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Inifje porpoises, like to as many fat hogs, striked by our seamen, and hauled with ropes into the ship. The flesh of
them was good meat, with salt, pepper and vinegar; the fat, like fat bacon, the lean like bull-beef; and on Saturday
evening they took another also. Richard Mather's Journal. Young's Chronicles of the First Planter* of Mass. Bay
Colony. Boston, 1846, p. 4(.

I cannot refrain from quoting the following passage from the journal of the Rev. Richard Mather, one of the
earliest of the Massachusetts colonists:

" 1<M5, June 27, 28. The first Sabbath from Milford Haven, and the sixth on shipboard; a fair, cool day ; wind
northerly, good for onr purpose. I was exercised in the forenoon, and Mr. Maud in the afternoon. Thin evening wo
saw Porpoises about the ship, and some would fain have been striking, but others dissuaded because of tho Sabbath ;
and so it was let alone.

"Monday morning, wind still northerly ; a fair, cool day. This morning, about seven of the clock, onr seamen
struck a great Porpoise, and hauled it with ropes into tbe ship ; for bigness, not much less than a hog of > or '> shil-
ling* apiece, and not much unlike for shape, with flesh fat nnd lean, like in color to the fat and lean of a !>;; and
iM-ing opened npon the deck, had within his entrails, as liver, lights, heart, guts, &c., for all the world likr n swinr.
The seeing of him hauled into tho ship, like a swine from the sty to the trestle, and opened npon the d-<-K in \ it-w of
all our company, was wonderful to us all, and marvellous merry sport, and delightful to our women and rhildrrii. So
good was our God nnto us, in affording us the day before spiritual refreshing to our souls and this day morning also
delightful recreation to our bodies, at the taking and opening of this huge and strange fish." Young's Chronicles of
the First Planters of Mass. Bay Colony. Boston, 1846, p. 460.


Captain Cook thinks that these are the marks of the teeth made by the animals in playing with
each other. It attains the length of fifteen or twenty feet, but is slenderer than the Blackiish. Its
jaws are esteemed by the makers of fine oil.

HABITS. Regarding this species, Captain Cook writes: "About the same time that the IJIack-
flsh made their appearance in our waters, there was another of the whale kind made tin ir appear-
ance also, called by the fishermen Cowfish. These whales are very much in shape of the Blackfish,
only smaller, not so fat, and not so dark colored. These fish have only made their appearance in
our waters three or four times for the last forty years, or about once in ten years. Probably not
more than fifty have been taken in this period. The method of taking them is the same as that used
for Blackfish."

Several specimens, old and young, were obtained by the Fish Commission in 1875, November
29, November 30, and December 2. and their casts are in the National Museum. That this animal
was known to the early colonists of New England appears probable from allusions in the early
records. 1

PRODUCTS. The oil of the Cowfish, particularly that of its jaws, is highly prized, though prob-
ably no better than that of the Blackfish. The "Barnstable Patriot" of November 7, 1828, has this
item: "A quantity of oil from the Grampus lately caught at Harpswell has been sold at Bath at
$18 per barrel." It is very possible, however, that the Barnstable people of 1828 designate the
Blackfish and the Grampus by tire same name. Douglass' "North America," published in 1755,
remarks: "Blackfish, i. e. Grampus, of six to ten barrels oil, Bottlenose of three or four barrels, may
(like sheep) be drove ashore by boats."

THE CALIFORNIA GRAMPUS. On the California coast occurs the Whiteheaded or Mottled
Grampus, O. Stearnsii Dall, described by Scaminon as growing to the average length of ten feet.
"They are gregarious," he writes, "and congregate frequently in large schools; at- times two or
three, or even a solitary individual will be met with, wandering about the coast or up the bays in
quest of food, which consists of fish and several varieties of crustaceans. It is rarely taken, as it is
extremely shy." He refers also to four other forms, unknown to zoologists, but familiar to whale-
men: chief among these is the "Bottlenose," which grows to be twenty-five feet long, and has
occasionally been taken, though with much dilficulty owing to its great strength and speed. Its
oil is reputed to be equal in quality to that of the Sperm Whale.


