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Title: A Year with a Whaler
Author: Burns, Walter Noble
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Year with a Whaler" ***

Transcriber Note

Text emphasis denoted as _Italics_.


[Illustration: "Cutting Out" A Whale]

                              A YEAR WITH A

                            WALTER NOBLE BURNS

                      _Illustrated with Photographs_


                                 NEW YORK
                        OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY

                           Copyright, 1913, BY
                        OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY

                           All rights reserved


  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

      I. The Lure of the Outfitter                   11

     II. The Men of the "Alexander"                  21

    III. Why We Don't Desert                         33

     IV. Turtles and Porpoises                       46

      V. The A, B, C of Whales                       59

     VI. The Night King                              71

    VII. Dreams of Liberty                           83

   VIII. Gabriel's Little Drama                      95

     IX. Through the Roaring Forties                107

      X. In the Ice                                 118

     XI. Cross Country Whaling                      128

    XII. Cutting In and Trying Out                  137

   XIII. Shaking Hands with Siberia                 149

    XIV. Moonshine and Hygiene                      162

     XV. News From Home                             171

    XVI. Slim Goes on Strike                        182

   XVII. Into the Arctic                            191

  XVIII. Blubber and Song                           198

    XIX. A Narrow Pinch                             210

     XX. A Race and a Race Horse                    219

    XXI. Bears for a Change                         230

   XXII. The Stranded Whale                         239

  XXIII. And So--Home                               247


  "Cutting Out" a Whale                  _Frontispiece_

                                            FACING PAGE

  In Bowhead Waters                                  16

  When Whaling is an Easy Job                        40

  Waiting for the Whale to Breach                    72

  Unalaska                                          112

  Waiting for the Floes to Open                     120

  "Trying Out"                                      144

  Callers From Asia                                 152

  Peter's Sweetheart                                160

  Eskimos Summer Hut at St. Lawrence Bay            168

  At the Gateway to the Arctic                      176

  Hoisting the Blubber Aboard                       184

  Our Guests Coming Aboard in St. Lawrence Bay      192

  The Lip of a Bowhead Whale                        208

  A Close Call Off Herald Island                    216

  Skin Boat of the Siberian Eskimos                 240


A Year With A Whaler



When the brig _Alexander_ sailed out of San Francisco on a whaling voyage
a few years ago, I was a member of her forecastle crew. Once outside the
Golden Gate, I felt the swing of blue water under me for the first time in
my life. I was not shanghaied. Let's have that settled at the start. I had
shipped as a green hand before the mast for the adventure of the thing,
because I wanted to go, for the glamor of the sea was upon me.

I was taking breakfast in a San Francisco restaurant when, in glancing
over the morning paper, I chanced across this advertisement:

  Wanted--Men for a whaling voyage; able seamen, ordinary seamen, and
  green hands. No experience necessary. Big money for a lucky voyage.
  Apply at Levy's, No. 12 Washington Street.

Until that moment I had never dreamed of going to sea, but that small
"ad." laid its spell upon my imagination. It was big with the lure of
strange lands and climes, romance and fresh experiences. What did it
matter that I had passed all my humdrum days on dry land? "No experience
necessary!" There were the magic words staring me in the face. I gulped
down my eggs and coffee and was off for the street called Washington.

Levy's was a ship's outfitting store. A "runner" for the house--a
hulking man with crafty eyes and a face almost as red as his hair and
mustache--met me as I stepped in the door. He looked me over critically.
His visual inventory must have been satisfactory. I was young.

"Ever been a sailor?" he asked.


"Makes no difference. Can you pull an oar?"


"You'll do. Hang around the store to-day and I'll see what vessels are
shipping crews."

That was all. I was a potential whaler from that minute.

A young working man in overalls and flannel shirt came in later in the
day and applied to go on the voyage. He qualified as a green hand. But no
spirit of adventure had brought him to Levy's. A whaling voyage appealed
to his canny mind as a business proposition.

"What can we make?" he asked the runner.

"If your ship is lucky," replied the runner, "you ought to clean up a pile
of money. You'll ship on the 190th lay. Know what a lay is? It's your per
cent. of the profits of the voyage. Say your ship catches four whales. She
ought to catch a dozen if she has good luck. But say she catches four. Her
cargo in oil and bone will be worth about $50,000. Your share will amount
to something like $200, and you'll get it in a lump sum when you get back."

This was "bunk talk"--a "springe to catch woodcock"--but we did not know
it. That fluent and plausible man took pencil and paper and showed us just
how it would all work out. It was reserved for us poor greenhorns to learn
later on that sailors of whaling ships usually are paid off at the end of
a voyage with "one big iron dollar." This fact being discreetly withheld
from us, our illusions were not disturbed.

The fact is the "lay" means nothing to sailors on a whaler. It is merely
a lure for the unsophisticated. It might as well be the 1000th lay as the
190th, for all the poor devil of a sailor gets. The explanation is simple.
The men start the voyage with an insufficient supply of clothing. By the
time the vessel strikes cold weather their clothes are worn out and it
is a case of buy clothes from the ship's slop-chest at the captain's own
prices or freeze. As a consequence, the men come back to port with expense
accounts standing against them which wipe out all possible profits. This
has become so definitely a part of whaling custom that no sailor ever
thinks of fighting against it, and it probably would do him no good if
he did. As a forecastle hand's pay the "big iron dollar" is a whaling
tradition and as fixed and inevitable as fate.

The outfitter who owned the store did not conduct a sailor's boarding
house, so we were put up at a cheap hotel on Pacific street. After
supper, my new friend took me for a visit to the home of his uncle in the
Tar Flats region. A rough, kindly old laboring man was this uncle who
sat in his snug parlor in his shirt sleeves during our stay, sent one of
the children to the corner for a growler of beer, and told us bluntly we
were idiots to think of shipping on a whaling voyage. We laughed at his
warning--we were going and that's all there was to it. The old fellow's
pretty daughters played the piano and sang for us, and my last evening on
shore passed pleasantly enough. When it came time to say good-bye, the
uncle prevailed on my friend to stay all night on the plea that he had
some urgent matters to talk over, and I went back alone to my dingy hotel
on the Barbary Coast.

I was awakened suddenly out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night.
My friend stood beside my bed with a lighted candle in his hand.

"Get up and come with me," he said. "Don't go whaling. My uncle has told
me all about it. He knows. You'll be treated like a dog aboard, fed on
rotten grub, and if you don't die under the hard knocks or freeze to
death in the Arctic Ocean, you won't get a penny when you get back. Don't
be a fool. Take my advice and give that runner the slip. If you go, you'll
regret it to the last day of your life."

In the yellow glare of the candle, the young man seemed not unlike
an apparition and he delivered his message of warning with prophetic
solemnity and impressiveness. But my mind was made up.

"I guess I'll go," I said.

He argued and pleaded with me, all to no purpose. He set the candle on the
table and blew it out.

"You won't come?" he said out of the darkness.


"You're a fool."

He slammed the door. I never saw him again. But many a time on the
long voyage I recalled his wise counsel, prompted as it was by pure
friendliness, and wished from my heart I had taken his advice.

[Illustration: In Bowhead Waters]

Next day the runner for Levy's tried to ship me aboard the steam whaler
_William Lewis_. When we arrived at the shipping office on the water
front, it was crowded with sailors and rough fellows, many of them half
drunk, and all eager for a chance to land a berth. A bronzed and bearded
man stood beside a desk and surveyed them. He was the skipper of the
steamer. The men were pushing and elbowing in an effort to get to the
front and catch his eye.

"I've been north before, captain," "I'm an able seaman, sir," "I know
the ropes," "Give me a chance, captain," "Take me, sir; I'll make a good
hand,"--so they clamored their virtues noisily. The captain chose this man
and that. In twenty minutes his crew was signed. It was not a question of
getting enough men; it was a mere matter of selection. In such a crowd of
sailormen, I stood no show. In looking back on it all, I wonder how such
shipping office scenes are possible, how men of ordinary intelligence are
herded aboard whale ships like sheep, how they even fight for a chance to

It was just as well I failed to ship aboard the _William Lewis_. The
vessel went to pieces in the ice on the north Alaskan coast the following
spring. Four men lost their lives and only after a bitter experience as
castaways on the floes were the others rescued.

That afternoon Captain Shorey of the brig _Alexander_ visited Levy's. I
was called to his attention as a likely young hand and he shipped me as a
member of his crew. I signed articles for a year's voyage. It was provided
that I was to receive a $50 advance with which to outfit myself for the
voyage; of course, any money left over after all necessary articles had
been purchased was to be mine--at least, in my innocence, I imagined it

The brig was lying in the stream off Goat Island and the runner set about
the work of outfitting me at once. He and I and a clerk went about the
store from shelf to shelf, selecting articles. The runner carried a pad
of paper on which he marked down the cost. I was given a sailor's canvas
bag, a mattress, a pair of blankets, woolen trousers, dungaree trousers,
a coat, a pair of brogans, a pair of rubber sea boots, underwear, socks,
two flannel shirts, a cap, a belt and sheath knife, a suit of oil-skins
and sou'wester, a tin cup, tin pan, knife, fork and spoon. That was all.
It struck me as a rather slender equipment for a year's voyage. The runner
footed up the cost.

"Why," he said with an air of great surprise, "this foots up to $53 and
your advance is only $50."

He added up the column of figures again. But he had made no mistake. He
seemed perplexed.

"I don't see how it is possible to scratch off anything," he said. "You'll
need every one of these articles."

