loaded so deep. To add to our discomforts, mental and physical, it com-
menced to rain and blow, so that taken all in all it was a night that few
of its participants will ever forget. By morning it had stopped raining,
and although there was a good fresh breeze blowing it was decided to
start out as soon as we had eaten our breakfast. Our boat made the trip
under sail, and although we put in several reefs, it was a hair-raising
experience. My father had decided to go aboard the "Progress." She
was still at anchor and pitching into the heavy seas that were then run-
ning in a way that would have made you wonder how we could ever get
the men aboard, let alone a woman and two children ; but it was accom-
plished without accident, or even the wetting of a foot. As fast as the
boats were unloaded they were cast adrift to be destroyed against the
ice pack a short distance under our lee, where the waves were breaking
By the next day every man of the crews of all the abandoned ships
had boarded some one of the seven, and sail was made for the straits.
On the "Progress" there was 188 officers and men, besides three ladies
and four children, one a baby in arms. Captain Dowden gave up his
cabin and state-room to the three captains and families. I have forgotten
just how the three ladies and the younger children disposed of them-
selves in the state-room, but in the after cabin we just managed to fit in
by putting one man on the transom and two men and myself on the floor,
but we were all very thankful for what we had. The other captains and
officers divided quarters in the forward cabin, and rough berths were put
up between decks for the sailors and boatsteers, so that finally everybody
was provided for except Captain Dowden, and I never did know where
he managed to get his sleep.
We stopped at Plover bay long enough to take in a supply of fresh
water, and then laid our course for Honolulu. We had a good run and
reached our destination on the 23d of October without anything taking
place that was specially worthy of note.
And now a brief statement of the sequel, which was not learned until
the next year. In less than two weeks after we had left the ships the
long looked for northeast gale came, and lasted several days. Some of
the ships went off with the pack, some were sunk at their anchors, a few
were burned by the natives, and several went through the winter with-
out injury. Only one, the bark "Minerva," ever came back, and she was
saved by my father the next season. Our ship was destroyed where we
left here, as my father discovered a portion of her bow sticking up out
of the water and recognized it by the iron plating, as she was the only
ship in the fleet protected in that way. If we had waited until this gale
came, without doubt the greater part of the fleet would have been saved,
but this was knowledge not possessed by the captains, who made their
decision after a careful consideration of the situation as it then existed,
in connection with their united experience in those waters.
The Whaling Classic.
No history of New Bedford can be complete unless "The Whaling
Classic" is embraced in its contents, and yet no history of New Bedford
has ever included it. The reason is, perhaps, that the printing of it invari-
ably gives rise to controversy over the terminology. There are many
variants in the version of the classic, and it has been said that no subject,
with the possible exception of the fourth dimension and the deathbed
remark of Heinrich Heine, has ever brought forth so much confusion of
thought and inaccuracy of information. The essential point of difference
in the versions is what a certain profane mate actually said to a certain
profane captain. Francis Hopkinson Smith undertook to establish the
phraseology of the aggrieved mate's dictum a number of years ago and
devoted to the task laborious but pleasurable researches in this neighbor-
hood. It was his version, heard at the Tile Club, that was told Robert
Louis Stevenson by Will H. Low and Theodore Robinson. It was told
Stevenson in France and it is recorded that the great author heard it
"with immense joy." On a retelling of the story Mr. Low skipped a
measure of the profanity "in deference to the presence of ladies," where-
upon Stevenson demanded that Low should stop asking Robinson, whom
he said knew the story, to "be so kind as to tell it in a proper manner."
' So in every record of the telling, controversy has arisen. A number
of years ago the New Bedford "Mercury" and the New York "Sun"
swapped variants, and scores of correspondents contributed versions.
One had heard it told in Chile, another had heard it on the Dead sea, the
Grand canal, in the foc's'le of a schooner in the doldrums of the South
Atlantic trades, on the taffrail of the yacht "Wanderer," on the wharves
at New Bedford and Nantucket. Sometimes the captain's name was
Cofhn, sometimes Simmes, Simmons or Bunker. The dialogue is re-
corded as having taken place on many different ships. We have stand-
ardized a version, choosing what is good and obviously responding to
approved tests, and discarding the rest, harmonizing, codifying, restor-
ing here and obliterating there, and finally producing for posterity a
product which is definite.
