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been an object of curiosity, and gave rise to the stories of the imaginary creature known as the
Unicorn, is now found in only one part of the United States along the northern shores of Alaska.
Jt is still abundant in the Arctic Ocean, and many tusks are brought down yearly by American
and European whalers, obtained from the natives of Greenland and Siberia. It has long since
ceased to appear on the coasts of Great Britain, the last having been seen off Lincolnshire in 1800.
There is a record of one having been seen in the Elbe at llauiburg in 1736.

SIZE, USES, ETC. The Narwhal is ten to fourteen feet long, somewhat resembling the white
whale in form, is black, and in old age mottled or nearly white. The tusk, a modified tooth,
grows out of the left side of the upper jaw, to the length of eight or ten feet. All its teeth, except
its tusks, are early lost, and if is said to feed on fish and soft sea-animals. The Eskimos utilize it
in many ways. Its ivory, however, is the only product of value to civilized man, this being made

1 Yesterday morning Capt. Benjamin Lovell captnred two fine specimens of the White Whale in the weir at
Yarmouth, which is probably the first time this kind of lisli has been taken in the witters ( the United States on the
Atlantic seaboard. The specimens captured are a cow and calf, the former about ton feet long, perfectly white, and
weighing about 700 pounds, and the latter some two feet less in length, of a dark gray color, and about 500 pounds
Wright, both being quite fat. Evening Standard, New Bedford, October la, 1875.

'At a meeting, in 1860, of the Polytechnic Association of the American Institute, in New York, a paper was read,
prepared l>y D. H. Tetu, of Kamonraska, Canada; on the White Whale of the Saint Lawrence. The Canadians call
it a Porpoise; it is found for a distance of 2(10 miles between Saint Koch and Father Point, also in the rivers emptying
into Hudson's Bay. Since the discovery of Canada, an article of commerce, but the oil not very good and little use
found lor the gkiu; lately M. Tetn has succeeded in purifying the oil and tanning the skin. The oil is equal to the
best sperm oil. The average price of the animal ten years ago was $40, now it is |150. The average weight is 2,500
pounds; the largest weigh .1,000 pounds, and are worth $200. The avenge length is twenty-two feet, and circumfer-
ence lift eon feet. M. Tetu caught the whale in nets near the river Saguenay.

The skin does not make good sole-lent her, being too pliable. Ordinary tanning processes are employed, except that
the lining is omitted, and the training" takes more time on account of the closeness of the fiber of the skin. The
leather is very durable, and the skin nf a whale i equal to the skins of twelve to twenty-four calves. The leather is
ehiotly used in the British army.


into canes and other articles of ornament. The supply in this country is chiefly imported from
Denmark. In New York City in 1880 a good tusk sold for $50.


resulted from the manner in which the Bowhead of the arctic regions has been confused with the
right whales of the adjoining temperate seas. Murray, writing in 18G6, 1 made no attempt to clear
up the subject; previous writers were confused as well as vague, and it, is only in Scammon's
writings that a clear account of the distribution and habits of the species is to be found. The
materials for the following biographical sketch are derived in the main from the statements of this
author, and quotation marks are omitted only -because the facts are arranged in a new sequence. 2

DISTRIBUTION. The range of the true Balcena mysticetus extends west from Nova Zembla to
the coast of Eastern Siberia. Its northern limits yet remain undefined : it is seldom seen in Bering
Sea south of the fifty-fifth parallel, which is about the southern extent of the winter ice, though in
the Sea of Okhotsk it ranges south to the parallel of 54. It was formerly found to the north of
Spitzbergen, but it has been shown by Eschriclit and Eeinhardt that its habitat is, and always has
been, confined to the polar seas, and that it has no claim to a place in the fauna of Europe. 3

Everything tends to prove that the Bowhead is truly an "ice-whale," for its home is among
the scattered floes or about the borders of the ice-fields or barriers. It is true that these animals
are pursued in the open water during the summer months, but in no instance has their capture
been recorded south of where winter ice-fields are occasionally met with. In the Okhotsk Sea they
are found throughout the season after the ice disappears, nevertheless they remain around the floes
till these are dispelled by the summer sun, and they are found in the same localities after the
surface of the water has again become congealed in winter.

