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Ion board a
WHALER



IHOMAb M



i i v i




Elizabeth S. Fisk,

Holyoke, Mass,



Elizabeth S. i&A,

Holyoke, Mass,"




"for many months we had not seen the OLD FLAG."



On Board a Whaler

An Adventurous Cruise through
Southern Seas



By

Thomas West Hammond



Illustrated by

Harry George Burgess



G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
Ube Iknicfeerbocfeer press

1901






Copyright, September 1901

BY

THOMAS WEST HAMMOND



Ube tmfcfcerbocfcer preee, "Hew Eorfc







PREFACE

IT is now thirty years since the voyage of which
I have written ended, and the lapse of so much
time should have dimmed my recollection of some
of the incidents related; and yet those incidents
have often risen so clearly before me while writing
as almost to convince me that I was setting down
the identical words employed by the various
participators.

One who desires to spin the yarn of an American
whaler of half a century ago has no need to call fic-
tion to his aid. The romantic life of that old-time
sea hunter is so thoroughly a thing of the past as to
need no embellishments borrowed from the imagi-
nation.

If there are any gaps in my recollection of this
cruise of other days, — and such gaps could involve
only minor details, — I have not hesitated to exer-
cise the privilege of a seaman, and trust the story
will have lost nothing by reason of any failure of
my memory.

iii



IV



Preface



For obvious reasons, the names of my shipmates,
as well as of the vessel, have been purposely dis-
guised. If the story shall come to be read by any
of my old comrades they will hardly fail to recog-
nize the ship and her crew; but no other reader
need acquire any more intimate acquaintance with
either of them than is afforded by the book.

T. W. H.

Tacoma, May 15, 1900.




CONTENTS



CHAPTER

I. INTRODUCTION ....

II. ORGANIZING

III. THE START — SEASICKNESS — BLACKFISH

IV. MY FIRST TURN AT THE MASTHEAD

V. WE COMPLAIN TO THE MASTER AND

KENNEY COMES TO GRIEF
VI. PORPOISES — HOMESICKNESS — DRUDGERY

VII. KII.LERS

VIII. GRUMBLING— HABITS OF KILLERS — CUT-
TING

IX. THE WORK CONTINUES .
X. LAND — DESERTIONS— A NEW DEAL
XI. JACK AS A TONSORIAL ARTIST
XII. BOATS AND EQUIPMENTS
XIII. WE SEE SPERM WHALES — NYE IS DE

POSED

XIV. GAMMING AND RACING . . .

XV. EATING AND DRINKING — TENERIFFE —
A SEA TURTLE ....
XVI. MORE ABOUT THE SPERM WHALE .
XVII. ANATOMY, PHYSIOLOGY, HYGIENE, DIET
AND PHILOSOPHY



I
15
24
36

43
49

57

70
86

94
108
116

125
135

144
152

166



V!

CHAPTER
XVIII.

XIX.

XX.

XXI.

XXII.

XXIII.
XXIV.

XXV.

XXVI.

XXVII.

XXVIII.

XXIX.

XXX.

XXXI.
XXXII.

XXXIII.

XXXIV.

XXXV.

XXXVI.



