale the crew, with the exception of the boatheader and the boatsteerer, jumped overboard. One of the men, a bulky army deserter who had boasted of his exploits in the Second Seminole War, landed on the flukes of the whale. The unmasked braggart escaped unharmed as the whale simply settled gently under the water, “thereby ridding itself of the human parasite,” Scammon sarcastically remarked.
“Our situation was both singular and trying,” the Captain later wrote. “The vessel lay in perfect security in smooth water; and the objects of pursuit, which had been so anxiously sought, were now in countless numbers about us.” The Boston was floating on a treasure trove that defied exploitation. What was clearly needed was a technique for catching the devilfish without endangering either whaleboats or men.
Scammon was equal to the occasion. A few days later, lie launched his remaining boat on a special mission that transformed whale hunting into carefree slaughter. The crew carefully hugged the shallow shore line, out of reach of the whales, and finally anchored inshore where the lagoon narrowed into a neck of deep water. When a whale surfaced to spout in this narrow passage, a man in the boat stood up and aimed a stubby bomblance gun that fired a projectile designed to pierce the whale’s blubber and timed to detonate inside its lungs. The second time the whale emerged, the man took careful aim and fired; the color of the whale’s spout turned from white to crimson. The gunner followed up with direct hits on two more passing whales.
Such marksmanship would have been regarded as futile at sea. A “bombed” whale would have to be quickly made fast to the boat; otherwise, it would sink or eventually float to the surface out of sight. But Scammon was confident that the enclosed lagoon would contain the bombed whales. One of the whales was secured instantly. The following day, a lookout climbed the schooner’s rigging and spied the other two carcasses floating near the head of the lagoon, buoyed up by gases generated through the decomposition of their blubbery hulls. Scammon was no longer pursuing whales; he was ambushing them.
Thus, in one stroke Scammon had discovered a prime breeding ground of the gray whale and had devised a way of rendering the ferocious mammal defenseless. The ensuing carnage kept the Boston ’s try-pots bubbling, smoking, and stinking through the night. All the oil barrels were soon filled, and dead whales still ringed the ship. An aftercabin was converted into a bread locker, freeing bread casks for use as oil barrels. When these were filled, deck pots, coolers, and mincing tubs were pressed into service and finally the try-pots themselves were filled and capped. Scammon and a delighted crew, some of whose limbs were still mending, sailed back to San Francisco “with the vessel so deeply laden that her scuppers were washed by the rippling tide.”
The low waterline of the Boston soon became the talk of the Pacific whaling fleet, and Scammon, anticipating that other whaling captains would want to share in the source of his “greasy” luck, signed his crew on for another voyage to keep them from disclosing the lagoon’s location. But when Scammon, now in command of the Ocean Bird , left San Francisco to rendezvous with the grays the following season, a fleet of nine vessels, capable of lowering thirty boats, dropped into his wake. The men on these vessels, naturally enough, named the lagoon after the man who had discovered and exploited it. It is called Scammon Lagoon to this day.
Mass whaling transformed the lagoon into a frantic marine slaughterhouse. To Scammon, “the scene of slaughter was exceedingly picturesque and unusually exciting.” Bomb-lance guns crackled “like musketry” and the foamy thrashing of bombed whales resembled an “aquatic battle scene.” Bustling boat crews knitted shut the giant lips of dead whales and towed the bloated corpses to their ships and the try-pots, whose stinking smoke spiralled into the desert sky.
The influx of whalers resulted in further refinements of lagoon-whaling techniques. Whale calves, until then dangerous nuisances, became deadly lures. At low tide, a boat would chase a stray calf into shallow water; soon the anxious mother would appear to retrieve her calf, only to become stranded. Once the mother had become exhausted by frantic efforts to extricate herself, the whaling boat returned for the kill. Sometimes the harpooner would step out of the boat, wade over to his giant quarry, and plunge the harpoon home.
Lagoon whaling made for an uncommon sociality in a business that was, and still is, marked by isolation. Rival crews engaged in daily gams; as the sailors conversed in a babble of Portuguese, Kanaka, and English, wives of whaling captains exchanged social visits whenever a boat was free to transport them. But the close quarters that made this pleasant intimacy possible often led to frayed tempers when it came to catching whales. Some whalers persisted in chasing the grays and making them fast. This open-sea technique soon became a comedy in the lagoon, for struck whales ran off in all directions, crossing lines and colliding with boats and even with one another. Amidst curses in all languages, tangled lines had to be cut, and competing boat crews continually exchanged threats. From the deck of the Ocean Bird , Scammon watched one boat, bearing down on its harpooned whale, threatening to cross the line of another.
“That won’t do! I struck my whale first,” cried out an anxious voice in the second boat. “Cut that line or I’ll put a bomb through you.”
The mate in the first boat responded heartily, “Shoot and be damned! I won’t let go this line till we get t’other side of Jordan.”