He puckered his brow, bit the end of his pencil, and studied the figures.
It was evidently a puzzling problem.

"Well," he said at last, "I'll tell you what I'll do. Bring me down a few
curios from the Arctic and I'll call it square."

I suppose my outfit was really worth about $6--not over $10. As soon as my
bag had been packed, I was escorted to the wharf by the runner and rowed
out to the brig. As I prepared to climb over the ship's rail, the runner
shook me by the hand and clapped me on the back with a great show of
cordial goodfellowship.

"Don't forget my curios," he said.



The brig _Alexander_ was a staunch, sea-worthy little vessel. She had no
fine lines; there was nothing about her to please a yachtsman's eye; but
she was far from being a tub as whaling ships are often pictured. She was
built at New Bedford especially for Arctic whaling. Her hull was of sturdy
oak, reinforced at the bows to enable her to buck her way through ice.

Though she was called a brig, she was really a brigantine, rigged with
square sails on her fore-mast and with fore-and-aft sails on her main.
She was of only 128 tons but quite lofty, her royal yard being eighty
feet above the deck. On her fore-mast she carried a fore-sail, a single
topsail, a fore-top-gallant sail, and a royal; on her main-mast, a big
mainsail with a gaff-topsail above it. Three whale boats--starboard,
larboard, and waist boats--hung at her davits. Amidships stood the brick
try-works equipped with furnaces and cauldrons for rendering blubber into

As soon as I arrived on board I was taken in charge by the ship keeper and
conducted to the forecastle. It was a dark, malodorous, triangular hole
below the deck in the bows. At the foot of the ladder-like stairs, leading
down through the scuttle, I stepped on something soft and yielding. Was
it possible, I wondered in an instant's flash of surprise, that the
forecastle was laid with a velvet carpet? No, it was not. It was only
a Kanaka sailor lying on the floor dead drunk. The bunks were ranged
round the walls in a double tier. I selected one for myself, arranged my
mattress and blankets, and threw my bag inside. I was glad to get back to
fresh air on deck as quickly as possible.

Members of the crew kept coming aboard in charge of runners and boarding
bosses. They were a hard looking lot; several were staggering drunk,
and most of them were tipsy. All had bottles and demijohns of whiskey.
Everybody was full of bad liquor and high spirits that first night on the
brig. A company of jolly sea rovers were we, and we joked and laughed
and roared out songs like so many pirates about to cruise for treasure
galleons on the Spanish Main. Somehow next morning the rose color had
faded out of the prospect and there were many aching heads aboard.

On the morning of the second day, the officers came out to the vessel.
A tug puffed alongside and made fast to us with a cable. The anchor was
heaved up and, with the tug towing us, we headed for the Golden Gate.
Outside the harbor heads, the tug cast loose and put back into the bay in
a cloud of smoke. The brig was left swinging on the long swells of the

The captain stopped pacing up and down the quarter-deck and said something
to the mate. His words seemed like a match to powder. Immediately the
mate began roaring out orders. Boat-steerers bounded forward, shouting
out the orders in turn. The old sailors sang them out in repetition. Men
sprang aloft. Loosened sails were soon rolling down and fluttering from
every spar. The sailors began pulling on halyards and yo-hoing on sheets.
Throughout the work of setting sail, the green hands were "at sea" in a
double sense. The bustle and apparent confusion of the scene seemed to
savor of bedlam broke loose. The orders were Greek to them. They stood
about, bewildered and helpless. Whenever they tried to help the sailors
they invariably snarled things up and were roundly abused for their pains.
One might fancy they could at least have helped pull on a rope. They
couldn't even do that. Pulling on a rope, sailor-fashion, is in itself an

Finally all the sails were sheeted home. Ropes were coiled up and hung
neatly on belaying pins. A fresh breeze set all the snowy canvas drawing
and the brig, all snug and shipshape, went careering southward.

At the outset of the voyage, the crew consisted of twenty-four men.
Fourteen men were in the forecastle. The after-crew comprised the captain,
mate, second mate, third mate, two boat-steerers, steward, cooper, cook,
and cabin boy. Captain Shorey was not aboard. He was to join the vessel at
Honolulu. Mr. Winchester, the mate, took the brig to the Hawaiian Islands
as captain. This necessitated a graduated rise in authority all along the
line. Mr. Landers, who had shipped as second mate, became mate; Gabriel,
the regular third mate, became second mate; and Mendez, a boatsteerer, was
advanced to the position of third mate.

Captain Winchester was a tall, spare, vigorous man with a nose like Julius
Caesar's and a cavernous bass voice that boomed like a sunset gun. He
was a man of some education, which is a rarity among officers of whale
ships, and was a typical New England Yankee. He had run away to sea as
a boy and had been engaged in the whaling trade for twenty years. For
thirteen years, he had been sailing to the Arctic Ocean as master and
mate of vessels, and was ingrained with the autocratic traditions of the
quarter-deck. Though every inch a sea dog of the hard, old-fashioned
school, he had his kindly human side, as I learned later. He was by far
the best whaleman aboard the brig; as skillful and daring as any that ever
laid a boat on a whale's back; a fine, bold, hardy type of seaman and an
honor to the best traditions of the sea. He lost his life--poor fellow--in
a whaling adventure in the Arctic Ocean on his next voyage.

Mr. Landers, the mate, was verging on sixty; his beard was grizzled, but
there wasn't a streak of gray in his coal-black hair. He was stout and
heavy-limbed and must have been remarkably strong in his youth. He was a
Cape Codder and talked with a quaint, nasal, Yankee drawl. He had been
to sea all his life and was a whaleman of thirty years' experience. In
all these years, he had been ashore very little--only a few weeks between
his year-long voyages, during which time, it was said, he kept up his
preference for liquids, exchanging blue water for red liquor. He was a
picturesque old fellow, and was so accustomed to the swinging deck of a
ship under him that standing or sitting, in perfectly still weather or
with the vessel lying motionless at anchor, he swayed his body from side
to side heavily as if in answer to the rise and fall of waves. He was a
silent, easy-going man, with a fund of dry humor and hard common sense. He
never did any more work than he had to, and before the voyage ended, he
was suspected by the officers of being a malingerer. All the sailors liked

Gabriel, the second mate, was a negro from the Cape Verde islands. His
native language was Portuguese and he talked funny, broken English. He
was about forty-five years old, and though he was almost as dark-skinned
as any Ethiopian, he had hair and a full beard as finely spun and free
from kinkiness as a Caucasian's. The sailors used to say that Gabriel was
a white man born black by accident. He was a kindly, cheerful soul with
shrewd native wit. He was a whaleman of life-long experience.

Mendez, the third mate, and Long John, one of the boatsteerers, were also
Cape Verde islanders. Long John was a giant, standing six feet, four
inches; an ungainly, powerful fellow, with a black face as big as a ham
and not much more expressive. He had the reputation of being one of the
most expert harpooners of the Arctic Ocean whaling fleet.

Little Johnny, the other boatsteerer, was a mulatto from the Barbadoes,
English islands of the West Indies. He was a strapping, intelligent
young man, brimming over with vitality and high spirits and with all a
plantation darky's love of fun. His eyes were bright and his cheeks ruddy
with perfect health; he loved dress and gay colors and was quite the dandy
of the crew.

Five of the men of the forecastle were deep-water sailors. Of these one
was an American, one a German, one a Norwegian, and two Swedes. They
followed the sea for a living and had been bunkoed by their boarding
bosses into believing they would make large sums of money whaling.
They had been taken in by a confidence game as artfully as the man who
loses his money at the immemorial trick of three shells and a pea. When
they learned they would get only a dollar at the end of the voyage and
contemplated the loss of an entire working year, they were full of
resentment and righteous, though futile, anger.

Taylor, the American, became the acknowledged leader of the forecastle. He
quickly established himself in this position, not only by his skill and
long experience as a seaman, but by his aggressiveness, his domineering
character, and his physical ability to deal with men and situations.
He was a bold, iron-fisted fellow to whom the green hands looked for
instruction and advice, whom several secretly feared, and for whom all had
a wholesome respect.

Nels Nelson, a red-haired, red-bearded old Swede, was the best sailor
aboard. He had had a thousand adventures on all the seas of all the
world. He had been around Cape Horn seven times--a sailor is not rated
as a really-truly sailor until he has made a passage around that stormy
promontory--and he had rounded the Cape of Good Hope so many times he had
lost the count. He had ridden out a typhoon on the coast of Japan and had
been driven ashore by a hurricane in the West Indies. He had sailed on an
expedition to Cocos Island, that realm of mystery and romance, to try to
lift pirate treasure in doubloons, plate, and pieces-of-eight, supposed
to have been buried there by "Bugs" Thompson and Benito Bonito, those
one-time terrors of the Spanish Main. He had been cast away in the South
Seas in an open boat with three companions, and had eaten the flesh of the
man whose fate had been sealed by the casting of lots. He was some man,
was Nelson. I sometimes vaguely suspected he was some liar, too, but I
don't know. I think most of his stories were true.

He could do deftly everything intricate and subtle in sailorcraft from
tying the most wonderful knots to splicing wire. None of the officers
could teach old Nelson anything about fancy sailorizing and they knew it.
Whenever they wanted an unusual or particularly difficult piece of work
done they called on him, and he always did it in the best seamanly fashion.

Richard, the German, was a sturdy, manly young chap who had served in the
German navy. He was well educated and a smart seaman. Ole Oleson, the
Norwegian, was just out of his teens but a fine sailor. Peter Swenson,
a Swede, was a chubby, rosy boy of sixteen, an ignorant, reckless,
devil-may-care lad, who was looked upon as the baby of the forecastle and
humored and spoiled accordingly.