Contents



PAGE

DUST AND NEGROES . . . . l8o

PIE — WATER — BANANAS . . . 1 84
THE GIANT SKATE . . . -197

FRENCH PETE 207

A MONKEY — ART OF SCRIMSHAWING —

A STORM ..... 219

HAMMERHEADS AND FINBACKS . . 24I
WE SEE A GRAMPUS AND STRIKE A

SPERM WHALE .... 259

A SULPHUR BOTTOM .... 273

TATTOOING 283

KINGS OF THE OCEAN .... 290
WORK — CALCULATIONS — JUNKS AND

CASES 307

DANGER FROM SCURVY — LAND — A

VERY CLOSE SHAVE . . .316
CHUMMING — AUTHORITY — INDISCRE-
TION 332

PRESENTS — MERCHANDISE— SCIENCE . 342

A CAPSIZE AND ENTERTAINMENT . 350

A RELIGIOUS CEREMONY . . . 359

ODDS AND ENDS 368

THE END OF MY VOYAGE . . . 375

IN CONCLUSION 395




ILLUSTRATIONS



PAGE



' ' FOR MANY MONTHS WE HAD NOT SEEN THE

old flag" .... Frontispiece
* ' the captain bawled at jim : ' give it to

'im ! ' " 30

' ' I EXPECTED TO BE HURLED . . . INTO THE

SEA AT ANY MOMENT " . . . .40

"WITH HIS FURIOUS MASTER AT HIS HEELS" 48

1 ' WE BEGAN TO PULL UP BY THE LINE UPON THE

RUNNING KILLER " 64

" THE CAPTAIN STOOD BY AND WATCHED UNTIL I
SENT THE LANCE DOWN THROUGH THE BACK
OF A BIG MAN-EATER " . . . 76

"he seized ANTONE'S HAIR WITH A VICIOUS

grasp" 114

" pull-ll-l, yeh black louts ! what 'n thun-
DER ARE Y'R DOIN' ? " .... I42
' ' THE WATERS WERE ALIVE WITH THE RUSHING

TROOP " 158

' ' THE AIR WAS FULL OF SPEARS FLYING TOWARD

OUR BOAT" .182

vii



viii Illustrations

PAGE

1 ' there was an unpleasant grin on the big

man's face" ...... 194

" in less time than it takes to think,

that boat was goin' over " . . . 206

"we gritted our teeth hard and clung to

OUR WORK " 234

" IT WAS THE BIGGEST DURN JUMP I EVER

SAW" 282

"HIS BODY TWISTING IN CONVULSIONS " . 288

" FOR A SECOND THE BOAT STOOD ON ONE END " 304




ON BOARD A WHALER




ON BOARD A WHALER



CHAPTER I



INTRODUCTION



IN the spring of 1868, while yet a boy in my
eighteenth year, I was living at Mattapoisett,
on the shores of Buzzard's Bay. My ancestors
were among the founders of the Plymouth colony,
and many of them had at some previous time been
engaged in the whale fishery. A considerable fleet
of whalers had once sailed from our little port; but
during the Civil War the rebel Alabama captured
and burned most of it, and the industry was fast
becoming a tradition among us. There were, how-
ever, still many retired seamen living in the town
who were fond of relating their experiences, and
my first and most pleasing recollections are of tales
told by them.

It was after listening to an account of the capture



2 On Board a Whaler

of a sperm whale, told by my own uncle, with all
the enthusiastic imagination of a true sailor, that I
formed the resolution to take part in such scenes as
he had depicted ; and, not permitting time to cool
my ardor, rushed home to announce:

** Mother, I 'm going whaling."

" Mercy, Tom! M

'* What do yeh say ? Don't yeh think yeh can
get me ready to sail by next week ? Macy Bow-
man 's going then, and I mean to ship with him, if
I can."

My mother stared vacantly beyond me for a
moment, and then burst out with:

" It 's all Charle's work. He 's been telling you
some more of his nonsense about whales. I '11
warrant he did n't say a word about the rusty pork,
the wormy bread, the dreadful water, the cock-
roaches, and all the — dear, dear, I 've no patience
with him! He ought to know better than to put
such notions into boys' heads! "

By this time my mother's eyes shone and her
cheeks flushed as they seldom did ; and it was quite
as well for my uncle that he was absent. Her
anger lasted but a moment, when she turned to me
with a softer look, to say :

" I am sorry you have got the whaling fever; but
you had better talk it over with father."

She left me and returned to her work.



Introduction 3

At noon, after we had gathered at table, and my
father's face commenced to show the effects of a
filling stomach, I approached the subject uppermost
in my mind abruptly:

41 Father, Frank Crosby and one or two other
boys have shipped with Macy Bowman to go whal-
ing — they go next week. I have been thinking for
a good while about going myself, and now I want
to go with them. In fact, I have made up my
mind to follow the sea. Can't I ship with Macy ?"