1 MURRAY : Geographical Distribution of Mammals, pp. 207-208.

a ln "A Digression concerning Whaling," written in 1748, published in Douglass' North America, Boston anil
London, 1755, vol. i, p. 56, is the earliest discrimination I have met with of the Bowhead and the Right Whale of the
extra-polar regions. Some interesting facts are given :

"The New- England whalers distinguish 10 or 12 different species of the whale-kind ; the, most beneficialia the
black whale, whale-bone whale, or true whale, as they call it; in Davis's-straits in N. lat. 70 D. and upwards they are
very large, some may yield 150 puncheons being 400 to 500 barrels oil, and bone of 1H feet and upwards ; they are a
heavy loggy lish, and do not fight, as the New-Knghind whalers express it, they are easily struck and fastened, but
not above one third of them are recovered ; by sinking and bewildering themselves under the ice, two thirds of them
are lost irrecoverably ; the whalebone whales killed upon the coast of New-England, Terra de Labradore, and entrance
of Davis's-straits, are smaller, do yield not exceeding 120 to 130 barrels oil, and 9 feet bone 140 Ib. wt. ; they are wilder
more agile and do fight.

"The New England whalers reckon so many ct. wt. bone, as bone is feet long ; for instance, 7 foot bone gives 700
wt. bone : New England bone scarce ever exceeds 9 feet ; and 100 barrels oil is supposed to yield 1000 wt. of bone ;
whales killed in deep water, if they sink, never rise again."

A few paragraphs below, however, he proceeds to mix the subject up again, speaking of the Finback, when it is
quite evident that the Whale bo h:is in mind is not the right-whale but the "Right Whale."

"The lin-baek. beside two small side-tins, has a large tin upon his back, may yield 50 to 00 barrels oil, his bone
is brittle, of little or no nse, he swims swifter, and is very wild when stmck. The Bermmlians some years catch 20 of
these whales, not in sloops, but in whale-boats from the shore as formerly at Cape-Cod. Tho governor of Bermudas
hoi) a perquisite of 10. out of each old whale.

"Whales are gregarious," he continues, " and great travellers or passengers ; in the autumn they go south, in
tho spring they return northward. They copulate like neat cattle, but the female in a supine posture. The true or
whalebone whale's swallow is not much bigger than that of an ox, feeds upon small fish and sea insects that keep in
dholes, has only one small tin each side of his head of no great use to him in .swimming, but with a large, horizontal
tail he sculs himself in the water. The North Cape (in X. Lat. 72 D. in Europe) whales, are of the same small kind
as arc the New-England, and entrance of Davis's-straits: hero we may again observe, that the high European latitudes
arc not so cold as the same American latitudes, because 72 D. is tle proper N. Lat. in Davis's-straits for the large
whales, and the Dutch lish for them longsJdo of fields or large islands of ice, they use long warps, not drudges as in

'EecHRiciiT & UEINIIARDT: Om Nordhvalcn, 1861.



liEiM:oi>i < i K>N. The lime and place of breeding arc not certainly known, l>ut it is supposed
that tin- young arc horn in the inaccessible parts of tlic Arctic Ocean. In Tcliantar l'.a\ arc foiini)
.small whales called I'oggys." which resemble the Bowhead, and uro hy many helievc<| to he their

The Itowhcads of the Arctic are classed by Scammon as follows: (1) the largest wlmles of a
In-own color. a\crage \ield of oil LMMI barrels; (_') smaller, color black, yield 100 hands; (;) .small-
est, color black, yield 1~> barrels, and to these should perhaps be added (4) the " poggy," yield HO to
L'.'I barrels. Those of the third class are generally found early in the season among the broken
Hoes, and have been known to break through ice three inches thick that had been formed over
water between the Hoes. This they do by coming up under and striking it with the arched portion
of their heads. Hence they have been called "ice-breakers."

KroNOMio IMPORTANCE. The Bowhead is the most valuable of the whalebone whales, not so
much by reason of its size, for it rarely exceeds fifty feet in length, never sixty-five, but because
it yields so large an amount of oil and whalebone. It is short, bulky, and bloated in appearance.
Like the sperm whale, it has a head the length of which is nearly one-third of the total, and which
is its most striking feature. The caudal fin is immense, being sixteen to twenty feet in extent from
tip to tip, and correspondingly thick and broad.