The industrious slaughter often continued through the night. In the darkness, white water flashed as whales writhed under the pricks of countless harpoons. Disembodied voices sounded sharp commands across the night. In one instance, Scammon heard a worried captain issue a cut-loose order to his bonus mate. “I’ve killed the bloody greek seven times but he won’t turn up,” a baffled voice responded. “He’s got more lives than a Kilkenny cat.” A burst of cheers moments later indicated to the anchored whale fleet that the stubborn whale had finally turned up.
Due mainly to Scammon’s new hunting techniques and his profitable use of them, gray whaling was soon prosecuted just as intensively in other lagoons, small and large, along the Baja California coastline. In addition, eleven whaling stations along the California coastline bushwacked grays en route to their breeding grounds. The deserts that flanked the lagoons effectively discouraged desertion among the crews, a serious problem in whaling waters olf inviting tropical islands. The turtles, fish, and waterfowl that thrived in the lagoons provided a varied diet. Drinking water was a problem at first, but a running spring was soon discovered on the offshore island of Cedros. Whaling, ordinarily dangerous and lonely, had been reduced to a fairly safe and sociable occupation. Each January and February, billowing sails decorated with large crosses, cannonballs, stars, or crescents turned the Baja coastline into a maritime carnival of color and confusion.
Such commercial aggression could have but one result. By 1861, lour years alter Scammon first sailed into his lagoon and almost lost his whaling boats, gray whaling was 110 longer economical. There were too few grays left. During these bloody years Scammon Lagoon alone yielded an estimated 22,250 barrels of oil. Altogether, lagoon whaling accounted for an estimated 10,800 whales, not including the calves who endlessly circled the ships where they had last seen their mothers until starvation or killer whales made an end of them. Lagoon whaling- ended with the collapse of the New England whaling industry. During the Civil War, the fleet was decimated by Confederate raiders, one of which, the cruiser Shenandoah , actually destroyed the entire Arctic fleet alter hostilities had officially ended (see “Last of the Rebel Raiders” in the December, 1958, A MERICAN H ERITAGE ). The whaling industry might have recovered from the war had it not been for the discovery in 1859 of a thick black liquid oozing out of the ground in Pennsylvania. Petroleum soon took over the chore of lighting the world.
Most whalers forgot about the gray whales. But not Charles Scammon. Even as his adventurous instincts had delighted in recording the color and excitement of lagoon whaling, the reflective side of his nature had been fascinated with the whales themselves. At the same time lie had been ordering his harpooners to bomb the whales and his (tensers to strip the blubber, Scammon was also measuring the girth of dead whales, inspecting the contents of their stomachs, and executing precise drawings of their conformations. The Captain jotted down his detailed observations alongside log entries that recorded the number of whales struck and barrels filled.
By the time lagoon whaling was obsolete, Scammon was contemplating a project no whaler or scientist in America had ever attempted—a comprehensive natural history of whales. That he was a self-educated mammalogist and writer dealing with a subject that had only limited appeal to prospective publishers did not discourage Scammon, but he did have to find a means of supporting his family while he pursued his writing. Granted a commission as a captain in the U.S. Revenue Marine Service (forerunner of the Coast Guard), the ex-whaling captain began chasing smugglers and rescuing ships in distress. His off-duty hours lie spent collating his own observations and statistics on whales, as well as the information he gleaned from extensive correspondence with whaling captains in the United States and around the world. Several years after lie had first followed the grays, a map-charting mission took him back to the Baja coast, where lie gazed with a mixture of pity and pride at Scammon Lagoon. “The decayed carcasses and bleaching bones strewed along the shores,” he wrote, “give evidence of the havoc made by the most enterprising and energetic class of seamen that sailed under our national flag.”
Scammon first published his scientific observations in article form in the Overland Monthly , a San Francisco magazine. Writing in a simple, direct, relaxed style (“Indeed,” he wrote concerning the polygamous habits of whales, “much of the Turkish nature is observed”), Scammon began attracting scholarly as well as popular attention. Professor Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian Institution singled out Scammon’s studies in one of the institution’s annual reports to Congress. “Too much cannot be said in praise of gentlemen like Captain Scammon,” Baird announced. The National Academy of Sciences in Philadelphia put its official imprimatur on his reputation by electing the whaler-turnedmammalogist a member. On a visit to San Francisco, one of America’s foremost scientists, Louis Agassiz, inspected the drawings that Scammon was preparing for his book. “It is the first time I have seen the whale properly exhibited on paper,” declared Agassiz.
The costs involved in the lithographic reproduction of the scientific drawings made it difficult to find a publisher, but Scammon finally convinced John Carmany of the Overland Monthly to underwrite the printing expenses. In 1874 his magnum opus appeared, bearing the mammoth title The Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of North America; Together with an Account of the American Whale-fishery .