My father glanced across the table at mother.
She nodded gravely, and said quietly:

" He has not seemed well since he left school.
Mebbe it will do him good to go once.'"

My father finished his meal before speaking.
Then he crossed his knife and fork in front of him
on his plate, wiped his mouth slowly with his nap-
kin, pushed partly back from the table, and looked
at me steadily for a moment. At last he spoke :

M I see you have made up your mind, Tom ? "

" Yes, sir. I shall certainly go some time, and
would like to begin now."

He remained silent another minute, during which
my heart-beats were almost audible, and then de-
cided the matter. " Well, I guess you '11 have to
go then. So far as I know, there is just one cure
for your disease, and that 's a voyage. It 's a
miserable, dog kind of life, and before you 've been



4 On Board a Whaler

out two days you '11 wish you were at home; but
no boy ever got over the whaling fever until he had
had it out."

He folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate,
and, remarking that he would see Macy about it,
went out.

The matter was quickly arranged. I was to ship
on the Grace Lathrop, of Provincetown, for an
eighteen-month voyage on the Atlantic, at the hun-
dred and twentieth lay — by the term " lay " being
meant that my compensation for services would be
the hundred and twentieth part of whatever should
be caught or secured by the vessel on the voyage.

The vessel was to start in a few days, and my
mother set about making the needed preparations.
A large wooden " sea-chest " was provided for me,
into which she packed a great number of useful
things. Among them were blue woollen shirts;
white-tipped, blue home-made socks; low shoes
that required no lacing and could be kicked off;
an oilskin suit — coat, pantaloons, and tarpaulin —
for wet weather; a cloth case of needles, pins, but-
tons, scissors, thimble, thread, and patches, for
mending my clothes; a tin pan, iron spoon, two-
tined fork, and sheath-knife to eat with ; my school
books, two or three magazines, and a small Bible;
and, finally, a frosted fruit-cake, contributed by my
aunt, Arethusa Hall. The chest was packed and



Introduction 5

unpacked many times, each time to add some for-
gotten article deemed necessary by my mother;
and, during all the proceedings, I stood around in
the way, frenzied to exultation over the prospect
of such a voyage.

At last we gathered at the railroad station, await-
ing the train to take us to Provincetown. In all,
there were five of us : Mr. Bowman, who was to sail
as mate; William Nye, going as boat-steerer; Abra-
ham Kenney, destined to act as cook; Frank
Crosby and myself, both green hands.

I had bid my parents good-bye at the house, but
a number of my boy friends went with me to the
depot; and, just as we were about to board a car,
one of them, David Cannon, who had taken the
cure himself, whispered in my ear:

" If you want to get along easy, Tom, obey
orders and move quick."

As we whirled along toward Wareham that morn-
ing, and at intervals for long after, those words kept
ringing in my ears. No advice could have been
more fitting, or, luckily, have been better followed.

At dusk that evening, after a tedious ride the
length of Cape Cod, with nothing in sight but sand,
sand, sand, we reached our destination ; and, having
signed the papers of the vessel that were to evidence
our contracts and make us members of the crew, all
but Mr. Bowman were at once ordered on board.



6 On Board a Whaler

The vessel, a rather small two-masted craft of the
sort known as a " hermaphrodite" brig, lay an-
chored away from the wharves out in the harbor,
not quite ready for sea. We were taken off to her
in an old whale-boat by some of the town people,
arriving alongside shortly after dark.

For a week my brain had been teeming with
visions of whales, bananas, the sea, the whole host
of things that, excluding everything real in life, go
to make up the panorama of delights in the imagina-
tion of boys, and my mind was still busy with them,
when some one from the deck above us suddenly
asked :

"Who 's there?"

" We 've brung some o' y'r crew, suh," answered
a boatman.

A rope came dangling down into the boat, and
there came the gruff command :

M Wa-al, tumble aboard here, then."

