G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

. (page 6 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 6 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sioually met with in the North Atlantic or in the English seas have wandered. They have been
now and then cast ashore, and then they are usually in an emaciated condition. They seem to be
unprepared for, or not to be adapted for, shallow seas. Accustomed (perhaps not individually, but

'1836. BKAI.K, THOMAS: Natural History of the Sperm Whale. London, 1836, p. 180.
'1866. MUKKAY, ANDREW: The Geographical Distribution of Mammals. London, 1066, p.



by hereditary practice or instinct) to swim along the coral islands of the Pacific, within a stone's
throw of the shore, they cannot understand, their instinct is not prepared to meet, shallow coasts
and projecting headlands."

Murray's views, though suggestive, are, perhaps, not entirely well founded. It is certain,
however, that the i'avorite haunts of the species have always been in the warmer seas, within or
upon the verge of the tropics.

to doubt that Sperm Whales were at one time, nearly two centuries back, as abundant in the
North Atlantic as iu more recent years in the North Pacific. The vigorous prosecution of the
whale fishery since the early part of the eighteenth century by Americau vessels has had much to
do with their present scarcity. The traditions of the American whale fishery all poiut to their con-
siderable abundance near the eastern coast of the United States.

Macy, the historian of Nantucket, narrates that the first Sperm Whale known to that settle-
ment was found dead and ashore on the southwest part of the island, and that the first taken by
Nantucket whalemen was captured about the year 1712 by Christopher Hussey, who, " cruising
near the shore for Eight Whales, was blown ofi' some distance from the land by a strong northerly
wind, where he fell in with a school of that species of whale, and killed one and brought it home." 1
That Sperm Whales cannot at that time have been rare near the shore, may be inferred from the
fact that the Nautucket Sperm Whale fleet which was then fitted out, and which three years later
consisted of six sloops, producing oil to the value of $5,500 annually, were usually absent only
six weeks, during which time they procured the blubber of one or two whales. 2 The Boston
"News Letter" of October 2, 17CG, stated: "Since our last a Number of Vessels have arrived from
Whaling. They have not been successful generally. One of them viz: Capt. Clark on Thursday
morning last discovered a Spermaceti Whale near George's Banks, mann'd his Boat, and gave Chase
to her & she coming up with her Jaws against the Bow of the Boat struck it with such Violence
that it threw a son of the Captain (who was forward, ready with his Lance) a considerable Height
from the Boat, and when he fell the Whale turned with her devouring Jaws opened, and caught
him. He was heard to scream, when she closed her Jaws, and part of his Body was seen out of
her Mouth when she turned and went off." 3

The log of the whaling sloop "Betsey," of Dartmouth, records that on August 2, 1761, her
crew saw two Sperm Whales and killed one in latitude 45 54', longitude 53 57': this woulu be in
the gully between the Grand Bank and Green Bank, about fifty miles west of Whale Deep, in the
Grand Bank, and sixty miles south of the entrance to St. Mary Bay, Newfoundland. August 9, this
vessel and her consort killed two to the south and west of the Grand Bank in latitude 42 57'. In
1822 Captain Atwood was on the "Laurel," of Provincetown, which took a Sperm Whale ou the
sixth day out, on the course to the Azores, just east of the Gulf Stream, aud less than 500 miles
from Cape Cod. The nearest grounds upon which Sperm Whales now regularly occur are those to
the north and east of Cape Hatteras, the "Hatteras Ground," and a ground farther south known as
the "Charleston Ground." The last one observed on the New England coast was very young, only
sixteen feet long, and was taken near New Bedford, Mass., March 29, 1842. 4

In Douglass' "North America," published in 1755, it is stated that Spermaceti Whales -'are to
be found almost everywhere, but are most plenty upon the coast of Virginia and Carolina."

1 MACY, ZACCHEUS : History of Nautucket, p. 36.

STARBUCK, ALEXANDER: in Report U. 8. l"ih Commission, part iv, 1878, p. SO.

"STARBUCK, Op. oil., p. 46-47.

'1845. JACKSON, J. B. 8. : Boston Journ. Nat. Hist., 1845, p. 138, pi. 16, fig. 1 (the stomach).


A Spi-rni Whale ciiiiu 1 ashore in KJ08 in Casco Bay, and the circumstance seems not to Lave
been regarded as unusual in those days.'