Among the six white green hands, there was a "mule skinner" from western
railway construction camps; a cowboy who believed himself fitted for
the sea after years of experience on the "hurricane deck" of a bucking
broncho; a country boy straight from the plow and with "farmer" stamped
all over him in letters of light; a man suspected of having had trouble
with the police; another who, in lazy night watches, spun frank yarns
of burglaries; and "Slim," an Irishman who said he had served with the
Royal Life Guards in the English army. There was one old whaler. He was a
shiftless, loquacious product of city slums. This was his seventh whaling
voyage--which would seem sufficient comment on his character.

"It beats hoboing," he said. And as his life's ambition seemed centered on
three meals a day and a bunk to sleep in, perhaps it did.

Two Kanakas completed the forecastle crew. These and the cabin boy, who
was also a Kanaka, talked fair English, but among themselves they always
spoke their native language. I had heard much of the liquid beauty of the
Kanaka tongue. It was a surprise to find it the most unmusical and harshly
guttural language I ever heard. It comes from the mouth in a series of
explosive grunts and gibberings. The listener is distinctly and painfully
impressed with the idea that if the nitroglycerine words were retained in
the system, they would prove dangerous to health and is fearful lest they
choke the spluttering Kanaka to death before he succeeds in biting them
off and flinging them into the atmosphere.



As soon as we were under sail, the crew was called aft and the watches
selected. Gabriel was to head the starboard watch and Mendez the port.
The men were ranged in line and the heads of the watches made their
selections, turn and turn about. The deep-water sailors were the first to
be chosen. The green hands were picked for their appearance of strength
and activity. I fell into the port watch.

Sea watches were now set--four hours for sleep and four for work
throughout the twenty-four. My watch was sent below. No one slept during
this first watch below, but we made up for lost time during our second
turn. Soon we became accustomed to the routine and found it as restful
as the usual landsman's method of eight hours' sleep and sixteen of

It is difficult for a landlubber to understand how sailors on shipboard
can be kept constantly busy. The brig was a veritable hive of industry.
The watch on deck when morning broke pumped ship and swept and flushed
down the decks. During the day watches, in addition to working the ship,
we were continuously breaking out supplies, keeping the water barrel on
deck filled from casks in the hold, laboring with the cargo, scrubbing
paint work, polishing brass work, slushing masts and spars, repairing
rigging, and attending to a hundred and one details that must be looked
after every day. The captain of a ship is one of the most scrupulous
housekeepers in the world, and only by keeping his crew busy from morning
till night is he able to keep his ship spick and span and in proper
repair. Whale ships are supposed to be dirty. On the contrary, they are
kept as clean as water and brooms and hard work can keep them.

The food served aboard the brig was nothing to brag about. Breakfast
consisted of corned-beef hash, hardtack, and coffee without milk or sugar.
We sweetened our coffee with molasses, a keg of which was kept in the
forecastle. For dinner, we had soup, corned-beef stew, called "skouse," a
loaf of soft bread, and coffee. For supper, we had slices of corned-beef
which the sailors called "salt horse," hardtack, and tea. The principal
variation in this diet was in the soups.

The days were a round of barley soup, bean soup, pea soup, and back
to barley soup again, an alternation that led the men to speak of the
days of the week not as Monday, Tuesday, and so on, but as "barley soup
day," "bean soup day," and "pea soup day." Once or twice a week we had
gingerbread for supper. On the other hand the cabin fared sumptuously on
canned vegetables, meat, salmon, soft bread, tea, and coffee with sugar
and condensed milk, fresh fish and meat whenever procurable, and a dessert
every day at dinner, including plum duff, a famous sea delicacy which
never in all the voyage found its way forward.

From the first day, the green hands were set learning the ropes, to stand
lookout, to take their trick at the wheel, to reef and furl and work
among the sails. These things are the A B C of seamanship, but they are
not to be learned in a day or a week. A ship is a complicated mechanism,
and it takes a long time for a novice to acquire even the rudiments of
sea education. Going aloft was a terrifying ordeal at first to several of
the green hands, though it never bothered me. When the cowboy was first
ordered to furl the fore-royal, he hung back and said, "I can't" and "I'll
fall," and whimpered and begged to be let off. But he was forced to try.
He climbed the ratlines slowly and painfully to the royal yard, and he
finally furled the sail, though it took him a long time to do it. He felt
so elated that after that he wanted to furl the royal every time it had to
be done;--didn't want to give anyone else a chance.

Furling the royal was a one-man job. The foot-rope was only a few feet
below the yard, and if a man stood straight on it, the yard would strike
him a little above the knees. If the ship were pitching, a fellow had to
look sharp or he would be thrown off;--if that had happened it was a nice,
straight fall of eighty feet to the deck. My own first experience on the
royal yard gave me an exciting fifteen minutes. The ship seemed to be
fighting me and devoting an unpleasant amount of time and effort to it;
bucking and tossing as if with a sentient determination to shake me off
into the atmosphere. I escaped becoming a grease spot on the deck of the
brig only by hugging the yard as if it were a sweetheart and hanging on
for dear life. I became in time quite an expert at furling the sail.

Standing lookout was the one thing aboard a green hand could do as well
as an old sailor. The lookout was posted on the forecastle-head in fair
weather and on the try-works in a storm. He stood two hours at a stretch.
He had to scan the sea ahead closely and if a sail or anything unusual
appeared, he reported to the officer of the watch.

Learning to steer by the compass was comparatively easy. With the ship
heading on a course, it was not difficult by manipulating the wheel to
keep the needle of the compass on a given point. But to steer by the
wind was hard to learn and is sometimes a nice matter even for skillful
seamen. When a ship is close-hauled and sailing, as sailors say, right in
the wind's eye, the wind is blowing into the braced sails at the weather
edge of the canvas;--if the vessel were brought any higher up, the wind
would pour around on the back of the sails. The helmsman's aim is to
keep the luff of the royal sail or of the sails that happen to be set,
wrinkling and loose--luffing, sailors call it. That shows that the wind is
slanting into the sails at just the right angle and perhaps a little bit
is spilling over. I gradually learned to do this in the daytime. But at
night when it was almost impossible for me to see the luff of the sails
clearly, it was extremely difficult and I got into trouble more than once
by my clumsiness. The trick at the wheel was of two hours' duration.

The second day out from San Francisco was Christmas. I had often read that
Christmas was a season of good cheer and happiness among sailors at sea,
that it was commemorated with religious service, and that the skipper sent
forward grog and plum duff to gladden the hearts of the sailormen. But
Santa Claus forgot the sailors on the brig. Bean soup only distinguished
Christmas from the day that had gone before and the day that came after.
No liquor or tempting dishes came to the forecastle. It was the usual day
of hard work from dawn to dark.

After two weeks of variable weather during which we were often becalmed,
we put into Turtle bay, midway down the coast of Lower California, and
dropped anchor.

Turtle bay is a beautiful little land-locked harbor on an uninhabited
coast. There was no village or any human habitation on its shores. A
desolate, treeless country, seamed by gullies and scantily covered with
sun-dried grass, rolled away to a chain of high mountains which forms
the backbone of the peninsula of Lower California. These mountains were
perhaps thirty miles from the coast; they were gray and apparently barren
of trees or any sort of herbage, and looked to be ridges of naked granite.
The desert character of the landscape was a surprise, as we were almost
within the tropics.

We spent three weeks of hard work in Turtle bay. Sea watches were
abolished and all hands were called on deck at dawn and kept busy until
sundown. The experienced sailors were employed as sail makers; squatting
all day on the quarter-deck, sewing on canvas with a palm and needle. Old
sails were sent down from the spars and patched and repaired. If they were
too far gone, new sails were bent in their stead. The green hands had the
hard work. They broke out the hold and restowed every piece of cargo,
arranging it so that the vessel rode on a perfectly even keel. Yards and
masts were slushed, the rigging was tarred, and the ship was painted
inside and out.

The waters of the harbor were alive with Spanish mackerel, albacore,
rock bass, bonitos, and other kinds of fish. The mackerel appeared in
great schools that rippled the water as if a strong breeze were blowing.
These fish attracted great numbers of gray pelicans, which had the most
wonderful mode of flight I have ever seen in any bird. For hours at a
time, with perfectly motionless pinions, they skimmed the surface of the
bay like living aeroplanes; one wondered wherein lay their motor power
and how they managed to keep going. When they spied a school of mackerel,
they rose straight into the air with a great flapping of wings, then
turned their heads downward, folded their wings close to their bodies,
and dropped like a stone. Their great beaks cut the water, they went
under with a terrific splash, and immediately emerged with a fish in the
net-like membrane beneath their lower mandible.

[Illustration: When Whaling Is An Easy Job]

Every Sunday, a boat's crew went fishing. We fished with hand lines
weighted with lead and having three or four hooks, baited at first with
bacon and later with pieces of fresh fish. I never had such fine fishing.
The fish bit as fast as we could throw in our lines, and we were kept busy
hauling them out of the water. We would fill a whale boat almost to the
gunwales in a few hours. With the return of the first fishing expedition,
the sailors had dreams of a feast, but they were disappointed. The fish
went to the captain's table or were salted away in barrels for the cabin's
future use. The sailors, however, enjoyed the fun. Many of them kept lines
constantly over the brig's sides, catching skates, soles, and little

By the time we reached Turtle bay, it was no longer a secret that we would
get only a dollar for our year's voyage. As a result, a feverish spirit of
discontent began to manifest itself among those forward and plans to run
away became rife.