The speaker was a man of kindly instincts, one
who never once upon the subsequent voyage de-
scended to ruffianism, yet this simple order turned
the current of my thoughts to the right about. I
instantly understood that, with the flow of the ink
from the pen on shore, my liberty had been surren-
dered. I was no longer in any sense my own
master. Of the lowest rank on the brig, I should
be subject to every whim and caprice of many



Introduction 7

superiors, and required to obey orders and move
quick, or expect trouble.

This new light upon the situation aroused an in-
stinctive opposition that caused me to hesitate a
moment after the other boys had all climbed to the
deck. I continued sitting in a revery so, until the
voice of the officer above me came, a pitch higher in
key:

V Come! Git a move on yeh, down there."

This brought me back to life, and, seizing the
rope, I clambered briskly up.

" 'Sleep ?"

" No, sir; thinking," I replied.

M Wa-al, if I was you, guess I would n't do much
o' that. It '11 be bad for y'r head, mebbe," the
officer advised, not ill-naturedly.

The boatmen having secured lines around our
sea-chests, we hoisted them on board, after which
there was nothing for us to do but settle ourselves
for the night. Nye, who ranked as an officer, went
into the cabin. Mr. Brown, the second mate, who
had spoken to me, retired to the quarter-deck.
Kenney, Frank, and myself went at once down into
the forecastle.

The forecastle, which was to be our home, was a
triangular room set off in the extreme bow under
the main deck, something like eighteen feet its
longest way and six deep, and was reached through



8 On Board a Whaler

a boxed gangway by means of a narrow flight of
steps. On each side, fastened one above the other
to the walls, and extending the whole length of the
room, were two rows of bunks. The first of these
was raised about a foot from the floor, and the
other two feet six inches above that, leaving a like
space between the upper berth and the deck above
it. The bunks, the walls, the ceiling, and the floor
were all unpainted, and blackened with smoke, oil,
and age. Except a small sperm-oil lamp hanging
upon a post at the forward end of the room, the
light from which but emphasized the gloominess of
the place, there was no furniture in the forecastle.

The most noticeable thing about the den, how-
ever, and that which for the time made me oblivious
of everything else there, was its odor. It is not
possible for one who has never visited the forecastle
of an old whaler to imagine, nor is it at all possible
for me to describe, the stench that filled our nostrils
at the gangway that night. It was not new to me.
I had smelled it nine or ten years before, on board-
ing vessels coming in from sea prior to the Civil
War; but, on those occasions, the greeting of
friends, the bustle of preparations by the crew for
going on shore, the noise and excitement always
incident to such scenes, had combined to keep this
odor in the background, and it had failed to make
the impression its pungency must have justified.



Introduction 9

Now I was a tired boy seeking his bed. In the
silent darkness nothing distracted my attention
from the smell. It came suddenly, when my mind
was alertly curious concerning our quarters, and
ready to absorb the fullest measure of information
about them.

As this combination of bilge -water and dead
things forced itself upon my nostrils, a second re-
vulsion of feeling suddenly overwhelmed me with a
sense of degradation, and I longed for my own
room at home, with its white walls, its carpeted
floor, its spotless bed, but, more than all, with its
pure air.

" I '11 be down in a minute," I said to Frank, who
was preceding me, and retreated to hide my emotions.

The cool night breeze having restored me, I went
down into the place and found Frank standing in
the middle of the room, his face telling tales of a
weakness like my own.

'■ Vile! " I suggested.

" Hain't it! " he exclaimed.

Then we grasped hands and stood for a moment
looking each other in the face.

" We 've b'en fools, I guess; but the 's no use
squealin' now we 're here," he said at last.

" No; we 've spilt the milk," I agreed.

And our friendship was cemented thus for the
entire voyage.



io On Board a Whaler

We were but a few minutes getting our chests
down and arranged in front of the bunks we ex-
pected to occupy. The making of the beds was a
simple matter and soon done. The owners of the
vessel furnished nothing but the bunks, and each
of us had brought three comforters and a pillow for
his bedding, which were quickly put in place, and
we crawled in. We at first reserved one comforter
as a cover, putting the other two in the bottom of
the bunk as a mattress, but before we went to sleep
we added the cover to the mattress. The den was
warm enough for comfort without the cover, but
the boards under us were made of oak.