DISTRIBUTION. On the Atlantic coast occurs most abundantly the little Harbor Porpoise,
Phocana brachycion Cope, known to the fishermen as "Puffer," "Snuffer," "Snuffing Pig," or
" Herring Hog." The Bay Porpoise of California, P. vomerina Gill, and the Common Porpoise or
Marsuin of Europe, are very similar in size, shape, and habits: with the latter in fact it is probably
specifically identical. The Atlantic species occurs off Nova Scotia and probably farther north-
ward, and ranges south at least to Florida. The California species, according to Scammon, has
been found at Banderas Bay and about the mouth of the Piginto River, Mexico (latitude 20 3d'),
and north to the Columbia River (latitude 46 16'). In the winter these Porpoises are seen off
Astoria and in Cathlamet Bay twenty miles above, but in spring and summer, when the river is
fresh to its month, they leave the Columbia. The Atlantic Porpoise also ascends rivers. They go

'Belknap's American Biography has Hie following account of one of the journeys of the first settlers of Massa-
chusetts in 1620:

"The next morning, Thursday, December?, they divided themselves into two parties, eight in the shallop, and
the lest on shore, to make farther discovery of this place, which they found to be 'a bay, without either river or creek
coming into it.' They gave it the name of Grampus Bay, because they saw many fish of that species." Belknap'
American Biography, New York, 1846, vol. ii, p. 318.


up tin- S:iini John's iii I'loi nl.i tit Jacksonville, and alionl ]S."iO one was taken in the Connect ieut
at Middlctown. twenty miles from brackish water. In I'.niupe the\ ascend tin- Thames, the Weser,
and other streams.

SIZK AMI MI>VI:MK\TS. They rarely exceed four or four and a half feet in length. Everyone
lias seen t linn rolling and pulling outside of the breakers or in the harbors and river mouths. The
wotein Ailant ir species swim in droves of from ten to one hundred, but Scammon says that those
of California are never found associated in large numbers, though six or eight are often seen together.
In Kngland, aeeordiug to Conch, seldom more than two are seen at once. They never spring from
the water like Dolphins, but their motion is a rolling one and brings the back-fin often into sight,
this always appearing shortly after the head has been exposed and the little puff of spray seen and
the accompanying grunt heard. The rolling motion is caused by the fact that to breathe through
the nostrils, situate on the top of the snout, they must assume a somewhat erect posture, descending
from which the body passes through a considerable portion of a circle.

I;I;I'I,-(IDUCTION. The breeding season is in summer, in August and September, in Passama-
quoddy l>ay, perhaps also at other times. The new-born young of an English Porpoise fifty-six
inches long, measured twenty-six inches, and was sixteen inches in circumference.

FOOD. They feed on fish, particularly on schooling species like the herring and menhaden,
and are responsible for an enormous destruction of useful food material.

USES. Though frequently taken in the pounds and seines along both coasts and off Massa-
chusetts in the gill-nets set for mackerel, they are of little importance except to the Indians of
Maine and our Northwestern Territories, who carry on an organized pursuit of them, shooting them
from their canoes. This industry will be described in the chapter upon ABORIGINAL FISHEHIES.

DESTRTTCTIVENESS. The Porpoise is pugnacious as well as playful. A fisherman in Florida
told me that he once tried to pen a school of them in a little creek by anchoring his boat across its
entrance. When they caine down the creek they sprang over the boat against the sail, through
which they tore their way and regained the river. A correspondent, whose name has been mislaid,
writes: "A very unusual event occurred at Far Rockaway on Tuesday morning, about four o'clock,
in front of the Nelson House. A school of Drumflsh were chased into shallow water by a school
of Porpoises. The Drumfish tried their best to get away, but the Porpoises pursued them so hotly
that a number of the former were driven ashore. The people of the hotel were awakened by a
great splashing and a noise somewhat similar to but less distinct than the grunt of a frightened
hog. Looking out of the windows they saw the Porpoises striking the Drumflsh with their tails.
Soon after the Porpoises turned and left. The porters at the hotel and some of the fishermen
secured with boat-hooks about twenty-five dead Drumfish, and a large number are still floating
around Jamaica Bay. The Drumfish secured weighed from thirty to seventy pounds each. Some
were sent to Canarsie for exhibition and others to Fulton Market for sale."