A person writing in 17 II discourses us follows: "Some Years since, there stranded on the
Coast of New England a dead Whale, of the Sort which, in the Fishers Language, is called TruuijK),
having Teetli like those ol a Mill; ii's Month at a good Distance from and under the Nose, and
several Partitions in the Nose, out of which ran a thin oily Substance that candy'd, the Remainder
being a thick fat Substance, being scraped out, was said to be the Speruia Ceti; it was said so, and
I believe that was all. Whales were often caught formerly between New-England and New-York,
and if the Sperma Ceti had really been in the Noseof that, it must have been more common, and
more cheap, than Experience tells us, it has been even since this Discovery, and at this present
time. As to the Whale Fishery, 'tis now almost as much a Rarity in New as Old England; the
Fishery ol did is at this time very groat here, tho' still far short of that of Newfoundland." 2

OCCURRENCE ON THK COAST OF EUROPE. In the Eastern Atlantic, also, the occurrence of
this species has been by no means unusual. Fleming, in "British Animals," 1828, states that "the
Spermaceti Whale often comes ashore in Orkney." 3 In 1788, twelve males ran ashore in the Eng-
lish Channel. 4 Other instances of their stranding on the English coast occurred in February, 168i>, 5
17'.C>, 6 176C, 1 February 16, 1829," in 1825, 9 and 18G3, 10 while others were obtained on the coast of
Brittany in 1784," and in the .Mediterranean, at St. Nazaire, in 185G, 12 and on other occasions for
which dates are not given.

OCCURRENCE ON TIIK CALIFORNIA COAST. Although Sperm Whales have occasionally been
taken oil' the California coast for the past thirty years, it would appear that few have been seen in
those waters since 1874. Captain Scammon has cited in his book no instances ot individuals per-
sonally observed by him.

SIZE AND COLOR. The sexes differ greatly in size and form, the female being slenderer and
from one-fifth (Beale) to one-third or one-fourth (Scauiuion) as large as the male. The largest
males measure from eighty to eighty-four feet in length, the head making up about one-third of the
whole. In the head is the cavity known as the "case," from which is obtained the spermaceti and
a quantity of oil. The youngest Sperm Whale on record is the one measuring sixteen feet, already
mentioned as having been taken near New Bedford in 1842; its weight was 3,053 pounds.

The Sperm Whale is black or brownish-black, lighter on the sides, gray on the breast. When
old it is gray about the nose and top of the head.

HABITS OF ASSOCIATION, MOTION, BLOWING, ETC. Sperm Whales are gregarious and are
often seen in large schools, which are, according to Beale, of two kinds, (1) of females accompanied
by the young and one or two adult males, (2) of the young and half-grown males; the adult males
always go singly. Their manner of motion is well described by Scammon as follows:

1 In 1663 a Spermaceti Whale of 55 foot long was cast up in Winter Harbor, near Casco Bay. The like hath hap-
pened in other places of the country at several times, when, for want of skill to improve it, much gaiii hath slipped
out of the hands of the Bnders. Hnbbard's History of New England, From the Discovery to 1680. Boston, 1846, p. 642.

'Britinh Empire in America. London, 1741, vol. i, pp. 188-189.

'FLEMING: British Animals, 1828, p. 29.

Mi HAY: Catalogue of Seals and Whales, 1866, p. 203.

SIBBALD: Phalainologia, 177:?, p. 3:5, pi. 1.

Moi.Y.\i:r.\: Phil. Trans., xix, 1795, p. 508.

'Kl'TTY: fide Gray, op. cit.
HINTKH anil WOODS: Mag. Nat. Hist., ii, 1829, p. 197.

THOMPSON: Ma-. Nat. Hist., ii, 1827, p. 477.

'"GRAY: op. cit., p. 204.
T.I \is\ n i i : Ann. fr. et err. d'Anatomie et de Physiologic, ii, p. 235.

"GKKVAls: Comptes-Rendus, 1864, p. 876.


"Among the whole order of cetaceans there is none which respires with the same regularity as
the Cachalot. When emerging to the surface, the first portion of the animal seen is the region of
the hump ; then it raises its head, and respires slowly for the space of about three seconds, sending
forth diagonally a volume of whitish vapor like an escape of steam; this is called the ' spout,' which,
in ordinary weather, may be seen from the mast-head at a distance of three to five miles. In respir-
ing at its leisure, the animal sometimes makes no headway through the water; at other times it moves
quietly along at the rate of about two or three miles an hour; or if ' making a passage' from one feed-
ing ground to another, it may accelerate its velocity. When in progressive motion, after ' blowing,'
hardly an instant is required for inspiration, when the animal dips its head a little, and moment-
arily disappears; then it rises again to blow as before, each respiration being made with great
regularity. * * With the largest bulls, the time occupied iu performing one inspiration is
from ten to twelve seconds, and the animal will generally blow from sixty to seventy-five times at
a rising, remaining upon the surface of the sea about twelve minutes. As soon as 'his spontiugs
are out' he pitches headforemost downwards; theu 'rounding out,' turns his flukes high in the air,
and, when gaining nearly a perpendicular attitude, descends to a great depth, and there remains
from fifteen minutes to an hour and a quarter.