The horrible smell, the rustling " clink-clink-
clink " of the water outside, the stuffiness of the
air, the snoring of Kenney, who fell at once to
sleep, and the novelty of the situation, kept me
awake for along time; and for some hours I could
hear Frank rolling and tossing in his bunk. To-
ward morning, I floated away into a hideous dream-
land, from which I came back to find it broad day.

As I looked out of my bunk, a stream of sunlight
was pouring down through the open gangway; and,
having become used to the smell, the outlook
seemed much more cheerful to me than it had the
night before.

Kenney had long since betaken himself to his
cook-house; but Frank, who lay stretching in his



Introduction 1 1

bunk opposite me, returned my smile and called
cheerily :

" Hullo, Tom! 'Live?"

" Yee-e-e-ah! " I answered in a yawn.

M How 'd y'r bed go ?"

M Well, 't want feathers."

He got on to his elbows and looked up toward
the deck. " Wonder when we have got to git up
aboard here ? What time do yeh 'spect 't is, any-
how ? "

" Dunno. I 've had enough o' this. Let 's get
up."

So we rolled out of the bunks to dress.

We had worn our ordinary shore clothes on com-
ing aboard ; but now we put them away and donned
the woollen shirts, pantaloons, and belt commonly
worn by seamen. Then, each grinning at the odd
appearance of the other, we went up on deck.

Mr. Brown was standing near the gangway, evi-
dently expecting us.

M Where do we wash, sir ? " asked Frank,
abruptly.

The officer's jaw dropped, and he stood looking
from one to the other of us for half a minute.
Then, his mouth twitching in time with a pair of
mirthful eyes, he stepped behind a square brick
structure, and presently came back with a deck
bucket, spliced on to a rope. " Here 's y'r bath,



12 On Board a Whaler

my lad," he chuckled. M Yeh '11 find plenty o'
fresh water over the side. We use shirt-sleeves,
mos'ly, for towels; and, if yeh want soap, — wa-al,
prob'bly yeh 've gut some yeh won't use more 'n
once, that 's all."

He turned then, as if to leave us, but, on second
thought, came back to us. "When yeh 've had y'r
grub, take some brooms an' scrub off the deck a bit.
Guess yeh may 's well turn to fust as last."

As a plunge bath, sea water is refreshing, but for
toilet purposes it is a flat failure. We did the best
we could with it, and went below to finish up.

We had combed our hair and adjusted our sheath-
knives before Kenney called to us from the deck :

" Kid, here."

To avoid a display of ignorance as to the meaning
of this announcement, I stepped up the gangway
stairs to see what was wanted, when Kenney passed
to me a small wooden tub containing our breakfast.

'T ain't buckwheat cakes 'n' honey, exactly," he
remarked, with a leer and a tone that made it diffi-
cult for me not to hit him.

I controlled my temper and took the kid be-
low, contenting myself with suggesting to Frank,
"We'll have to punch that fellow before we get
through."

" Sure. No dodgin' that," he assented. " Pete
Barstow told me they had to, the time Kenney



Introduction 13

sailed with him." In the meantime he had com-
pleted an examination of the contents of the tub,
and continued: M No, Kenney, — not by a blamed
long-short 't ain't flapjacks an' honey. Yeh told
the truth that time," he commented.

We got out our pans, tin cups, and iron forks,
and, placing the kid between us, sat down to our
first meal on board ship.

" Le' 's see," said Frank, meditatively. M Here 's
four taters — even two apiece — skins on 'em an'
never washed, nuther. No salt, ner gravy. Oh!
here yeh are." He pulled something from under
the hardtack in the bottom of the tub. " Here 's
some butter, by jinks! Say, that is butter, ain't
it ? " he asked, after sniffing at it.

" Whew! Mebbe 7 was once," I replied, hav-
ing tasted the stuff.