We were anchored about a half mile from shore, and after looking over the
situation, I made up my mind to try to escape. Except for an officer and a
boatsteerer who stood watch, all hands were asleep below at night. Being
a good swimmer, I planned to slip over the bow in the darkness and swim
ashore. Once on land, I figured it would be an easy matter to cross the
Sierras and reach a Mexican settlement on the Gulf of California.

Possibly the officers got wind of the runaway plots brewing in the
forecastle, for Captain Winchester came forward one evening, something he
never had done before, and fell into gossipy talk with the men.

"Have you noticed that pile of stones with a cross sticking in it on the
harbor head?" he asked in a casual sort of way.

Yes, we had all noticed it from the moment we dropped anchor, and had
wondered what it was.

"That," said the captain impressively, "is a grave. Whaling vessels have
been coming to Turtle bay for years to paint ship and overhaul. Three
sailors on a whaler several years ago thought this was a likely place in
which to escape. They managed to swim ashore at night and struck into the
hills. They expected to find farms and villages back inland. They didn't
know that the whole peninsula of Lower California is a waterless desert
from one end to the other. They had some food with them and they kept
going for days. No one knows how far inland they traveled, but they found
neither inhabitants nor water and their food was soon gone.

"When they couldn't stand it any longer and were half dying from thirst
and hunger, they turned back for the coast. By the time they returned to
Turtle bay their ship had sailed away and there they were on a desert
shore without food or water and no way to get either. I suppose they
camped on the headland in the hope of hailing a passing ship. But the
vessels that pass up and down this coast usually keep out of sight of
land. Maybe the poor devils sighted a distant topsail--no one knows--but
if they did the ship sank beyond the horizon without paying any attention
to their frantic signals. So they died miserably there on the headland.

"Next year, a whale ship found their bodies and erected a cairn of stones
marked by the cross you see over the spot where the three sailors were
buried together. This is a bad country to run away in," the captain added.
"No food, no water, no inhabitants. It's sure death for a runaway."

Having spun this tragic yarn, Captain Winchester went aft again, feeling,
no doubt, that he had sowed seed on fertile soil. The fact is his story
had an instant effect. Most of the men abandoned their plans to escape,
at least for the time being, hoping a more favorable opportunity would
present itself when we reached the Hawaiian islands. But I had my doubts.
I thought it possible the captain merely had "put over" a good bluff.

Next day I asked Little Johnny, the boatsteerer, if it were true as the
captain had said, that Lower California was an uninhabited desert. He
assured me it was and to prove it, he brought out a ship's chart from the
cabin and spread it before me. I found that only two towns throughout the
length and breadth of the peninsula were set down on the map. One of these
was Tia Juana on the west coast just south of the United States boundary
line and the other was La Paz on the east coast near Cape St. Lucas, the
southern tip of the peninsula. Turtle bay was two or three hundred miles
from either town.

That settled it with me. I didn't propose to take chances on dying in the
desert. I preferred a whaler's forecastle to that.



We slipped out of Turtle bay one moonlight night and stood southward.
We were now in sperm whale waters and the crews of the whale boats were
selected. Captain Winchester was to head the starboard boat; Mr. Landers
the larboard boat; and Gabriel the waist boat. Long John was to act as
boatsteerer for Mr. Winchester, Little Johnny for Mr. Landers, and Mendez
for Gabriel. The whale boats were about twenty-five feet long, rigged with
leg-of-mutton sails and jibs. The crew of each consisted of an officer
known as a boat-header, who sat in the stern and wielded the tiller; a
boatsteerer or harpooner, whose position was in the bow; and four sailors
who pulled the stroke, midship, tub, and bow oars. Each boat had a tub
in which four hundred fathoms of whale line were coiled and carried two
harpoons and a shoulder bomb-gun. I was assigned to the midship oar of
Gabriel's boat.

Let me take occasion just here to correct a false impression quite
generally held regarding whaling. Many persons--I think, most
persons--have an idea that in modern whaling, harpoons are fired at whales
from the decks of ships. This is true only of 'long-shore whaling. In
this trade, finbacks and the less valuable varieties of whales are chased
by small steamers which fire harpoons from guns in the bows and tow the
whales they kill to factories along shore, where blubber, flesh, and
skeleton are turned into commercial products. Many published articles have
familiarized the public with this method of whaling. But whaling on the
sperm grounds of the tropics and on the right whale and bowhead grounds of
the polar seas is much the same as it has always been. Boats still go on
the backs of whales. Harpoons are thrown by hand into the great animals as
of yore. Whales still run away with the boats, pulling them with amazing
speed through walls of split water. Whales still crush boats with blows
of their mighty flukes and spill their crews into the sea.

There is just as much danger and just as much thrill and excitement in
the whaling of to-day as there was in that of a century ago. Neither
steamers nor sailing vessels that cruise for sperm and bowhead and right
whales nowadays have deck guns of any sort, but depend entirely upon the
bomb-guns attached to harpoons and upon shoulder bomb-guns wielded from
the whale boats.

In the old days, after whales had been harpooned, they were stabbed to
death with long, razor-sharp lances. The lance is a thing of the past. The
tonite bomb has taken its place as an instrument of destruction. In the
use of the tonite bomb lies the chief difference between modern whaling
and the whaling of the old school.

The modern harpoon is the same as it has been since the palmy days of the
old South Sea sperm fisheries. But fastened on its iron shaft between the
wooden handle and the spear point is a brass cylinder an inch in diameter,
perhaps, and about a foot long. This cylinder is a tonite bomb-gun.
A short piece of metal projects from the flat lower end. This is the
trigger. When the harpoon is thrown into the buttery, blubber-wrapped
body of the whale, it sinks in until the whale's skin presses the trigger
up into the gun and fires it with a tiny sound like the explosion of an
old-fashioned shotgun cap. An instant later a tonite bomb explodes with a
muffled roar in the whale's vitals.

The Arctic Ocean whaling fleet which sails out of San Francisco and
which in the year of my voyage numbered thirty vessels, makes its spring
rendezvous in the Hawaiian Islands. Most of the ships leave San Francisco
in December and reach Honolulu in March. The two or three months spent in
this leisurely voyage are known in whaler parlance as "between seasons."
On the way to the islands the ships cruise for sperm whales and sometimes
lower for finbacks, sulphur-bottoms, California grays, and even black
fish, to practice their green hand crews.

Captain Winchester did not care particularly whether he took any sperm
whales or not, though sperm oil is still valuable. The brig was not
merely a blubber-hunter. Her hold was filled with oil tanks which it was
hoped would be filled before we got back, but the chief purpose of the
voyage was the capture of right and bowhead whales--the great baleen
whales of the North.

As soon as we left Turtle Bay, a lookout for whales was posted. During
the day watches, a boatsteerer and a sailor sat on the topsail yard for
two hours at a stretch and scanned the sea for spouts. We stood down the
coast of Lower California and in a few days, were in the tide-rip which is
always running off Cape St. Lucas, where the waters of the Pacific meet a
counter-current from the Gulf of California. We rounded Cape St. Lucas and
sailed north into the gulf, having a distant view of La Paz, a little town
backed by gray mountains. Soon we turned south again, keeping close to the
Mexican coast for several days. I never learned how far south we went, but
we must have worked pretty well toward the equator, for when we stood out
across the Pacific for the Hawaiian Islands, our course was northwesterly.

I saw my first whales one morning while working in the bows with the watch
under Mr. Lander's supervision. A school of finbacks was out ahead moving
in leisurely fashion toward the brig. There were about twenty of them and
the sea was dotted with their fountains. "Blow!" breathed old man Landers
with mild interest as though to himself. "Blow!" boomed Captain Winchester
in his big bass voice from the quarter-deck. "Nothin' but finbacks, sir,"
shouted the boatsteerer from the mast-head. "All right," sang back the
captain. "Let 'em blow." It was easy for these old whalers even at this
distance to tell they were not sperm whales. Their fountains rose straight
into the air. A sperm whale's spout slants up from the water diagonally.

The whales were soon all about the ship, seemingly unafraid, still
traveling leisurely, their heads rising and falling rhythmically, and at
each rise blowing up a fountain of mist fifteen feet high. The fountains
looked like water; some water surely was mixed with them; but I was told
that the mist was the breath of the animals made visible by the colder
air. The breath came from the blow holes in a sibilant roar that resembled
no sound I had ever heard. If one can imagine a giant of fable snoring in
his sleep, one may have an idea of the sound of the mighty exhalation. The
great lungs whose gentle breathing could shoot a jet of spray fifteen feet
into the air must have had the power of enormous bellows.

Immense coal-black fellows these finbacks were--some at least sixty or
seventy feet long. One swam so close to the brig that when he blew, the
spray fell all about me, wetting my clothes like dew. The finback is a
baleen whale and a cousin of the right whale and the bowhead. Their mouths
are edged with close-set slabs of baleen, which, however, is so short that
it is worthless for commercial purposes. They are of much slenderer build
than the more valuable species of whale. Their quickness and activity make
them dangerous when hunted in the boats, but their bodies are encased in
blubber so thin that it is as worthless as their bone. Consequently they
are not hunted unless a whaling ship is hard up for oil.

We gradually worked into the trade winds that blew steadily from the
southeast. These winds stayed with us for several weeks or rather we
stayed with the winds; while in them it was rarely necessary to take in
or set a sail or brace a yard. After we had passed through these aerial
rivers, flowing through definite, if invisible, banks, we struck the
doldrums--areas of calm between wind currents--they might be called
whirlpools of stillness. Later in the day light, fitful breezes finally
pushed us through them into the region of winds again.