" When the Cachalot becomes alarmed or is sporting in the ocean, its actions are widely
different. If frightened, it has the faculty of instantly sinking, although nearly in a horizontal
attitude. When merely startled, it will frequently assume a perpendicular position, with the
greater portion of its head above water, to look and listen ; or, when lying on the surface, it will
sweep around from side to side with its flukes to ascertain whether there is any object within
reach. At other times, when at play, it will elevate its flukes high iu the air, then strike them
down with great force, which raises the water into spray and foam about it; this is termed 'lob-
tailing.' Oftentimes it descends a few fathoms beneath the waves; then, giving a powerful shoot
nearly out of the water, at an angle of 45 or less, falls on its side, coming down with a heavy
splash, producing a pyramid of foam which may be seen from the masthead on a clear day, at
least ten miles, and is of great advantage to the whaler when searching for his prey. * * * *
When individually attacked it makes a desperate struggle for life, and often escapes after a hard
contest. Nevertheless, it is not an unusual occurrence for the oldest males to be takefl with but
little effort on t!ie part of the whaler. After being struck, the animal will oftentimes lie for a few
moments on the water as if paraly/ed, which affords the active man of the lance opportunity to
dart his weapon effectually and complete the capture." '

Owing to the peculiar shape and posicion of the mouth, the Sperm Whale has to turn upon its
side to seize large objects between its jaws, and when one of them attacks a boat, it is iu a reversed
position, holding its lower jaw above the object it is trying to bite, as is shown in many pictures of
whaling adventure.

FOOD The food of this species consists of squids and of various kinds of fish. Couch tells
of a young one, twenty feet long, taken on the coast of Cornwall, which had three hundred muck-
t-rel in its stomach. Captain Atwood states that when struck by the harpoon they eject from the
stomach quantities of large squids.

KKPUODUCTION. They are said to breed at all seasons of the year. Scammon states that the
time of gestation is supposed to be ten mouths, that the number of cubs is rarely two, never more,
and that they are about one-fourth the length of their mother. In suckling the female reclines
upon her side in the water.

1 SCAMMOK, CHARLES M. : The Marino Mammals of the Nortliwi'Kti-ni Coast of North America, described and
and illimtr.ited, together with an account of the American Whale Fishery. San Francisco, 1874, pp. 74-84.


USEFUL PRODUCTS. The peculiar products of tin- head of this cetacean, the sperm oil and
the *i>i'nnnc'ti, render its capture particularly profitable. According to Cuptiiin At wood about
one tilth of tin- yield of oil may he generally set down as the amount of spermaceti afforded by a
Sperm Whale. The tth are used by ivory cutters, and the ambergris is a substance- valuable to
druggiMs and perfumers. The parts of the body are to be described in the chapter on oil making,
where tiie manner of ciiitini; away the liltibl>er will be discussed. The great lower jaws with their
rows of bristling teeth are often brought home as trophies by whalers, and in Provincetown, New
Bedford, or Nantiicket may be seen gateways spanned by arches made of these bones. 1

The following statement of yield of oil from whales taken by New Bedford whalers was
furnished by ('apt. Benjamin liussell in 1875:

('apt. ('. Allen captured one Sperm Whale, which tried out 150 barrels.

Captain Tilton captured one Sperm Whale, which tried out 154 barrels.

Captain Spooiier captured one S|>eriii Whale, which tried out 130 barrels.

Captain Rnowles captured one Sperm Whale, which tried out l'J7 barrels.

A number of captains report Sperm Whales yielding from 80 to 1-0 barrels each.

Tin: I'OKPOISE SI-KUM WHALE. A small cetacean rather closely allied to the 3] term Whale,
and called by certain authors the Porpoise Sperm Whale, occurs in the wa mer parts of the Pacific.
A specimen nine feet long was taken at Mazatlan, and was described by Professor Hill under the
name Kogia Floiceri. 1 It is of no economic importance. Nothing is known of its habits. A
sketch of the animal and its jaw are preserved in the National Museum.