THE WHALING CLASSIC.
(Told by Mr. Simmons, the Mate).
We was cruisin' down the Mozambique channel under reefed tops'ls
and the wind blowin' more'n half a gale, two years out er New Bedford
an' no ile. An the masthead lookout shouts, "Thar she blows !"
An' I goes aft.
"Cap'n Simmons," sez I (his bein' the same name as mine, but no
NEW BEDFORD 69
kith or kin, thank God!), "the man at masthead says, 'Thar she blows!'
Shall I lower?"
"Mr. Simmons," sez the cap'n, "it's blowin' a little too peart an' I
don't see fittin' fer to lower."
An' I goes forrard.
An' the man at masthead sings out, "Thar she blows an' breaches!"
An' I goes aft.
"Cap'n Simmons," sez I, "the lookout at masthead sez, "Thar she
blows an' breaches!' Shall I lower?"
"Mr. Simmons," sez the cap'n, "it's blowin' too peart an' I don't see
fittin' for to lower."
An' I goes forrard.
An' the lookout at masthead sings out, "Thar she blows an' breaches,
an sparm at that !"
An' I goes aft.
"Cap'n Simmons," sez I, "the lookout sez, 'Thar she blows an'
breaches, an' sparm at that!' Shall I lower?"
"Mr. Simmons," sez he, "it's blowin' too peart an' I don't see fittin'
for to lower, but if so be you sees fittin' for to lower, Mr. Simmons, why
lower and be good an' damned to ye."
An' I lowers an' goes on the whale, an' when I comes within seventy-
five foot of her I says, "Put me jest three seas nearer, for I'm hell with
the long harpoon." An' I darted the iron an' it tuk.
When I comes alongside the ship Cap'n Simmons stands in the gang-
way. "Mr. Simmons," sez he, "you are the finest mate that ever sailed
on this ship. Below, in the locker on the port side, there's rum an'
seegars at your service."
"Cap'n Simmons," sez I, "I don't want your rum, no more your
seegars. All I wants of you, Cap'n Simmons, is plain seevility, and that
of the commonest, goddamndest kind!"
An' I goes forrard.
Theodore Roosevelt frequently tells the story, but employs a hybrid
version in which "the captain" of the New Bedford whaler is represented
as saying, "All I want out of you is silence and damn little of that." This
was alleged by the "Mercury" to be a Hibernian rather than a Yankee
climax, which brought from Mr. Roosevelt the following ingenious re-
I regret to say that your correspondent who took exception to my
quotation about the statement of the New Bedford whaling captain to
his mate has confounded two classics, committing a fault analogous to
that of confounding Virgil's "^^neid" with the Georgics. It was the
mate of a whaler who, after a time of stress with whales, stated that all
he wished from the captain was "see-vility" and that of the damndest
commonest kind," whereas it was on another and entirely different occa-
sion that the captain of a whaler addressed a refractory mate with the
statement, that "All I want from you is silence â€” and damn little of that."
It is a matter of regret to me to see the New Bedford "Mercury" falling
from grace in such fashion as to ignore even the fact that these are two
totally distinct stories. For the information of the New Bedford "Mer-
cury" I will state that while I cannot myself claim whaling ancestry, yet
70 NEW BEDFORD
that my children number both Coffins and Starbucks among their for-
bears. The two anecdotes are as I have given them, but I am not able
to state with precision who among the four characters were Coffins and
who were Starbucks.
In commenting upon Mr. Roosevelt's explanation the "Sun" said:
Colonel Roosevelt disposes once and forever of certain rash critics
who have questioned the exactitude of his recent reference to a certain
incident in the history of New Bedford whaling. We congratulate him
upon the analytical skill and authoritative brevity with which he differ-
entiates two entirely distinct and unrelated anecdotes ; namely, that
of the captain who enjoined upon his mate a profane minimum of respect-
ful silence, and that of the mate who so nobly scorned the conciliatory
ofifer of his superior officer when he, the mate, had finally brought the
whale alongside after having his professional judgment aspersed by the
captain. Colonel Roosevelt has added to his many eminent public serv-
ices another of no small importance. While he is wholly right as to the
main point, the separate entity of the silence anecdote and the civility
anecdote, we must venture to indicate to him a slight departure from the
accepted and orthodox version when he reports the mate as saying that
all he wanted was "Seevility, and that of the damndest, commonest kind."