SIZE. Scammou gives measurements of two individuals. One, from the Arctic Ocean, August,
18(!7,was forty-seven feet long, and yielded eighty barrels of oil. The other, from the same ocean,
in IS70, was forty-five feet long, yielded sixty barrels of oil and 1,050 pounds of bone. Capt. David
<iiay, of Peterhead, also gives measurements of an individual taken in Greenland. Some of the
most impori ant dimensions of these three whales are presented here, in order to impart to the
reader .an idea of their proportions:

"Captain Toolo'g

"Captain Smith'*

"Captain Oray'a


Fttt. in.

Fttt. i.

fret. in.

17 8


Girth in largest place



7 3

Breadth of tail




10 6

9 6

10 1

Thlcknrw of blubber


Breadth of Up


10 8

MOVEMENTS. When not disturbed the animal remains up, generally to respire, from one and
a half to two minutes, during which time it spouts from six to nine times, and then disappears for
: lie space of ten to twenty minutes. The volume of vapor is similar to that ejected by the right
whale. Sometimes, when engaged in feeding, it remains down for twenty-five minutes or more.
\Ylicn struck by the whalemen they have been known to remain on the muddy bottom, at a depth
of lit'ty fathoms or more, for the space of an hour and twenty minutes. Their movements and the
periods of time they remain above or below the surface are, however, irregular. When going
gently along or lying <juietly, they show two portions of the body the spout-holes, and a pait of
the back.

BALEEN. Thebaleen, or "whalebone." of the (ireenland and the flight W hales, being of so much
importance commercially, it cannot be amiss to explain, by means of diagrams and a description.


bow it is attached to the mouth of the animal, and for what purposes it is used, even at the risk of
being a trifle too elementary for many of the readers of this chapter.

It is wrongly called "whalebone," since it is not bone, but a substance, resembling equally hair
and horn, which grows in the mouth of the animal as a substitute for teeth,' being, as anatomists
generally admit, a peculiar development of hair growing upon the palate. 2 This substance is
developed into a sieve-like apparatus, consisting of extensive rows of compact, flexible, closely set
plates or blades, growing from the thick gum at the circumference and palatal surface of the upper
jaw, hanging down upon both sides of the tongue.

Capt. David Gray, of the whaling ship "Eclipse," of Peterhead, Scotland, has recently made
a number of important observations upon these whales, one of the most important of which was the
ascertainment of the manner in which the Baleen Whales operate the powerful sieve-like organs
within their jaws. He has also published some very interesting diagrams of the interior of
the mouth of the Greenland Whale. 3

"Along the middle of the crown-bone," writes Captain Gray, "the blades of whalebone are
separated from each other by three-quarters of an inch of gum, but the interval decreases both
towards the nose and the throat to a quarter of an inch. The gum is always white; in substance
it resembles the hoof of a horse, but softer. It is easily cut with a knife, or broken by the hand,
and is tasteless. The whalebone representing the palate is lined inside the mouth with hair, for
the purpose of covering the space between the slips, and prevents the food on which the Whale
subsists from escaping. This hair is short at the roof of the mouth, but is from twelve to twenty
inches long at the points of the whalebone. This it requires to be, because when the mouth is
opened the bone springs forward, and the spaces are greatest at the points. I counted the number
of blades of whalebone in a whale's head last voyage, and found 286 on the left, aud 289 on the
right side of the head.

" Hitherto it has been believed that the whale bone had room to hang perpendicularly from
the roof of the mouth to the lower jaw, when the mouth was shut, but such is not the case. The
bone is, however, arranged so as to reach from the upper to the lower jaw when the mouth is open;
were it otherwise the whale would not be able to catch its food; it would all escape underneath
the points of the whalebone. The whale has no muscular power over its whalebone, any more
than other animals have over their teeth. When the animal opens its mouth to feed, the whale-
bone springs forward and downward, so as to fill the mouth entirely; when in the act of shutting
it again, the whalebone being pointed slightly towards the throat, the lower jaw catches it and
carries it up into a hollow in front of the throat." 4

1 The uuborn Greenland Whale has undeveloped teeth ( " sixty to seventy dental pulps on each side of each jaw "),
bnt they never cut the gum, but are reabsorbed into the system.