The Drum being an enemy of the Oyster, it is possible that the Porpoise by destroying them is
a benefactor. It would be no more curious than the experience of the Canadian Government in
decreasing their Salmon fishery in the St. Lawrence by destroying the White \Vh;iles which preyed
upon the seals, the enemies of the Salmon. The story about the Porpoises killing drum seems
incredible, but is supported by Sir Charles Lyell's account of a battle between the Porjwises and the
Alligators in Florida: "Mr. Couper told me that in the summer of 1845 he saw a shoal of Por-
poises coming up to that part of the Altamaha where the fresh and salt water meet, a space about
a mile in lengtli, the favorite fishing ground of the Alligators, where there is brackish water,
which shifts its place according to the varying strength of the river and the tide. Here were seen
about fifty Alligators, each with head and neck raised above water, looking down the stream at


their enemies, before whom they had fled terror-stricken and expecting an attack. The Porpoises,
not more than a dozen in number, moved on in two ranks, and were evidently complete masters of
the field. So powerful indeed are they that they have been known to chase a large Alligator to the
bank, and, putting their snouts under his belly, toss him ashore." 1

The authority referred to, Mr. Hamilton Couper, of Hopeton, Ga., was a gentleman of some
prominence as a geological observer.


HABITS. The Dolphins constitute a large group of cetaceans, represented by many species, and
abundant everywhere in temperate and tropical seas. They are often seen in mid-ocean sporting
in large schools, pursuing the pelagic fishes, but are still more common near the coast. They are
from five to fifteen feet long, gracefully formed, and very swift. Nowhere are they the objects of
organized pursuit, though frequently caught in nets or harpooned from the bows of vessels at sea.
Many cod schooners fishing on the Grand Banks, especially those from Cape Cod, depend chiefly for
bait upon the Porpoises they can kill and the birds they cau catch. The best known species on the
Atlantic coast are the "Skunk Porpoise" or "Bay Porpoise," Lagenorhynchus perspicillatus Cope,
and related forms. Large schools are often seen in the sounds and along (he shore. They are
easily distinguished from the little Harbor Porpoise, just spoken of, by the broad stripes of white
and yellow upon their sides. When schools of a hundred or more can be surrounded and driven
ashore by the fishermen, as is often done on Cape Cod, a large profit is made from the sale of their
bodies to the oil-makers, though they are not so much prized as the Blackfish, so much larger and
fatter. A closely related species is the Common Porpoise of California, Lagenorhynchus oMquidens
Gill. "They are seen," writes Captain Scammon, "in numbers varying from a dozen up to many
hundreds tumbling over the surface of the sea, or making arching leaps, plunging again on the
same curve, or darting high and falling diagonally sidewise upon the water with a spiteful splash,
accompanied by a report which may be heard to some distance. In calm weather they are seen in
numerous shoals, leaping, plunging, lobtailing and finning, while the assemblage moves swiftly in
various directions. They abound more along the coasts where small fish are found. Occasionally
a large number of them will get into a school of fish, frightening them so much that they lose
nearly all control of their movements, while the Porpoises fill themselves to repletion."

The Right Whale Porpoise, Leucorhamphus borealis (Peale) Gill, is found in the Pacific from
Bering Sea to Lower California, though not so abundantly as the last. The Right Whale Porpoise
of the Atlantic, often .spoken of by our whalers, is a related species, perhaps L. Peronii (Lac.)
Lilljeboi g, abundant in the South Atlantic and Pacific, but not yet recorded by naturalists for our
waters. Several species of the true Dolphins occur in the North Atlantic, but only one, Delphinus
clymenw, has been found with us, Cope having secured it in New Jersey. Baird's Dolphin />.
Bairdii Ball, a species six or seven feet long and weighing 100 to 175 pounds, is frequent in Cali-
fornia. The Cowfish of California, Tursiops Gillii Ball, is a sluggish species known to the whale-
men of the lagoons, 2 and an allied species, T. erebennus (Cope) Gill, is known on the Atlantic coast.
New forms of this group sire constantly being discovered. All are of commercial value when taken.

Second Visit to the United States, vol. i, 1349, p. ?Ztl.
The habits of the C'owfish, as observed on the coasts of California and Mexico, are strikingly different from those
of the true Porpoises. It is often remarked by whalemen that they area "mongrel breed" of don btfol character, b-ing
frequently seen in company with Blacknah, sometimes with Porpoises, and occasionally with Hiinipliacks. when the
latter are found in large numbers on an abundant feeding ground. They arc met with likewise in the higoons along
the coast, singly or in pairs, or in fives and sixes rarely a larger number together straggling about in a vagi-nut 1111111-
ner through the winding estuaries, subsisting on the fish that abound in these circumscribed waters. At times they
are seen moving lazily along under the shade of the mangroves that in many places fringe the shores, at other times
lying about in listless attitudes among the plentiful supplies of food surrounding them. SCAMMON: op. cit., p. 101.

