The Adventures Of A Haunted Whaling Man

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A little before 6 o’clock this morning heard the cheering cry from mast head “there blows” “there blows”—“there goes flukes”—the Captain was on deck in a moment—and after singing out Where away & how far off—jumped into the rigging with his glass—presently the lookout cries again there blows half a dozen times—all is now excitement; a general rush is made to get a sight; when’the old man sings out get the boats ready—then there is a confusion; each boats crew rushes to their respective boats, and assist the Boat steerers in preparing the boats for dropping.…

Presently the old skipper sings out haul aback the main yard & lower away—this was done in a twinkling—the boats dropped into the water and manned as quick—the sail is set oars shipped and off we go after the Captain’s directions—the whale is down now and we are about half a mile from the ship—presently we see a flag floating from the mainmast truck. The whales are up. We see them from the boat—off we put—gain on them fast—get about three ships length when they lift their flukes and sound again—After having an exciting chase of three, four, or more hours we turn about and go on board disheartened—tired & disgusted—such is the sad history of the first whale we saw, chased & didn ‘t get.

The Clara Bell continued to track whales for a month without success, Weir complaining that “With our usual luck, if we keep on this fashion will be obliged to remain out 3 times 3 years to fill ship.” But then their fortune changed.

[December] 9th Sunday

…at 9 A.M. lowered the quarter boats again for a right whale. And Mr. Perry got fast to a noble fellow. We had not much difficulty in working around him but he did throw his flukes about most unmercifully: by noon he was fin up and by 7-1/2 P.M. that monstrous Leviathan could only be remembered by the pieces of blubber about deck and in the blubber room. This was a big whale—the thinnest part of a blanket piece measured about 8 inches. Some of the blubber was two feet deep.

The right whale is a very dirty mamal compared to others of the same tribe—I have noticed they are covered with small insects very much resembling crabs—about half an inch in diameter. On the end of their nose is a bunch of barnacles about 18 inches wide. This the whalemen call his bonnet—and when you see a whale just rising out of water it has the appearance of a rock—the barnacles are enormous—as much as two inches deep—the boys often roast them and eat them the same as oysters. And many other tid bits do they have when a whale is “trying out”: cooking whale lean &c &c &c &c. …

30th Sunday

… it happened to be my midnight trick at the wheel Christmas eve—and if I did not feel bad then I never did and never shall—hard life this, but may get used to it—.…

1856 Jan, 1st Tuesday

What gay times they will have at home today—I wonder if they’ll think of me. I must console myself by imagining they will. Last Tuesday, Christmas Day—was scarcely noticed, in the afternoon we gammed [visited] with the bark Helen Augusta—of Tisbury—Capt. West—19 Mos out—1050 bbls right & sperm—sent a letter home by her.

2nd Wednesday

. …Raised whales this morning and lowered the quarter boats by 6 oclock—returned with our usual good luck—Caught a “Waugin” a species of sea bird that very much resembles the penguin—This was about the size of a drake. We are now bound for a cruise off the Congo River and St Helena ground [in the South Atlantic] for Sperm Whales—.…

March 1st Saturday

—Been racing all day with the bark Sacramento and gammed this evening—she is 16 Mos out—500 bbl Sperm—She is a match for us— though if the breeze had been a little stiffer she could scarcely have kept up so well. The rumor afloat is that we are bound direct for St. Helena. It seems we are far enough out of the world now—and for my part I wish I was home again—but we may yet make a good voyage. Cheer up—

12th Wednesday

At daylight this morning raised St Helena a little on our lee—dropped the mud hook a little before 10 oclock—among about 20 sails—Merchantmen & Whalers—.… It seems strange to have the sails furled again and have the vessel be so still upon the water.

25th Tuesday