Fighting the Whales by R M Ballantyne Page 1 of 64

R.M. Ballantyne

"Fighting the Whales"

Chapter One.

In Trouble, to begin with.

There are few things in this world that have filled me with so much astonishment as the fact that man can kill a whale!

That a fish, more than sixty feet long, and thirty feet round the body; with the bulk of three hundred fat oxen rolled into one; with the strength of many hundreds of horses; able to swim at a rate that would carry it right round the world in twenty-three days; that can smash a boat to atoms with one slap of its tail, and stave in the planks of a ship with one blow of its thick skull;-that such a monster can be caught and killed by man, is most wonderful to hear of, but I can tell from experience that it is much more wonderful to see.

There is a wise saying which I have often thought much upon. It is this: "Knowledge is power." Man is but a feeble creature, and if he had to depend on his own bodily strength alone he could make no head against even the ordinary brutes in this world. But the knowledge which has been given to him by his Maker has clothed man with great power, so that he is more than a match for the fiercest beast in the forest, or the largest fish in the sea. Yet, with all his knowledge, with all his experience, and all his power, the killing of a great old sperm whale costs man a long, tough battle, sometimes it even costs him his life.

It is a long time now since I took to fighting the whales. I have been at it, man and boy, for nigh forty years, and many a wonderful sight have I seen; many a desperate battle have I fought in the fisheries of the North and South Seas.

Sometimes, when I sit in the chimney-corner of a winter evening, smoking my pipe with my old messmate Tom Lokins, I stare into the fire and think of the days gone by till I forget where I am, and go on thinking so hard that the flames seem to turn into melting fires, and the bars of the grate into dead fish, and the smoke into sails and rigging, and I go to work cutting up the blubber and stirring the oil-pots, or pulling the bow-oar and driving the harpoon at such a rate that I can't help giving a shout, which causes Tom to start and cry:-

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