What the mate axed of the captain (and our decorous types will not
shrink from the performance of their full duty) was "A little see-vility
and that of the commonest goddamndest kind." The exact record is in the
custody of this establishment. We have the facts, the remarks verbatim,
and even the names, although unfortunately not the date, and these are
quite at Colonel Roosevelt's service if his historical activities take him
further into this interesting field.
WII.M.IOK lliiX].; i.uwx Kill; l;l-;rAll;
4 - /ij r , - J '
NEW. BEDFORD WH.UiVKS IN TAL-MY ]iAY.S up WHALING.
Whaling Hazards and Methods.
To illustrate the hazards which the whalemen undertook in the
course of the day's work, we may tell the story of the "Junior." The
"Junior" was owned by David R. Greene, of this city, and made a remark-
a1)le voyage in 1847-48. B. S. Osborn believes this is the first and only
ship flying the Stars and Stripes, excepting, perhaps, the vessels of Cap-
tain Wilkes' exploring expedition, which ever penetrated such high lati-
tudes. The "Junior" on this voyage was commanded by Captain Silas
Tinkham. She was of 300 tons, and was manned by a crew of thirty-
two. The vessel cruised about the coasts of New South Wales and New
Zealand without much success, and finally put into Hobart Town, Tas-
mania, to give the crew a run on shore.
Inspired by the fabulous stories of an abundance of right whales in
the Antartic, brought by Ross, Captain Tinkham sailed late in Decem-
ber for these practically unknown regions. The charts were, of course,
unreliable, and there were no sailing directions. Yet the "Junior" sailed
poleward with that confidence and spirit of daring which distinguished
the early character of the New Bedford whaling skipper. The vessel
sailed some ten or fifteen degrees of southern latitude before real Antar-
tic weather was encountered. Then snow, sleet, fogs and ice fields
became daily incidents. Still the "Junior" was pushed on, meeting with
countless flocks of birds, the albatross and penguin predominating. But
no whales, other than the worthless "sulphur bottom" were to be seen.
These were in abundance. The vessel was short of oil for the lamps, and
Captain Tinkham concluded to try for a "sulphur bottom." He lowered
a boat and pulled up to a whale, which, had it been a right whale, would
have stowed down 150 barrels. No sooner had the boatswain darted the
harpoons into her than up went her flukes, and whir-whir-whir, and the
two tubs of line were empty. The whale was seen no more. A "sulphur
bottom" calf was taken, however, which made five barrels of oil, and the
carcass furnished "fresh beef" for several weeks.
By this time Captain Tinkham had gone as far south as he cared,
but storms drove the "Junior" further and further. The ship was worked
to the eastward, in the hope of finding more moderate weather, then
westward, but instead of bettering conditions they grew worse. Bergs
of great size were encountered ; the currents were contrary, the course
uncharted, the weather was thick and no observations could be taken.
For days the vessel drifted at the mercy of winds and currents, and the
situation was perilous. During this period the ship was under double or
close-reefed topsails most of the time, making little or no headway, while
-2 NEW BEDFORD
the wind continued to blow from the northward so that it was impossible
to shape a course to take the ship away from misery and peril. There
were no signs of land. Birds were caught and their crops examined for
signs of terra firma, but there was nothing to afford hope of finding an
Antartic continent. This was weird and wearisome cruising, but while
all hands were sometimes appalled at the constant peril, the spirit of the
crew was not impaired. At last the wind favored a trifle and the "Junior"
clawed off the barren icy confines of the Antartic circle, and after tedious
beating to the northward, merged into fine weather and put into New
Zealand. Here stories were told of a new species of whale in the Arctic
ocean, and the "Junior" went into the northern sea, where she cruised
successfully and took a number of bowheads. The vessel was gone five
How far the ease with which the modern whaler fills his ship with
oil is due to the plentitude of whales and how far it is to be attributed
to the improved appliances of the whalemen of the twentieth century
and the repudiation of the traditions and superstitions of the days when
more than 300 whaleships from New Bedford vexed the seas, is not de-
The implement of the harpooner has accomplished the change in the
minds of many. Most of us will retain in our mind's eye the picture of
Oueequeg, the harpooner of the Spouter Inn in "Moby Dick." Queequeg,
six feet in height, with noble shoulders and "chest like a coffer dam,"
who shaved with the blade of his harpoon. The picture of the harpooner,
standing in the bow, holding the typical primitive harpoon with fixed
head and two barbs, is a familiar figure. The harpoon was hurled.