Iliii'Uanil remarks: "Aristotle first remarked this fact: ' Mysticetua eliam pilau in are Itabet vice denliiim miia
HI-UK simite* ' the whale has hairs in his mouth, instead of teeth, like the hairs of a pig." Professor Owen has also
remarked that "to a person looking into the mouth of a stranded whale, the concavity of the palate would appear tn
be beset with coarse hair."

3 Land and Water, December 1, 1877, p. 468.

4 Capt. David Gray's observations upon the position of the whalebone in the mouth of the Greenland Whale are
<iuite novel, aud of great interest. They arose, as the captain tells me in a letter just received, in consequence of a
conversation which we had together a few years ago, while lookiug at the skeleton of the largo Whale mounted in the,
Museum of the College of Surgeons. I asked if he could explain, what had always been to me, as to others who have
never had Captain Gray's opportunities of observation, a great puzzle, viz, how the whalebone could be so much
longer than the space which it occupied in the animal's mouth, supposing the blades to be placed, as usually repre-
sented, at right angles with the long axis of the jaws. This difficulty occurred in looking at all the authentic figures,
such as Scorenby's, in which the height of the head is far too small for the length assigned to the whalebone on the
supposition stated above, and equally in looking at the actual bony frame-work of the head. Captain Gray's explana-
tion that the slender ends of the whalebone blades fold backwards when the mouth is shut, the longer ones from the


FOOD. Tin- l<MKl ,.f tin- Howhead consists of floating animaK Ha^ed l,\ H,.. whalemen nuclei
ilir name-, "right whale feed" and <-brit." Many kinds of invertebrates arc, of course. included
under these general terms, one of the most abundant of which is, perhaps, a kind of winged or
pteropod mollusk. the ('//'.. l><>i;-nlix, \vlii<-h occurs in northern seas, floating in great masses. When
the Imwhcad is feeding it moves with considerable velocity near the surface, its jaws being open
to allow the passage of currents of water into the cavity of the mouth ami through the layers of
baleen at the sides. All eatable substances are strained out by the fringe*) of the baleen and arc

FKKDING HAIJITS. The manner of feeding is well described by Captain Gray : "When the food
is near the surface they usually choose a space between two pieces of ice, from three to four
hundred yards apart, which we term their beat, and swim backwards and forwards, until they arc
satisfied that the supply of their food is exhausted. They often go with the point of their nose so
near the surface that we can see the water running over it just as it does over a stone in a shallow
stream: they turn round before coming to the surface to blow, and lie for a short time to lick the
food oil 'their bone before going away for another mouthful. They often continue feeding in this
way for hours, on and oft", afterwards disappearing under the nearest floe, sleeping, I believe, under
the ice, and coining out again when ready for another meal. In no other way can this sudden
reapiKjarance at the same spot be accounted for.

' Very often the food lies from ten to fifteen fathoms below the surface of the water. In this
case the whales' movements are quite different. After feeding they come to the surface to breathe
ami lie still for a minute. One can easily see the effort they make when swallowing. They then
raise their heads partially out of the water, diving down again, and throwing their tails up in the
air every time they disappear. Their course below the water can often be traced from their eddy.
This is caused by the movement of the tail, which has the effect of smoothing the water in circles
immediately behind them.

"More whales have been caught when feeding in this way than in any other; they lie longer on
the surface, often heading the same way every time they appear, which is very important to whale
fishers, because whales must be approached tail-on to give any certainty of getting near enough
to have a chance of harpooning them, and the harpooner has a better idea where to place his boat
to be in readiness to pull on to them whenever they come to the surface.

" Like all the other inhabitants of the sea, whales are affected by the tides, being most numerous
at t lie full and change of the moon, beginning to appear three days before, and disappearing entirely
three days after, the change. Often this will go on for mouths with the utmost regularity, unless
some great change in the ice takes place, such as the Hoes breaking up on the ice being driven off
the ground; in either case they will at once disappear.