The slow voyage to the Hawaiian islands--on the sperm whale grounds, we
cruised under short sail--might have proved monotonous if we had not been
kept constantly busy and if diverting incidents had not occurred almost
every day. Once we sighted three immense turtles sunning themselves on
the sea. To the captain they held out prospect of soups and delicate
dishes for the cabin table, and with Long John as boatsteerer, a boat was
lowered for them. I expected it would be difficult to get within darting
distance. What was my surprise to see the turtles, with heads in the air
and perfectly aware of their danger, remain upon the surface until the
boat was directly upon them. The fact was they could not go under quickly;
the big shells kept them afloat. Long John dropped his harpoon crashing
through the shell of one of the turtles, flopped it into the boat, and
then went on without particular hurry, and captured the other two in the
same way. The cabin feasted for several days on the delicate flesh of the
turtles; the forecastle got only a savory smell from the galley, as was

We ran into a school of porpoises on another occasion--hundreds of them
rolling and tumbling about the ship, like fat porkers on a frolic. Little
Johnny took a position on the forecastle head with a harpoon, the line
from which had been made fast to the fore-bitt. As a porpoise rose beneath
him, he darted his harpoon straight into its back. The sea pig went
wriggling under, leaving the water dyed with its blood. It was hauled
aboard, squirming and twisting. Little Johnny harpooned two more before
the school took fright and disappeared. The porpoises were cleaned and
some of their meat, nicely roasted, was sent to the forecastle. It made
fine eating, tasting something like beef.

The steward was an inveterate fisherman and constantly kept a baited hook
trailing in the brig's wake, the line tied to the taff-rail. He caught
a great many bonitos and one day landed a dolphin. We had seen many of
these beautiful fish swimming about the ship--long, graceful and looking
like an animate streak of blue sky. The steward's dolphin was about five
feet long. I had often seen in print the statement that dolphins turned
all colors of the rainbow in dying and I had as often seen the assertion
branded as a mere figment of poetic imagination. Our dolphin proved the
truth of the poetic tradition. As life departed, it changed from blue to
green, bronze, salmon, gold, and gray, making death as beautiful as a
gorgeous kaleidoscope.

We saw flying fish every day--great "coveys" of them, one may say. They
frequently flew several hundred yards, fluttering their webbed side fins
like the wings of a bird, sometimes rising fifteen to twenty feet above
the water, and curving and zigzagging in their flight. More than once they
flew directly across the ship and several fell on deck. I was talking with
Kaiuli, the Kanaka, one night when we heard a soft little thud on deck. I
should have paid no attention but Kaiuli was alert on the instant. "Flying
feesh," he cried zestfully and rushed off to search the deck. He found
the fish and ate it raw, smacking his lips over it with great gusto. The
Hawaiian islanders, he told me, esteem raw flying fish a great delicacy.

I never saw water so "darkly, deeply, beautifully blue" as in the
middle of the Pacific where we had some four miles of water under us.
It was as blue as indigo. At night, the sea seemed afire with riotous
phosphorescence. White flames leaped about the bows where the brig cut
the water before a fresh breeze; the wake was a broad, glowing path. When
white caps were running every wave broke in sparks and tongues of flame,
and the ocean presented the appearance of a prairie swept by fire. A big
shark came swimming about the ship one night and it shone like a living
incandescence--a silent, ghost-like shape slowly gliding under the brig
and out again.

The idle night watches in the tropics were great times for story telling.
The deep-water sailors were especially fond of this way of passing the
time. While the green hands were engaging in desultory talk and wishing
for the bell to strike to go back to their bunks, these deep-water fellows
would be pacing up and down or sitting on deck against the bulwarks,
smoking their pipes and spinning yarns to each other. The stories as a
rule were interminable and were full of "Then he says" and "Then the other
fellow says." It was a poor story that did not last out a four-hour watch
and many of them were regular "continued in our next" serials, being cut
short at the end of one watch to be resumed in the next.

No matter how long-winded or prosy the narrative, the story teller was
always sure of an audience whose attention never flagged for an instant.
The boyish delight of these full-grown men in stories amazed me. I had
never seen anything like it. Once in a while a tale was told that was
worth listening to, but most of them were monotonously uninteresting. They
bored me.



One damp morning, with frequent showers falling here and there over the
sea and not a drop wetting the brig, Captain Winchester suddenly stopped
pacing up and down the weather side of the quarter-deck, threw his head up
into the wind, and sniffed the air.

"There's sperm whale about as sure as I live," he said to Mr. Landers. "I
smell 'em."

Mr. Landers inhaled the breeze through his nose in jerky little sniffs.

"No doubt about it," he replied. "You could cut the smell with a knife."

I was at the wheel and overheard this talk. I smiled. These old sea dogs,
I supposed, were having a little joke. The skipper saw the grin on my

"Humph, you don't believe I smell whale, eh?" he said. "I can smell whale
like a bird dog smells quail. Take a sniff at the wind. Can't you smell it

I gave a few hopeful sniffs.

"No," I said, "I can't smell anything unless, perhaps, salt water."

"You've got a poor smeller," returned the captain. "The wind smells rank
and oily. That means sperm whale. If I couldn't smell it, I could taste
it. I'll give you a plug of tobacco, if we don't raise sperm before dark."

He didn't have to pay the tobacco. Within an hour, we raised a sperm
whale spouting far to windward and traveling in the same direction as the
brig. The captain hurried to the cabin for his binoculars. As he swung
himself into the shrouds to climb to the mast-head, he shouted to me,
"Didn't I tell you I could smell 'em?" The watch was called. The crew of
the captain's boat was left to work the ship and Mr. Landers and Gabriel
lowered in the larboard and waist boats. Sails were run up and we went
skimming away on our first whale hunt. We had a long beat to windward
ahead of us and as the whale was moving along at fair speed, remaining
below fifteen minutes or so between spouts, it was slow work cutting down
the distance that separated us from it.

"See how dat spout slant up in de air?" remarked old Gabriel whom the
sight of our first sperm had put in high good humor.

We looked to where the whale was blowing and saw its fountain shoot into
the air diagonally, tufted with a cloudy spread of vapor at the top.

"You know why it don't shoot straight up?"

No one knew.

"Dat feller's blow hole in de corner ob his square head--dat's why," said
Gabriel. "He blow his fountain out in front of him. Ain't no udder kind
o' whale do dat. All de udder kind blow straight up. All de differ in de
worl' between dat sperm whale out dere and de bowhead and right whale up
nort'. Ain't shaped nothin' a-tall alike. Bowhead and right whale got big
curved heads and big curved backs. Sperm whale's about one-third head and
his back ain't got no bow to it--not much--jest lies straight out behind
his head. He look littler in de water dan de right and bowhead whale. But
he ain't. He's as big as de biggest whale dat swims de sea. I've seen a
150 barrel sperm dat measure seventy feet.

"Blow!" added the old negro as he caught sight of the whale spouting again.

"Bowhead and right whale got no teeth," he continued. "Dey got only long
slabs o' baleen hung wit' hair in de upper jaw. Sperm whale got teeth same
as you and me--about twenty on a side and all in his lower jaw. Ain't got
no teeth in his upper jaw a-tall. His mouth is white inside and his teeth
stand up five or six inches out o' his gums and are wide apart and sharp
and pointed and look jes' like de teeth of a saw. Wen he open his mouth,
his lower jaw fall straight down and his mouth's big enough to take a
whale boat inside.

"Sperm whale's fightin' whale. He fight wit' his tail and his teeth. He
knock a boat out de water wit' his flukes and he scrunch it into kindlin'
wood wit' his teeth. He's got fightin' sense too--he's sly as a fox. W'en
I was young feller, I was in de sperm trade mysel' and used to ship out
o' New Bedford round Cape o' Good Hope for sperm whale ground in Indian
Ocean and Sout' Pacific. Once I go on top a sperm whale in a boat an'
he turn flukes and lash out wit' his tail but miss us. Den he bring up
his old head and take a squint back at us out o' his foxy little eye and
begin to slew his body roun' till he get his tail under de boat. But de
boatheader too smart fer him and we stern oars and get out o' reach. But
de whale didn't know we done backed out o' reach and w'en he bring up dat
tail it shoot out o' de water like it was shot out o' a cannon. Mighty
fine fer us he miss us dat time.

"But dat don't discourage dat whale a-tall. He swim round and slew round
and sight at us out o' his eye and at las' he get under de boat. Den he
lift it on de tip o' his tail sky-high and pitch us all in de water. Dat
was jes' what he been working for. He swim away and turn round and come
shootin' back straight fer dat boat and w'en he get to it, he crush it
wit' his teeth and chew it up and shake his head like a mad bulldog until
dere warn't nothin' left of dat boat but a lot o' kindlin' wood. But dat
warn't all. He swim to a man who wuz lying across an oar to keep afloat
and he chew dat man up and spit him out in li'l pieces and we ain't never
see nothin' o' dat feller again.

"Guess that whale was goin' to give us all de same medicine, but he ain't
have time. De udder boats come up and fill him full o' harpoons and keep
stickin' der lances into him and kill him right where he lays and he never
had no chance to scoff the rest o' us. But if it ain't fer dem boats,
I guess dat feller eat us all jes' like plum duff. Sperm whale, some
fighter, believe me.

"Dere he white waters--blow!" added Gabriel as the whale came to the
surface again.