DISTRIBUTION. Th Blackftsh, Gloliiceplmlu* intermedia* (Harluin Cray, is one of the most
imp., i lain and most abundant of the small whales of the east coast. It occurs in great numbers
to the northeast of the Grand Bank, and off the New England and Middle States. IJow far south
it ranges is not certainly known. A closely related species is the Pilot Whale or Cuing Whale of
Europe, (i. xritit'i-til (Lac.) Gray, also called Black Whale, Social Whale, Blowing Whale, and
Bottlehead, the. Svine -lival of Scandinavia; abundant in the North Sea and the northeastern

1 In 1 >onv;las-s's North America (Boston and London, 175f>, vol. i, p. 57), the products of the Sperm Whale are thus
discoursed upon :

"Sperma ceti Whales are to be found ulmogt everywhere, they have no bone, so called; some may yield CO to
70 barrels oil called viscous oil, the fittest for lamps or a burning light. It is from this whale that we have the par-
macit i v or spermaceti (very improperly so called). The ancients were at a loss whether it was an animal or mineral
substance ; Schroder, a celebrated Pharmacopoeia writer about the middle of last century, calls it Aliud genus bitu-
minis quod gperma ceti officiuao vocaut, he describes it I'inguedo furfiirosa product n exhalalioue terra sulphurcae.
We now find thai any part of its oil, but more abundantly the head-matter, as the whalers term it, if it stand at rest
and in the sun will shoot into adipous (leaks resembling in some manner the chrystalisat ion of Baits: instead of sperma
eeti. il ought to ! called adeps ceti, in the matcria niedica. This same w hale gives the ambergrease, a kind of per-
fiiuic. as i, musk: anciently it was by the natural historians described as a kind of bitumen, hence the name Ambra
grisea. Dale, a noted author, in his pharmacologia not long since publishes it as such. It is now fully discovered to
be some production from this species of whale, for some time it was imagined some peculiar concreted juice lodged
ina peculiar cystis, in the same manner as is the castoreum of the heaver or Fiber Canadenti*, and the zibethum of the
civ it -cat 01 hyena, in cystis's both sides of the Aui rima; thus, not long since, some of our Nantnckct whalers imag-
ined that in some (very few and rare) of these male or bull whales, they hud found the gland or cystis in the loins m ar
the spcrmatick organs: late and more accurate observations seem to declare it to be some part of the ordure, ilung,
or a I vine excrement of the whale; squid-fish, one of the Newfoundland baits for cod, are Miun-tiun > in Newfoundland
cast ashore in qiiiintitic<, and as they corrupt and fry in the sun they IM-COIUB a jelly or substance of an umlxTgreMe
smell: therefore as si|tiid bills are sometimes found in the lumps of ambergrease. it ma\ be inferred, that aniliergreae
is some of the excrement from squid-food, with some singular circumstances or dispositions that procure this quality,
seldom couciiiring; thus the Xautiickci whalers for some years last, have found no ambergrease in their whal.-s.
The Sperma ceti Whale has no bone or baleii.e in his mouth, but fine white teeth; they are most plenty upon I he coast
of Virginia and Carolina."

i. 1 1 i.: Sperm-Whales, Giant and Pigmy, < American Naturalist, iv, p. 738, fig. 167.


Atlantic. Another species is the Rlackfish of the Eastern Pacific., G. Scymnionil Co) e, once
abundant, according to Scammon, on the coast of Lower California, but now usually found off
Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru, though occasionally ranging to high northern and southern

SIZE. The ordinary length of the New England Blackfish is fifteen to eighteen feet, though
they sometimes grow larger. The largest ever seen by Capt. Caleb Cook, a veteran oil maker of
Cape Cod, measured twenty-five feet and yielded five barrels of oil. The weight of a fifteen foot
Rlackfish is estimated at 800 to 1,000 pounds.

MOVKMENTS. They swim in large schools, sometimes several hundred together. They make
little commotion at the surface of the water as they swim, not rolling like their little kindred, the
Porpoises, but come up often to spout, the jet of spray rising three or four feet, and emitted with a
low, deep, snorting sound. When at the surface they often remain in sight several minutes. Usu-
ally their movements are sluggish, though at times energetic enough, as can testify any one who has
seen a school of them driven up on the beach. They feed upon schooling fish, menhaden, mackerel,
herring, and squids. Rlackfish are in great terror of the Killer Whales, which drive them about
mercilessly. In September, 1878, 1 saw a school of them which had for some days been hovering
around the entrance to Provincetown Harbor fleeing tumultuously before two large whales with
high back-fins.

REPRODUCTION. They breed in summer about Cape Cod. Out of one hundred and nineteen
driven ashore at Dennis in August, 1875, fully eighty were females with young, or recently born
calves of seven or eight feet. A foetus cut from a gravid Rlackfish of eighteen feet was nearly
seven feet long. All the females were yielding milk, and as the fishermen cut into their sides the
warm fluid poured out in copious streams.