He raised a bit of it on the end of his sheath-
knife and smelled it again. " Talk about maggoty
cheese walkin ! Huh! that 's nuthiri . This c'n
fly ! " He laid the butter all on my side of the kid.
** You 'd better eat that, Tom, so 's to git good 'n
strong," he continued. " I heard y'r mother tellin'
mine y'r stomach was weak an' she was goin' ter let
yeh come to cure yeh — guess that '11 fix yeh out.
I b'lieve I 'm pretty well, thank yeh. Take it all.
Don't be bashful — y'r welcome to it."

" It 's a good thing they got that kind, though,"



14 On Board a Whaler

I added. " The old tub can't sink so long 's we 've
got plenty o' this aboard, yeh know."

So, like old seamen, we grumbled our way
through the meal, discarding the potatoes, the
butter, and the bitter black coffee, but eating with
keen relish the hardtack, of which there was plenty.
In the end, we were not in an unhappy mood, and,
in accordance with our instructions, went merrily
up to scrub the deck. We were but boys, with the
feelings of boys.




CHAPTER II

ORGANIZING

IT took but a few minutes, under the supervision
of Nye, to wash down the decks. He drew the
water up from over the side in a bucket and swashed
it along the planks, while, working with a will, we
followed after him with our brooms. Then we
drew up more water and rinsed off the dirt. It was
novel work for us, and we rather liked to do it.
When it was all done we were left at liberty to look
about us until the rest of the crew came on board.

The brig was a fine little craft of about one hun-
dred and fifty tons, newly rigged and equipped for
the voyage. Except for a narrow strip of white
about half-way up the side from her water-line, the
hull was painted coal black. Her name stood
boldly out in gilt letters under the stern-rail, and
the white-robed figure of a woman lent beauty
to the bow. In model she was a clipper, and,
with her tall, rakish masts, she had a yacht-like
look about her unusual to vessels in her class. A



1 6 On Board a Whaler

topgallantsail, foretopsail, and foresail were neatly-
furled on the yards hanging from the foremast; a
huge spanker was snugly tied up along the big
boom suspended from the mainmast; and out on
the bowsprit in front was a staysail, a jib, and a
flying-jib. She was further provided with a num-
ber of special sails which could be rigged on in
case of need, but which were to be kept out of
sight in the hold on common occasions.

In the hold of the vessel, beside the necessary
food supplies for such a voyage, there were stored
extra ropes and canvas for repairs of the rigging
and sails, and a great variety of other equipments
for the business we were going upon, among which
were casks, now filled with water, sufficient in size
and number to hold about five hundred barrels of
the oil we hoped to get. Thus laden, she sat on
the water like a loaded merchantman, but, unlike
the merchantman, as her real cargo would be taken
on board, she would rise rather than settle under
the weight.

On deck, beginning at the bow, was a windlass
for hoisting anchors, casks, blubber, or anything
too heavy to be lifted by hands or ordinary tackle;
behind the foremast was the try works, of which
more must be said later on ; then came the galley,
or cook-house of the cook, a small wooden affair,
securely lashed to iron rings in the deck; while two



Organizing 17

thirds of the way from the bow to the stern, came
the quarter-deck, the special walking ground of the
officers, raised nearly three feet above the main-
deck, and mounted to on each side by wooden
steps.

A stairway led down into the cabin from the main-
deck, and another led from the cabin up through a
gangway to the quarter-deck, a little to the left and
front of the steering-gear. Over the centre of the
cabin — in which the officers slept and ate — and
raised several feet higher than the quarter-deck,
was a glass house or skylight, and just back of that,
immediately in front of the wheel, was a glass case
in which was hung a compass.

The wheel was a nearly perfect piece of mechan-
ism, by means of which a child could steer the
vessel, except in the roughest kind of weather.

Suspended from slender iron davits, two on the
left and one on the right hand side of the brig,
were three whale-boats, each about thirty feet in
length and six feet wide, the description of which
will be deferred.

In every way the little vessel was well adapted


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Online LibraryThomas West HammondOn board a whaler : an adventurous cruise through southern seas → online text (page 1 of 21)