This 317-page volume, replete with more than seventy handsome illustrations, was offered at a subscription price of ten dollars. There were few takers. “All attempts to sell your book have failed me,” Carmany informed Scammon three years later. But the book’s financial failure in no way obscured the favorable reception it received from the scientific community; indeed, Marine Mammals is today a valuable and honorable item in university rare-book collections as well as a popular reference volume for mammalogists. Perhaps the most enduring assessment of his work appeared in Scammon’s obituary in 1911, when Science magazine declared that his book was “the most important contribution to the life history of marine mammals ever published and will remain a worthy monument to his memory.”
What has continued to change, however, is the condition of the gray whale itself. In his pioneer treatise, Scammon expressed gloomy concern about its survival: “Ere long, may it not be that the California gray will be known only as an extinct species of Pacific cetaceans?” After two short revivals of lagoon whaling, Captain Scammon’s prophecy very nearly came true. Originally, it has been estimated, the grays numbered some 30,000; but by 1930, according to one San Diego naturalist, there were “no more than a few dozen.” Fortunately, in 1937 the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling instituted voluntary conservation quotas on whale kills. Recognizing the precarious condition of the grays, the convention accorded the species a special status: henceforth, it was forbidden “to take or kill gray whales except when the meat and products of such whales are to be used exclusively for local consumption by the aborigines.”
Today Scammon Lagoon again teems with gray whales—as many as 2,000 of them—during breeding season. The only hunters who pursue them now are scientists armed with buoy hydrophones and electronic harpoons. But even though the lagoon is considered a unique marine laboratory in which to study the world’s largest creatures, the researchers frequently find themselves frustrated by the same aggressive whale tactics that temporarily confounded Captain Scammon.
One such episode occurred in 1956, when Dr. Paul Dudley White, the famous Boston heart specialist, set out to record the heartbeat of a gray whale. White and his colleagues made elaborate preparations to implant sensitive electrodes under a whale’s skin to transmit the heartbeat by radio back to an electrocardiograph aboard the expedition’s flagship. But before a single “harpoon” could be fired, the party’s boat inadvertently made the same mistake that Scammon’s men had made a century before: it got between a mother and her calf. Flukes flashed, and the craft, listing dangerously with a foot-wide hole in her bottom, barely made it back to base. After the boat had been repaired, another attempt to plant the electrodes was made, but the struck whale, with a mighty lunge, snapped the connecting wire on one dart and swam away with the harpoon gun that had fired the second. The expedition was a failure. It seems that the whales are more of a threat to the scientists than the scientists are to the whales.
The same cannot be said of industry. Exportadora de Sal, a salt refinery licensed by the Mexican government, operates a factory at Scammon Lagoon. Approximately one hundred million gallons of sea water a day are pumped from the lagoon into ponds on the adjacent Vizcaino Desert. After the water has been evaporated by the wind and sun, the salt residue is collected, washed, and then shipped by barge to Cedros, where it is loaded onto ocean-going freighters.
Recently a controversy has raged over the possible effects that increased barge traffic in and out of the lagoon might have on the breeding habits of the grays. Exportadora’s salt-harvesting operations are expected to expand considerably, requiring more and more barge trips to Cedros. Since the bustle of shipping a century ago caused the gray to desert its breeding grounds in San Diego Bay, some scientists are deeply concerned lest the same thing happen in Scammon Lagoon. Others contend that the desalinization operations and industrial pollution might further jeopardize the future of the species. The salt company’s position, naturally, is that the grays have not been affected at all; to substantiate its argument, it points out that the herd in Scammon Lagoon has doubled in size during the decade Exportadora has been in operation.
The final decision is, of course, up to the Mexican government, which has assigned a special team of fishing experts to study the gray’s breeding habits and to determine how they are affected by shipping activity. No decision will be made until this team completes its investigation. It would, however, be ironic if Captain Scammon’s prophecy were fulfilled not because of man’s demand for whale oil but because of his need for a cheap industrial chemical and seasoning for his food.
Mr. Marx, the author of The Frail Ocean (Coward McCann, 1967), is a California writer who specializes in conservation of the ocean frontier. He became interested in the gray whale one day in December, 1964, when he sighted whale plumes in the ocean off Malibu and learned they were grays on the way to their warm-water breeding grounds. He spent some time aboard a Scripps Institute of Oceanography vessel in Scammon Lagoon, and subsequently consulted the collection of Captain Scammon’s papers in the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. These and Scammon’s Marine Mammals were his major sources for this article. Among useful and popular recent books on whales and whaling are Ivan T. Sanderson’s Follow the Whale (Little, Brown, 1956) and E. J. Slijper’s Whales (Basic Books, 1962). Younger readers will enjoy The Story of Yankee Whaling in the American Heritage Junior Library series.