Till-: KILL i-:u WHAM:*; IIAIUIS AND 0888. 17


HABITS AND DISTIMIM HON. The Killer Whales are known the world over by their destruc-
tive Mini savage habits. Although their strength and speed render :t almost impossible to capture
thorn, they are of importance to the fisherman as enemies of all large sea animals, often putting
them to llifjht at inconvenient times. The Atlantic species, Orca gladiator (Boimuterre) Gill, was
tii si brought to notice in 1671 in Martens' "Voyage to Spitzbergen." It is often seen on the New
Kngland coast in summer, driving before it schools of the blackfish or othersm all whales: it is a
special enemy of the tunny or horse mackerel: Captain Atwood tells of the consternation shown
by these enormous tishes when a number of them have gathered in Provinretown Harbor and the
Killers come iu. They are a great annoyance to the Cape Cod people when they are trying to drive
a school of blackflsh ashore, and on the other hand often drive these ashore when they would not
be accessible to the fishermen. They prey largely, too, upon the white whale in northern seas.
In the Pacific there are two species at least, the Low-finned Killer, Orca atra Cope, and the High-
tinned Killer, Orca rectipinna. The latter, though rarely more than twenty feet long, has an
enormous dagger-shaped fin, six feet high, upon its back, which towers above the surface when
the animal swims high. In fact the Killer Whales all have these high back-fins, by which they
may be recognized at any distance.

DESTHUCTIVENESS. Captain Scammon, in his "Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast,"
gives a long account of their habits, and of their fierce attacks upon the largest whales. The stories
of the combats of the swordfish and the thresher shark upon whales have probably originated in
such combats as these, witnessed at a distance and imperfectly understood. Captain Scammon
writes: " The attacks of these wolves of the ocean upon their gigantic prey may IHJ likened in some
respects to a pack of hounds holding the stricken deer at bay. They cluster about the animal's
head, some of their number breaching over it while others seize it by the lips and haul the bleeding
monster tinder water; and when captured, should the mouth be open, they eat out its tongue.
We saw an attack made by three Killers upon a cow whale and her calf iu a lagoon on the coast
of Lower California, in the spring of 1858. The whale was of the California gray species, and her
young was grown to three times the bulk of the largest Killers engaged in the contest, which lasted
for an hour or more. They made alternate assaults upon the old whale and her offspring, finally
killing the latter, which sunk to the bottom, where the water was five fathoms deep. During the
struggle, the mother became nearly exhausted, having received several deep wounds about the throat
and lips. As soon as their prize had settled to the bottom, the three Orcas descended, bringing up
large pieces of flesh in their months, which they devoured after coming to the surface. While
gorging themselves in this wise the old whale made her escape, leaving a track of gory water
behind." 1

ANNOYANCE TO WHALEMEN. Instances are given where whales which had been killed by whale-
men and were being towed to the ship have been forcibly carried away by bands of Killers. They
are also obnoxious as destroyers of the young fur seal, and often remain for a long time in the
vicinity of the seal islands. Eschricht says that thirteen porpoises and fourteen seals were found
in the stomach of an Atlantic Killer, sixteen feet in length. They are particularly abundant in
the bays and sounds of British Columbia and Alaska, iu search of seals and porpoises feeding there
upon small fish. They even attack the full-grown walrus and rob it of its young.

USES. Their range is cosmopolitan. They are never attacked by whale ships, and their only
pursuers in America are the Makah Indians of Washington Territory, who, according to Scammon,

: /-. fit., pp. -'.' 111.



occasionally take them about Cape Flattery, considering; their fat and flesh luxurious food. Their
jaws, studded with strong conical teeth, are often sold in our curiosity shous.


CAPTURE OF TWO INDIVIDUALS IN NEW ENGLAND. A specimen twenty-five feet long; of this
animal, Hypcraodan bidens Owen, was found on the beach at North Dennis, Mass., January 29,
I860; another was obtained in 18GG or 18G7 at Tivertou Stone Bridge, K. I. I am indebted to Mr.
J. H. Blake for an outline of this cetacean, and the following notes, taken by him at the time, he
having visited Dennis and obtained the skeleton for the Museum of Comparative Zoology : "When
found," he writes, "the blood was still warm. It was twenty-five feet long, six feet high, and the
tail was six feet across. The flippers were twenty-nine inches long, the snout twenty inches. The
hump on the back was three or four inches high, thick at the base and narrowing toward the
tip. The blubber was two and a half to four inches thick, and sold for $175. Squid-beaks enough
to fill two water-buckets were taken from the stomach."