Watson records, in the case of a female on the Rritish coast suckling its young, that the calf
was four feet six inches long in December and seven feet in January. Scammon thinks that in the
Pacific they breed at all seasons. He found mothers with young calves off the Gulf of Dulce,
Guatemala, in February, 1853.

STRANDING- OF THE RLACKFISH SCHOOLS. As will be told more in detail in another chapter,
hundreds, and often thousands, of them are stranded yearly on the shores of Cape Cod. They
occasionally run ashore at Nantucket, and instances have occurred of their being driven in at Cape
Rreton. Although there have been similar instances in Europe, especially at the Orkneys, I can-
not learn that such occurrences are sufficiently common anywhere else to be counted on by the
people as a regular source of income. A Cape Cod fisherman occasionally wakes up in the morning
to find two or three of these animals stranded in his back yard. "A pretty windfall," remarked
one of them to me. Cape Cod, projecting far out to sea, with its sloping, unbroken sandy shores,
seems like a trap or weir naturally adapted for their capture, and the Indians took advantage of
this circumstance long before the European settlement. The Pilgrims, in 1G20, found Indians on
the shore at Wellfleet cutting up a Grampus, and in the shell-heaps of the surrounding region are
yet to be found many evidences of their use of the smaller cetaceans for food. It is doubtful whether
the Rlackfish, stupid as they seem, would ever run ashore if not frightened by such enemies as the
Killer. In fact a large share of those which become stranded are purposely driven up out of shoal
water, into which they have strayed, by men in boats.

Little can be said about the time when they are most abundant. It seems to depend on the
supply of suitable food. Captain Cook believes that they feed mostly or entirely upon squids,
and if this be the case their appearance must be regulated by the abundance of those animals.
They are never seen earlier than June or later than December. Thirty years ago they were most


plentiful ill August. Before 1874 they had never been s-<-n before July. In .lul\. !<;,. school
Of llil cnine ashiire at North Dennis. Those taken in the fall are usually the fattest.

CAPTVKi: or P.I. \cNnsir. Many years ago several Cii|M) Cod whalers made a business of
pursuing th Hlaektish on the whaling grounds east of i he (i rand Hank. This enterprise, described
in the ehapteron the whale tisliery, has been abandoned, but it is not uncommon for ordinary
whalemen to kill them from their boats to obtain supplies of fresh meat, ami of oil to burn on
shipboard. That the flesh is not unpalatable the writer maintains, and can summon as witnesses
a number of persons who tasted one at tbe Smithsonian Institution in 1874. There is a fishery
for them at the Faroe Islands and in the Pacific, says Seammon, small vessels arc ocea>ionally
fitted out for their capture. "Sperm whalers," he writes, "do not lower their boats for Blackfish
when on Sperm Whale ground, unless tin 1 day is far spent and there is little prospect of 'seeing
whales.' The northern polar or whale-ships pay but little attention to them, except, perhaps, when
passing the time -between seasons,' cruising within or about the tropics."

USEFUL PRODUCTS. The yield of oil from a Black-fish varies, according to the, size, and fatness
of the animal, from ten gallons to ten barrels. This is dark in color, and is classed with the
ordinary "body oil" or '' whale oil." The blubber varies from one to four inches in thickness, and
is nearly white. The jaws yield a fine quality of machine oil, known as "porpoise jaw-oil", of which
however, n limited quantity suffices to supply the market. The value of a stranded Blackfish in
Cape Cod varies from $5 to $40.

As is related elsewhere, Blackfish are often taken by whaling vessels when on a cruise, to
obtain oil for burning and a supply of fresh meat. The brains are made by the ship's cook into
"dainty cakes," as the whalemen call them, and the livers are said to be delicate and appetizing. 1

Blackfish are harpooned by the Grand Bank cod-fishermen to be cut np and used for bait.


DISTRIBUTION. Associated with the Blackfish on our east coast, though not so common, and
rarely stranded, is the Cowfish, Grampus grisevs (Lesson) Gray, also found in Europe, south to
the British channel or farther, and there known as the "Grampus."

COLOR AND SIZE. Its slate-colored sides are curiously variegated with white markings, very
irregular in size, shape and direction, evidently the results of accidental scratches in the epidermis.

1 1635, July 25 (on the Newfoundland Banks). On Friday, in the evening, we had an hour or two of marvel-
long delightful recreation, which also was a feast unto us for many days after, while we fed upon the flesh of three

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 6 of 146)