"No doubt whales are seen, and often token at any time of the tides; but if a herd is hunted

middle of the jaw falling into the hollow funned by the shortness of the blades behind them, tut seen in the side view, is
perfectly elear and satisfactory. It shows, moreover, how, whether the month U shut <ir open, or in any intermediate
|M>-itiiiii. the lateral spaces between the upper and lower jaw are always kept tilled np by the marvelunsly eonstnieted
hair sieve, or strainer, which adapts itself by its flexibility and elasticity to the varying condition of the parts between
which it is, as it were, stretched across. If the whalebone had been rigid and depending perpendicularly from th
upper jaw when the mouth was opened, a space would be left between the tips of the whalebone forming the lowci
due nf the strainer, which, as Captain flray justly remarks, would complet. ly interfere with its use, although tin- stifl".
wall-like lower lip, closing in the sides of the mouth below, may have the effect of remedying such a contingency
I" :i cei lain extent ; :it least, it would do so if the whalebone were short and linn as in the tinners. The function ol
this great lip in .supporting the slender anil flexible lower ends of the blades of the (ireeiiland Whale and preventing
them being driven outwards by tin- flow of water from within when the animal is closing its mouth, i evident from
Captain U ray's drawings ami explanation. The whole apparatus is a most perfect piece of animal mc< haniuu.
I'I.OWKK, \V. li. : Land and Water, December 1, l77,p. 470.


systematically, and they are attached to a particular feeding bank, this is their usual habit.
Neither can this peculiarity in their habits be easily accounted for; their food is as abundant
during the neap as it is in the spring tides.

"The principal food of the Greenland Whale consists of a small crustacean, not larger than the
common house-fly, which is found in greatest abundance when the temperature of the sea is from
34 to 35, the ordinary temperature amongst ice being 29, the color of the water varying from
dark brown to olive green and clear blue, the blue water being the coldest.

" The Crustacea live upon the animalcule which color the water. They are transparent, and
the contents of their stomachs can be easily seen to be dark brown or green as the case may be." '


DISTRIBUTION AND AFFINITIES. There is no group of existing mammals so important as the
Eight Whales, concerning which so little that is satisfactory is known. Zoologists have not yet
determined how many species there are, nor what are the limits of their distribution. All that
can be certainly said is, that Eight Whales that is, the right kind to kill for the whalebone
occur in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific, and also in the cooler waters of the southern
hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere they never cross the Tropic of Cancer, though in the
south, both in the Pacific and the Atlantic, they have occasionally been known to cross that of

The Eight Whales of the north have, until very recently, been confounded by whalemen and
zoologists with the bowhead, or polar whale, to which they are closely related. There is one
group of baleen-bearing whales, the rorquals, finners, or finbacks, which have a fin upon the
back: the true Eight Whales, however, have none. The rorquals, the largest of whales, are
very swift and slender, and are believed to occur in tropical as well as temperate seas, all the
world over.

The Eight Whale of the Western Atlantic has been described by E. D. Cope, under the
name Eubalcena cisarctica. This species, not remotely related to the Eubalcena biscayensis, of the
Eastern Atlantic, was formerly abundant on the coast of New England, and, as will be shown in
the chapter on the shore whale fishery of New England, its presence in such numbers about
Cape Cod was one of the chief reasons for planting the early English settlements in this district.
Captain Atwood informs me that they are most abundant off Provincetown, in April and May,
though occasionally seen at other seasons. One was killed in Cape Cod Bay, near Provincetown,
in 1867 ; it was forty -eight feet long, and yielded eighty -four barrels of oil, as well as 1,000 pounds
of baleen, valued at $1,000. Two or three others have since then been killed in the vicinity, but
years now often pass by without any being seen. 2

A Eight Whale of forty to fifty feet was killed in the harbor of Charleston, S. C., January 7,
1880, after it had been swimming about within the bar several days. 3

In evidence of the former abundance of this species, may be mentioned the fact, that when,
about the middle of the last century, whales began to be scarce along the coast, a largo fleet was
dispatched to Davis Straits, where none but whalebone whales occur. E. cisarctica ocelli's at
least as far south as the Bermudas. A species of Eight Whale is found also about the Azores.

In the North Pacific occurs the Pacific Eight Whale, or " Northwest Whale" of the whalers,

'Land and Water, December 1, 1877, p. 470.

WHALING AT PROVINCETOWN. A Right Whale was captured in Provincetown Harbor last Thursday, by a party in
three boats. Estimated to yield sixty barrels of oil. Gloucester Telegraph, November 6, 1850.
' See Charleston News, January 8, 1880.

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 8 of 146)