"Stern all." The oarsmen backed water, the line ran out, and as it was
turned around the loggerhead a hempen blue smoke jetted up and
mingled with the steady fumes from the harpooner's pipe. "Wet the
line. Wet the line," was the cry, and the bow oarsman snatched off his
cap and dashed on sea water. The boat flew through the boiling water
"like a shark all fine." The harpooner and officer in the stern changed
places, stem for stern, a staggering business in that rocking commotion.
The boat churned on, a continual cascade at the bow, a whirling eddy in
the wake, and at every motion within, the vibrating craft canted her
spasmodic gunwale into the sea. The men clung with might and main
to their seats during the rush to prevent being tossed to the foam, and
the tall form at the steering oar crouched almost double in order to bring
down his center of gravity. Whole Atlantics and Pacifies seemed passed
as they shot on their way, till at length the whale somewhat slackened
"Haul in. Haul in," was the next order, and all began pulling the
boat up to the whale, while yet the boat was being towed on. Soon
NEW BEDFORD 73
ranging up his flank, the boatheader firmly planted his knee in the clumsy
cleat and darted dart after dart into the flying fish.
Their fixed jav'Iins in his side he wears,
And on his back a grove of pikes appears.
At the word of command the boat alternately sterned out of the way
of the whale's horrible wallow and ranged up for another fling. The red
tide poured from his tormented body like a brook down a hill, and all
the while jet after jet of white smoke shot from the spiracle of the whale.
The excited headsmate at every dart hauled in upon his crooked lance,
straightening it again and again by a few rapid blows against the gun-
whale, and sending it again and again into the whale. Then the boat
pulled upon the fish's flank, and reaching far over the bow the headsman
slowly churned his long, sharp lance into the fish and kept it there, care-
fully churning and churning until the monster started into the "flurry"
and wallowed in his blood, spasmodically dilating and contracting his
spout hole. Gush after gush of blood shot into the air and dripped down
his flanks into the sea. The whalemen were wont to say the heart of the
whale eventually burst.
This is the story of the killing of a whale by an author who recalls
the old method. It was certainly primitive. "Bethink you how you
would manage a powerful unbroken colt with the mere appliance of a
rope tied to the root of his tail." And the whale is the largest animal in
creation. Moreover, for years it was the invariable usage of the fishery
that the headsman should be temporary steersman as he pushed away
from the ship, and the harpooner, or whale fastener, should pull the fore-
most oar â€” the harpoon oar. When the order came, "Stand up and give
it to him," the harpooner had to drop and secure the oar, seize his har-
poon from the crotch, and dart it into the whale. And if the dart was
successful, the boatheader and harpooner started to run fore and aft,
exchanging places, to the jeopardy of themselves and everyone else.
The use of the darting gun has changed all this. This is a harpoon
and bomb-gun combined, the former fastening the whale to the boat,
and the latter simultaneously killing or wounding it by discharging the
explosive lance or "darting bomb," as it is called. When the harpoon
buries itself in the whale, the gun is automatically discharged by a long
wire rod, which is, in fact, a trigger extending beyond the muzzle, and
which by impact operates the internal mechanism and projects the lance.
If the whale is not instantly killed, the shoulder gun is called into requisi-
tion and the whale is quickly dispatched. There is some variation in
methods, to be sure. Some Portuguese whalemen are afraid of the recoil
of the darting gun, which often throws the butt over the masthead, and
to make sure there will be no flinching an ordinary harpoon is thrown to
make fast, and the darting gun, minus the harpoon, is immediately
74 NEW BEDFORD
thrown. Some use the ordinary harpoon and the shoulder gun, but the
old method of killing is practically obsolete.
There is on exhibition at the Old Dartmouth Historical Society a
complete collection of whaling harpoons and guns. The use of these
guns was not adopted without long patience in overcoming prejudice.