DISTRIBUTION. The White Whale, Delpliinapterus catodon (Linn.) Gill, first described in 1071
in Martens' " Voyage to Spitzbergen," resembles in form the other members of the Dolphin family,
slender and graceful, with a small head and powerful tail. The adult, which attains a length of
fifteen or sixteen feet, is creamy white in color ; the young, five or six feet long when newly born,
is lead-colored, passing through a period of mottled coloration before assuming the mature appear
ance. The species is abundant in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic Oceans. Stragglers
have been seen in the Frith of Forth, latitude 56. while on the American coast several have been
taken within the past decade on the north shore of Cape Cod. They are slightly abundant in New
England waters, but in the Saint Lawrence River and on the coast of Labrador are plentiful, and
the object of a profitable fishery. They abound in the Bering and Okhotsk Seas, and ascend the
Yukon River, Alaska, to a distance of 700 miles. The names iu use are Beluga and Whitefish
among whalers, Porpoise, Dauphin Blanc, Marsuin or Marsoon in Canada, and Keela Luak with the
Greenland Eskimos.

HABITS. The species is familiar to many from having been recently exhibited in several aqua-
riums, and also by traveling showmen. When in captivity they feed on living eels, of which a grown
individual consumes two or three bushels daily. They are also known to subsist on bottom fish,
like flounders and halibut, on cod, haddock, and salmon, squids and prawns. They are, in their
turn, the food of larger whales, such as the killer or orca. They swim in small schools, entering
shallow sounds and rapid rivers in swift pursuit of their food. They spout inconspicuously, and
are not easily distinguished when swimming.

The few which have been taken recently along our Atlantic coast have been sold to aquariums
or to natural history museums, yielding good prices to their captors. The fishery iu the livn
Saint Lawrence is of considerable importance.

HISTORICAL NOTE. The first allusion to the occurrence of this cetacean in our waters was
printed by Josslyn in 1G75, in his "Account of Two Voyages to New Kngland": "The Kea.-Uare is
asbigns Grampus or Herrin-hog, and as white as a sheet; There hath been of them in Black -point
IlarlxHir, & some way up the river, but we could never lake any of them, several have shot sin ggs
at them, but lost their labour."

CAPTURES IN MASSACHUSETTS. "About the year 1857," writes Captain Atwood, "a species of
cetacean twelve or fourteen feet long was killed in Proviucetown Harbor, oif Long Point, which no


one knew. I examined it and found it to differ from nil tin- others then known here. Not long
after it was announced that there was a White Whale on exhibition at the Aipiarial Gardens m

I'.oston; that Mr. Cutting had brought alive fr the Kiver Saint Lawrence a species that had never

Keen seen south of that river. Soon after I visited Boston and called to see it. I pronounced Jt to
be identical with the unknown species taken at I'rovincetown. In 1875 or 187ti another was seen in
the harbor, but the boats could not get it."

October 11. 1ST."., two individuals, a cow about ten feet long and weighing 700 pound- approx-
imately, and a calf nearly as large as its mother, weighing about 500 pounds, were taken in the
Yarmouth Kiver by Capt Benjamin Ijovell. They were sold to the Boston Society of Natural
History. 1

Usr.s. Certain oil manufacturers from Cape Cod have agencies in Canada, from which they
obtain the materials for the manufacture of an excellent machine oil, sold under the name of
1'orpoisc jaw oil." A large White Whale yields from eighty to one hundred gallons of ordinary
oil, besides t he more precious head oil. Porpoise leather is made from the skins, a leather of almost
indestructible texture, and peculiarly impervious to water. From this the Canadian mail-bags are
made, and, to some extent, tourists' walking shoes. On our Alaska coast they are not unfrequently
taken, chiclly by the natives, but the tishery has not yet become of commercial importance. In
Kastcrn Siberia, according to Scammon, there are extensive fisheries carried on by the natives
from June to September, with nets and harpoons. They eat the flesh and sell the oil, a considerable
portion of which is no doubt secured by American whale ships. 2


IMSTHIBUTION. The Narwhal, Monodmi monocerox Linn., whose long spiral tusk has always

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 7 of 146)