"Sperm whale try out de bes' oil," the garrulous old whaleman went on.
"Bowhead and right whale got thicker blubber and make more oil, but sperm
whale oil de bes'. He got big cistern--what dey call a 'case'--in de top
ob his head and it's full o' spermaceti, sloshing about in dere and jes'
as clear as water. His old head is always cut off and hoist on deck to
bale out dat case. Many times dey find ambergrease (ambergis) floating
beside a dead sperm whale. It's solid and yellowish and stuck full o'
cuttle feesh beaks dat de whale's done swallowed but ain't digest. Dey
makes perfume out o' dat ambergrease and it's worth its weight in gold.
I've offen seen it in chunks dat weighed a hundred pounds.

"You see a sperm whale ain't eat nothin' but cuttle feesh--giant squid,
dey calls 'em, or devil feesh. Dey certainly is terrible fellers--is dem
devil feesh. Got arms twenty or thirty feet long wit' sucking discs all
over 'em and a big fat body in de middle ob dese snaky arms, wit' big
pop-eyes as big as water buckets and a big black beak like a parrot's
to tear its food wit'. Dose devil feesh. Dey certainly is terrible
fellers--is dem sperm whale nose 'em out and eat 'em. Some time dey comes
to de top and de whale and de cuttle feesh fights it out. I've hearn old
whalers say dey seen fights between sperm whale and cuttle feesh but I
ain't never seen dat and I reckon mighty few fellers ever did. But when a
sperm whale is killed, he spews out chunks o' cuttle feesh and I've seen
de water about a dead sperm thick wit' white chunks of cuttle feesh as big
as a sea ches' and wit' de suckin' disc still on 'em.

"Blow!" said Gabriel again with his eyes on the whale. "Dat feesh
certainly some traveler."

We were hauling closer to the whale. I could see it distinctly by this
time and could note how square and black its head was. Its appearance
might be compared not inaptly to a box-car glistening in the sun under a
fresh coat of black paint. It did not cut the water but pushed it in white
foam in front of it.

"Sperm pretty scarce nowadays," Gabriel resumed. "Nothing like as
plentiful in Pacific waters as dey used to be in de ole days. Whalers done
pretty well thinned 'em out. But long ago, it used to be nothin' to see
schools of a hundred, mostly cows wit' three or four big bulls among 'em."

"Any difference between a bowhead and a right whale?" some one asked.

"O good Lord, yes," answered Gabriel. "Big difference. Right whale
thinner whale dan a bowhead, ain't got sech thick blubber neither. He's
quicker in de water and got nothin' like such long baleen. You ketch right
whale in Behring Sea. I ain't never see none in de Arctic Ocean. You ketch
bowhead both places. Right whale fightin' feesh, too, but he ain't so
dangerous as a sperm."

Let me add that I give this statement of the old whaleman for what it is
worth. All books I have ever read on the subject go on the theory that the
Greenland or right whale is the same animal as the bowhead. We lowered for
a right whale later in the voyage in Behring Sea. To my untrained eyes,
it looked like a bowhead which we encountered every few days while on the
Arctic Ocean whaling grounds. But there was no doubt or argument about it
among the old whalemen aboard. To them it was a "right whale" and nothing
else. Old Gabriel may have known what he was talking about. Despite the
naturalists, whalers certainly make a pronounced distinction.

By the time Gabriel had imparted all this information, we had worked to
within a half mile of our whale which was still steaming along at the
rate of knots. They say a sperm whale has ears so small they are scarcely
detected, but it has a wonderfully keen sense of hearing for all that.
Our whale must have heard us or seen us. At any rate it bade us a sudden
good-bye and scurried off unceremoniously over the rim of the world. The
boats kept on along the course it was heading for over an hour, but the
whale never again favored us with so much as a distant spout. Finally
signals from the brig's mast-head summoned us aboard.

As the men had had no practice in the boats before, both boats lowered
sail and we started to row back to the vessel. We had pulled about a mile
when Mendez, who was acting as boatsteerer, said quietly, "Blow! Blackfish
dead ahead."

"Aye, aye," replied Gabriel. "Now stand by, Tomas. I'll jes' lay you
aboard one o' dem blackfeesh and we'll teach dese green fellers somethin'
'bout whalin'."

There were about fifty blackfish in the school. They are a species of
small toothed whale, from ten to twenty feet long, eight or ten feet in
circumference and weighing two or three tons. They were gamboling and
tumbling like porpoises. Their black bodies flashed above the surface
in undulant curves and I wondered if, when seen at a distance, these
little cousins of the sperm had not at some time played their part in
establishing the myth of the sea serpent.

"Get ready, Tomas," said Gabriel as we drew near the school.

"Aye, aye, sir," responded Mendez.

Pulling away as hard as we could, we shot among the blackfish. Mendez
selected a big one and drove his harpoon into its back. Almost at the
same time Mr. Lander's boat became fast to another. Our fish plunged and
reared half out of water, rolled and splashed about, finally shot around
in a circle and died. Mr. Lander's fish was not fatally hit and when it
became apparent it would run away with a tub of line, Little Johnny,
the boatsteerer, cut adrift and let it go. Mendez cut our harpoon free
and left our fish weltering on the water. Blackfish yield a fairly
good quality of oil, but one was too small a catch to potter with. Our
adventure among the blackfish was merely practice for the boat crews to
prepare them for future encounters with the monarchs of the deep.



The crew called Tomas Mendez, the acting third mate, the "Night King." I
have forgotten what forecastle poet fastened the name upon him, but it
fitted like a glove. In the day watches when the captain and mate were on
deck, he was only a quite, unobtrusive little negro, insignificant in size
and with a bad case of rheumatism. But at night when the other officers
were snoring in their bunks below and the destinies of the brig were in
his hands, he became an autocrat who ruled with a hand of iron.

He was as black as a bowhead's skin--a lean, scrawny, sinewy little
man, stooped about the shoulders and walking with a slight limp. His
countenance was imperious. His lips were thin and cruel. His eyes
were sharp and sinister. His ebony skin was drawn so tightly over the
frame-work of his face that it almost seemed as if it would crack when he
smiled. His nose had a domineering Roman curve. He carried his head high.
In profile, this little blackamoor suggested the mummified head of some
old Pharaoh.

He was a native of the Cape Verde islands. He spoke English with the
liquid burr of a Latin. His native tongue was Portuguese. No glimmer of
education relieved his mental darkness. It was as though his outside color
went all the way through. He could neither read nor write, but he was a
good sailor and no better whaleman ever handled a harpoon or laid a boat
on a whale's back. For twenty years he had been sailing as boatsteerer
on whale ships, and to give the devil his due, he had earned a name for
skill and courage in a thousand adventures among sperm, bowhead, and right
whales in tropical and frozen seas.

[Illustration: Waiting for the Whale to Breach]

My first impression of the Night King stands out in my memory with cameo
distinctness. In the bustle and confusion of setting sails, just after the
tug had cut loose from us outside Golden Gate heads, I saw Mendez, like an
ebony statue, standing in the waist of the ship, an arm resting easily on
the bulwarks, singing out orders in a clear, incisive voice that had in it
the ring of steel.

When I shipped, it had not entered my mind that any but white men would
be of the ship's company. It was with a shock like a blow in the face
that I saw this little colored man singing out orders. I wondered in a
dazed sort of way if he was to be in authority over me. I was not long in
doubt. When calm had succeeded the first confusion and the crew had been
divided into watches, Captain Winchester announced from the break of the
poop that "Mr." Mendez would head the port watch. That was my watch. While
the captain was speaking, "Mr." Mendez stood like a black Napoleon and
surveyed us long and silently. Then suddenly he snapped out a decisive
order and the white men jumped to obey. The Night King had assumed his

The Night King and I disliked each other from the start. It may seem
petty now that it's all past, but I raged impotently in the bitterness
of outraged pride at being ordered about by this black overlord of the
quarter-deck. He was not slow to discover my smoldering resentment and
came to hate me with a cordiality not far from classic. He kept me
busy with some silly job when the other men were smoking their pipes
and spinning yarns. If I showed the left-handedness of a landlubber in
sailorizing he made me stay on deck my watch below to learn the ropes. If
there was dirt or litter to be shoveled overboard, he sang out for me.

"Clean up dat muck dere, you," he would say with fine contempt.

The climax of his petty tyrannies came one night on the run to Honolulu
when he charged me with some trifling infraction of ship's rules, of which
I was not guilty, and ordered me aloft to sit out the watch on the fore
yard. The yard was broad, the night was warm, the ship was traveling on a
steady keel, and physically the punishment was no punishment at all. There
was no particular ignominy in the thing, either, for it was merely a joke
to the sailors. The sting of it was in having to take such treatment from
this small colored person without being able to resent it or help myself.

The very next morning I was awakened by the cry of the lookout on the
topsail yard.

"Blow! Blow! There's his old head. Blo--o--o--w! There he ripples. There
goes flukes." Full-lunged and clear, the musical cry came from aloft like
a song with little yodling breaks in the measure. It was the view-halloo
of the sea, and it quickened the blood and set the nerves tingling.

"Where away?" shouted the captain, rushing from the cabin with his

"Two points on the weather bow, sir," returned the lookout.

For a moment nothing was to be seen but an expanse of yeasty sea. Suddenly
into the air shot a fountain of white water--slender, graceful, spreading
into a bush of spray at the top. A great sperm was disporting among the
white caps.

"Call all hands and clear away the boats," yelled the captain.