For a long time the use of the guns was not permitted by whaling mas-
ters when boats were lowered in a school. There was a theory that the
blood of a whale in a flurry alarmed the other whales, and the first boat
to make fast must be snaked about, imperiling the crew and frequently
losing a whale, because no whale must be killed until all the boats were
fast. Now, the boats go in and slay with their bomb lances as quickly
as may be, and the result is much larger catches than ever before. More-
over, it is no longer necessary for the officers to kill the whale. The
harpooner throws his lance, and the bomb finishes the work instanter.
One whaling merchant says the cost of the darting gun outfit is less than
the towline one required in an outfit. The development of the gun now
in use was not rapid. Swivel guns were used hundreds of years ago,
and various toggle devices for the harpoons were tried. Some of them
are shown in the illustrations. A Yankee invention was a single barbed
explosive head. This iron was fixed with a trigger, and when the point
penetrated the flesh the trigger closed on the shank, released the ham-
mer, exploded a cap in the point, in turn exploding the powder and the
harpoon head. A strange weapon which was actually tried was the
"acid harpoon." It was a French invention and was used in 1830, when
everybody was cudgeling his brain to improve on the original fixed head
double-barbed iron. The acid harpoon consisted of a two-flued head
with a recess in the shank in which was placed a bottle of prussic acid.
When the iron penetrated the flesh of the whale, a spring broke the bottle
and discharged the acid into the whale's body. Several of the crew of a
French whaler were killed by the poison in handling the blubber, and
although the "American" of New Bedford and the "Susan" of Nantucket
carried these harpoons, they were not used. Swivel guns were tried, but
the recoils strained the boats, and there was much experimenting with
the shoulder gun before the device was made practical.
Curious Whaling Industries, Crafts and Professions.
Whaling developed many special industries, crafts and professions.
There were oil refineries, candle works, builders of whale boats, makers
of whaling irons, caulkers, bakers of ship bread, coopers, blockmakers, .
ropemakers, ship carpenters, riggers, and runners, who were called
"sharks" in the vernacular of the day. There are plenty of citizens who
can recall when there were candle works and oil works in the city, as
numerous as are the cotton factories to-day. They were all of a type â€”
square buildings of native granite with Dutch cap roofs, following a uni-
form style of architecture with that of the mansions of the rich in the
staid and far-off times. In 1822 a local surveyor named John Pickens
records there were eight spermaceti manufactories in the city. Most of
them were burned down, and these and the old oil sheds, the latter fre-
quently built with stone walls, common enough thirty or forty years
ago, no longer distinguish the city.
A great deal has been written about the taking of whales, but there
has been very meagre allusion to the manufacture of the oil, which was a
distinctively local industry, the refining of whale oil being an art which
is now possessed by but few. In the early days a whaling voyage was
but a few weeks in duration, and the blubber was brought into port by
the little sloops that caught the whales, and tried out on the shore. Wil-
liam A. Wall's old painting of the origin of the whale fishery depicts one
of the primitive factories, that of Joseph Russell. The latter was the
founder of New Bedford, and the father of the whale fishery â€” two very
Russell sold town lots on the shore near Union street. He located
a candle works between Centre street and Rose alley, west of Front
street, and the try works depicted in Wall's painting were a short dis-
tance north. The outfit comprised merely a trypot under a shed. The
butts of blubber were drawn in ox teams from the whaling sloops to the
try works. This was as early as 1765. Previous to the Revolution Mr.
Russell built a candle house and employed Captain Chafee, who had had
experience in manufacturing spermacetic in Lisbon, at a salary of $500
per annum. A half century later a number of factories were built.
Among the first was the stone factory at the corner of Water and Rod-
man streets, built by Samuel Rodman. It was built of stone, covered
with plaster, and is still standing. The factory of Humphrey Hathaway
stood on the north side of School street, we.st of Purchase, and west of
this stood the factory of Isaac Howland, Jr. From the best information
obtainable, the old "marsh candle works" were built by William Rotch
76 NEW BEDFORD
& Sons. They stood on the site now occupied by the gas works. At
each of these factories sperm oil and candles were manufactured and
whale oil was refined.
The old walls of these oil factories house more modern industries in
many cases. The automobile repair shop at the corner of Second and
Middle streets was the factory of John James Rowland, whose son built
another factory at the "Smoking Rocks," which is still used, or was until
quite recently, by the Potomska Mill Corporation. William W. Swain