Larboard and waist boats were lowered from the davits. Their crews
scrambled over the ship's side, the leg-o'-mutton sails were hoisted, and
the boats, bending over as the wind caught them, sped away on the chase.
The Night King went as boatsteerer of the waist boat. I saw him smiling to
himself as he shook the kinks out of his tub-line and laid his harpoons
in position in the bows--harpoons with no bomb-guns attached to the

In the distance, a slow succession of fountains gleamed in the brilliant
tropical sunshine like crystal lamps held aloft on fairy pillars. Suddenly
the tell-tale beacons of spray went out. The whale had sounded. Over the
sea, the boats quartered like baffled foxhounds to pick up the lost trail.

Between the ship and the boats, the whale came quietly to the surface at
last and lay perfectly still, taking its ease, sunning itself and spouting
lazily. The captain, perched in the ship's cross-trees, signalled its
position with flags, using a code familiar to whalemen. The Night King
caught the message first. He turned quickly to the boatheader at the
tiller and pointed. Instantly the boat came about, the sailors shifted
from one gunwale to the other, the big sail swung squarely out and filled.
All hands settled themselves for the run to close quarters.

With thrilling interest, I watched the hunt from the ship's forward
bulwarks, where I stood grasping a shroud to prevent pitching overboard.
Down a long slant of wind, the boat ran free with the speed of a
greyhound, a white plume of spray standing high on either bow. The Night
King stood alert and cool, one foot on the bow seat, balancing a harpoon
in his hands. The white background of the bellying sail threw his tense
figure into relief. Swiftly, silently, the boat stole upon its quarry
until but one long sea lay between. It rose upon the crest of the wave
and poised there for an instant like some great white-winged bird of
prey. Then sweeping down the green slope, it struck the whale bows-on and
beached its keel out of the water on its glistening back. As it struck,
the Night King let fly one harpoon and another, driving them home up to
the wooden hafts with all the strength of his lithe arms.

The sharp bite of the iron in its vitals stirred the titanic mass of
flesh and blood from perfect stillness into a frenzy of sudden movement
that churned the water of the sea into white froth. The great head went
under, the giant back curved down like the whirling surface of some
mighty fly-wheel, the vast flukes, like some black demon's arm, shot
into the air. Left and right and left again, the great tail thrashed,
smiting the sea with thwacks which could have been heard for miles. It
struck the boat glancingly with its bare tip, yet the blow stove a great
hole in the bottom timbers, lifted the wreck high in air, and sent the
sailors sprawling into the sea. Then the whale sped away with the speed
of a limited express. It had not been vitally wounded. Over the distant
horizon, it passed out of sight, blowing up against the sky fountains of
clear water unmixed with blood.

The other boat hurried to the rescue and the crew gathered up the
half-drowned sailors perched on the bottom of the upturned boat or
clinging to floating sweeps. Fouled in the rigging of the sail, held
suspended beneath the wreck in the green crystal of the sea water, they
found the Night King, dead.

When the whale crushed the boat--at the very moment, it must have
been--the Night King had snatched the knife kept fastened in a sheath on
the bow thwart and with one stroke of the razor blade, severed the harpoon
lines. He thus released the whale and prevented it from dragging the boat
away in its mad race. The Night King's last act had saved the lives of his

I helped lift the body over the rail. We laid it on the quarter deck near
the skylight. It lurched and shifted in a ghastly sort of way as the ship
rolled, the glazed eyes open to the blue sky. The captain's Newfoundland
dog came and sniffed at the corpse. Sheltered from the captain's eye
behind the galley, the Kanaka cabin boy shook a furtive fist at the dead
man and ground out between clenched teeth, "You black devil, you'll never
kick me again." Standing not ten feet away, the mate cracked a joke to
the second mate and the two laughed uproariously. The work of the ship
went on all around.

Looking upon the dead thing lying there, I thought of the pride with which
the living man had borne himself in the days of his power. I beheld in
fancy the silent, lonely, imperious little figure, pacing to and fro on
the weather side of the quarter-deck--to and fro under the stars. I saw
him stop in the darkness by the wheel, as his custom was, to peer down
into the lighted binnacle and say in vibrant tones, "Keep her steady," or
"Let her luff." I saw him buttoned up in his overcoat to keep the dew of
the tropical night from his rheumatic joints, slip down the poop ladder
and stump forward past the try-works to see how things fared in the bow.
Again I heard his nightly cry to the lookout on the forecastle-head,
"Keep a bright lookout dere, you," and saw him limp back to continue his
vigil, pacing up and down. The qualities that had made him hated when he
was indeed the Night King flooded back upon me, but I did not forget the
courage of my enemy that had redeemed them all and made him a hero in the
hour of death.

In the afternoon, old Nelson sat on the deck beside the corpse and with
palm and needle fashioned a long canvas bag. Into this the dead man was
sewed with a weight of brick and sand at his feet.

At sunset, when all hands were on deck for the dog watch, they carried
the body down on the main deck and with feet to the sea, laid it on the
gang-plank which had been removed from the rail. There in the waist the
ship's company gathered with uncovered heads. Over all was the light of
the sunset, flushing the solemn, rough faces and reddening the running
white-caps of the sea. The captain called me to him and placed a Bible in
my hands.

"Read a passage of scripture," he said.

Dumbfounded that I should be called upon to officiate at the burial
service over the man I had hated, I took my stand on the main hatch at
the head of the body and prepared to obey orders. No passage to fit my
singular situation occurred to me and I opened the book at random. The
leaves fell apart at the seventh chapter of Matthew and I read aloud the
section beginning:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye
shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to
you again."

At the close of the reading the captain called for "The Sweet Bye and Bye"
and the crew sang the verses of the old hymn solemnly. When the full-toned
music ceased, two sailors tilted the gang-plank upwards and the remains of
the Night King slid off and plunged into the ocean.

As the body slipped toward the water, a Kanaka sailor caught up a bucket
of slop which he had set aside for the purpose, and dashed its filth over
the corpse from head to foot. Wide-eyed with astonishment, I looked to see
instant punishment visited upon this South Sea heathen who so flagrantly
violated the sanctities of the dead. But not a hand was raised, not a word
of disapproval was uttered. The Kanaka had but followed a whaler's ancient
custom. The parting insult to the dead was meant to discourage the ghost
from ever coming back to haunt the brig.



At midnight after the burial, we raised the volcanic fire of Mauna Loa
dead ahead. Sailors declare that a gale always follows a death at sea and
the wind that night blew hard. But we cracked on sail and next morning we
were gliding in smooth water along the shore of the island of Hawaii with
the great burning mountain towering directly over us and the smoke from
the crater swirling down through our rigging.

We loafed away three pleasant weeks among the islands, loitering along the
beautiful sea channels, merely killing time until Captain Shorey should
arrive from San Francisco by steamer. Once we sailed within distant view
of Molokai. It was as beautiful in its tropical verdure as any of the
other islands of the group, but its very name was fraught with sinister
and tragic suggestiveness;--it was the home of the lepers, the island of
the Living Death.

We did not anchor at any time. None of the whaling fleet which meets here
every spring ever anchors. The lure of the tropical shores is strong and
there would be many desertions if the ships lay in port. We sailed close
to shore in the day time, often entering Honolulu harbor, but at night we
lay off and on, as the sailor term is--that is we tacked off shore and
back again, rarely venturing closer than two or three miles, a distance
the hardiest swimmer, bent upon desertion, would not be apt to attempt in
those shark-haunted waters.

Many attempts to escape from vessels of the whaling fleet occur in the
islands every year. We heard many yarns of these adventures. A week before
we arrived, five sailors had overpowered the night watch aboard their ship
and escaped to shore in a whale boat. They were captured in the hills back
of Honolulu and returned to their vessel. This is usually the fate of
runaways. A standing reward of $25 a man is offered by whaling ships for
the capture and return of deserters, consequently all the natives of the
islands, especially the police, are constantly on the lookout for runaways
from whaling crews.

When we drew near the islands the runaway fever became epidemic in the
forecastle. Each sailor had his own little scheme for getting away. Big
Taylor talked of knocking the officers of the night watch over the head
with a belaying-pin and stealing ashore in a boat. Ole Oleson cut up his
suit of oil-skins and sewed them into two air-tight bags with one of which
under each arm, he proposed to float ashore. Bill White, an Englishman,
got possession of a lot of canvas from the cabin and was clandestinely
busy for days making it into a boat in which he fondly hoped to paddle
ashore some fine night in the dark of the moon. "Slim," our Irish
grenadier, stuffed half his belongings into his long sea-boots which he
planned to press into service both as carry-alls and life-preservers.
Peter Swenson, the forecastle's baby boy, plugged up some big empty oil
cans and made life buoys of them by fastening a number of them together.

Just at the time when the forecastle conspiracies were at their height
we killed a thirteen-foot shark off Diamond Head. Our catch was one of
a school of thirty or forty monsters that came swarming about the brig,
gliding slowly like gray ghosts only a few feet below the surface, nosing
close to the ship's side for garbage and turning slightly on their sides
to look out of their evil eyes at the sailors peering down upon them over
the rail. Long John, the boat-steerer, got out a harpoon, and standing on
the bulwarks shot the iron up to the wooden haft into the back of one of
the sharks, the spear-point of the weapon passing through the creature
and sticking out on the under side. The stout manila hemp attached to the
harpoon had been made fast to the fore bitt. It was well that this was
so, for the shark plunged and fought with terrific fury, lashing the sea
into white froth. But the harpoon had pierced a vital part and in a little
while the great fish ceased its struggles and lay still, belly up on the

It was hauled close alongside, and a boat having been lowered, a large
patch of the shark's skin was cut off. Then the carcass was cut adrift.
The skin was as rough as sandpaper. It was cut into small squares, which
were used in scouring metal and for all the polishing purposes for which
sandpaper serves ashore.

Life aboard the brig seemed less intolerable thereafter, and an essay at
escape through waters infested by such great, silent, ravenous sea-wolves
seemed a hazard less desirable than before. Taylor talked no more about
slugging the night watch. Slim unpacked his sea-boots and put his effects
back into his chest. Peter threw his plugged oil cans overboard. Bill
White turned his canvas boat into curtains for his bunk, and Ole Oleson
voiced in the lilting measure of Scandinavia his deep regret that he had
cut up a valuable suit of oil-skins.

The captain of one of the whaling ships came one afternoon to visit our
skipper and his small boat was left dragging in our wake as the brig
skimmed along under short sail. It occurred to me, and at the same time
to my two Kanaka shipmates, that here was a fine opportunity to escape.
It was coming on dusk, and if we could get into the boat and cut loose we
might have a splendid chance to get away. The Kanakas and I climbed over
the bow, intending to let ourselves into the sea and drift astern to the
boat, but the breeze had freshened and the brig was traveling so fast we
did not believe we could catch the boat; and if we failed to do so, we
might confidently expect the sharks to finish us. We abandoned the plan
after we had remained squatting on the stays over the bow for a half hour
considering our chances and getting soaked to the skin from the dashing

A pathetic incident grew out of the visit of the captain from the other
ship. Tomas Mendez's brother, a boat-steerer, came aboard with the boat's
crew. He was a young negro whom all the boat-steerers and officers knew.
He came swinging lightly over our rail, laughing and happy over the
prospect of seeing his brother.

"Hello, fellers," he called to the Portuguese officers and boat-steerers
who welcomed him. "Where's my brudder?"

"Dead, my boy," said one of the boat-steerers gently.

"Dead?" echoed Mendez.

He staggered back. When he had heard the details of his brother's death,
he burst into tears. All the time his skipper remained aboard, the poor
fellow stood by the cooper's bench and sobbed.

While drifting at the mouth of Honolulu harbor one morning, Captain
Winchester called for a boat's crew to row him ashore. All hands wanted
to go. I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen. The morning was calm and
beautiful, the water was smooth, and we pulled away with a will.

The city looked inviting at the foot of its green mountains, its quaint
houses embowered in tropical foliage. On our starboard beam rose the fine,
bold promontory of Diamond Head, and in between the headland and the city
lay Waikiki, the fashionable bathing beach. We could see the bathers
taking the surf in the bright morning sunlight, while beyond stretched a
delectable wooded country, above the tops of whose trees peeped manors
and villas of wealthy citizens.

We reached the long pier at last and tied up the boat. While the captain
went into the city the sailors remained on the dock in charge of Long
John, the boat-steerer. Three snaky-eyed Kanaka policemen in blue uniforms
hung about, watching our every movement. We were not allowed to stir off
the dock. There was a street corner within a stone's throw. A little red
brick store stood upon it. A lazy Kanaka lounged against the building,
smoking a cigarette. That corner fascinated me. If I only could dodge
around it! How near it seemed, and yet how unattainable!

But if we sailormen could not get into town, we at least had the freedom
of the long pier. This was several hundred feet long and piled thick with
freight of all descriptions, which shut its harbor end from view. With a
casual and indifferent air I sauntered out along the pier. In a moment I
was hidden behind the merchandise from the unsuspecting Long John and
the policemen. I soon reached the harbor end. I saw that a sharp curve in
the shore line brought the part of the pier on which I was standing close
to land. It seemed easy to dive off the pier, swim past a big four-masted
English ship unloading alongside, gain the land, and escape to the cane
fields which swept up to the edge of the city.

I sat down behind some freight and began to take off my shoes. I had one
off when a barefooted Kanaka suddenly stepped into view from behind a pile
of bales and boxes. He was tip-toeing and peering about him furtively. I
knew him for a spy instantly. Directly he saw me staring at him he looked
as guilty as one taken in crime, and slunk away sheepishly. I knew he was
on his way to inform on me and made up my mind not to get my clothes wet
by any hopeless attempt to run away.

I put my shoe back on and strolled back toward the boat. I saw one of my
shipmates--it was Richard, the deep-water German sailor--walking up the
gang-plank of the English ship alongside the dock. I followed him. When
we reached the deck, we saw a gang of sailors working about an open hatch.

"Hello, mates," said Richard. "We are merchant seamen and want to clear
out from a blooming whaler. Stow us away, won't you?"

The sailors didn't seem to take kindly to the proposition. Perhaps they
were afraid of getting into trouble. But they told us we might go down in
the fore-peak of the ship and stow ourselves away. Richard and I climbed
down three decks and found ourselves in the chain lockers deep in the
ship's bow. It was pitch dark down there and we lay upon the ship's cable
in the farthest corners. For three hours we huddled there in silence.

Just when we were beginning to congratulate ourselves that our escape
would be successful, the hatch was pulled off suddenly and three Kanaka
policemen with drawn clubs came leaping down upon us.

"Come out of this, you," they yelled, swearing at us and brandishing their
billets. The jig was up; resistance would have got us only broken heads.
We were led upon deck and escorted toward the gangway for the pier. But I
was for one more try before giving up. Suddenly I darted for the rail on
the harbor side of the ship. We were in the waist and the bulwarks reached
about to my breast. Before the Kanaka policemen had recovered from their
surprise I had plunged head first over the rail and dived into the water
twenty or thirty feet below. When I came to the surface I struck out for
shore with all my might. It was only a short swim. I soon made the land
and dragged myself, dripping brine, out upon a beach.

I glanced toward the pier. The policemen, with a crowd at their backs,
were dashing for me along shore. I started for the cane fields, but in my
wet and heavy clothes I stumbled along as if there was lead in my shoes.
Perhaps I ran a quarter of a mile. My pursuers gained on me steadily. I
was drawing near a cane field, in which I felt I should be able to lose
myself; but before reaching it, my pursuers sprang upon me and bore me to
the ground. Then, with a policeman on either side of me, I was marched
back to the brig's boat.

The populace had turned out royally in my honor and I passed through a
lane of brown humanity that bent round eyes upon me and chortled and
spluttered Kanaka and seemed to get a huge amount of enjoyment out of
my capture. As my captors paraded me onto the pier, who should be there
waiting for me but Captain Shorey, our new skipper, just arrived from San
Francisco by steamer. He stood with feet wide apart and arms folded on his
breast and looked at me steadily with stern, cold eyes. In my wet clothes
I cut a sorry figure. I felt ashamed of myself and realized that this
introduction to my new captain was not all it should have been. Captain
Winchester had nothing to say to Richard and me on the long pull back to
the brig. Once aboard, he drew a pint of Jamaica rum from his pocket and
gave every man of the boat's crew, except us, a swig. But no penalty of
any sort was imposed upon us for our escapade. This surprised us.



On a bright, sunshiny morning a few days later, with a light breeze just
ruffling the harbor, the brig with her sails laid back and her head
pointed seaward was drifting with the ebb tide perhaps a mile and a
quarter off shore between Honolulu and Diamond Head. Captain Winchester
had set out for the city in a whale boat. Those of the sailors left aboard
were idling forward. Mr. Landers, the mate, sat by the skylight on the
poop, reading a magazine. Second Mate Gabriel and the cooper were busy at
the cooper's bench in the waist. No one else was on deck and I resolved to
attempt again to escape. The situation seemed made to order.

In the warm weather of the tropics, I had often seen old man Landers,
when there was nothing doing on deck, sit and read by the hour without
ever looking up. I hoped that this morning his magazine would prove of
absorbing interest. Gabriel and the cooper were intent upon their work.
As for the sailors, I told them I was going to try to swim ashore and if
I were discovered and they had to lower for me, I asked them to hurry as
little as possible so I might have every chance to get away.

For my adventure I wore a blue flannel shirt, dungaree trousers, and my
blue cap. I tied my shoes together with a rope yarn, which I slipped
baldric-fashion over my shoulder. In the belt at my waist I carried a
sailor's sheath knife. With this I had a foolish idea that I might defend
myself against sharks. Without attracting attention, I slipped over the
bow, climbed down by the bob-stays, and let myself into the sea. I let
myself wash silently astern past the ship's side and struck out for shore,
swimming on my side without splash or noise, and looking back to watch
developments aboard.

I am convinced to this day that if I had not been in the water, old
Landers would have kept his nose in that magazine for an hour or so
and drowsed and nodded over it as I had seen him do dozens of times
before. Either my good angel, fearful of the sharks, or my evil genius,
malignantly bent upon thwarting me, must have poked the old fellow in the
ribs. At any rate, he rose from his chair and stepped to the taff-rail
with a pair of binoculars in his hand. He placed the glasses to his eyes
and squinted toward the pier to see whether or not the captain had reached
shore. I don't know whether he saw the captain or not, but he saw me.

"Who's that overboard?" he shouted.

I did not answer. Then he recognized me.

"Hey, you," he cried, calling me by name, "come back here."

I kept on swimming.

"Lay aft here, a boat's crew," Mr. Landers sang out.

Gabriel and the cooper ran to the quarter-deck and stared at me. The
sailors came lounging aft along the rail. Mr. Landers and Gabriel threw
the boat's falls from the davit posts. The sailors strung out across the
deck to lower the boat.

"Lower away," shouted Mr. Landers.

One end of the boat went down rapidly. The other end jerked and lurched
and seemed to remain almost stationary. I wondered whether my shipmates
were bungling purposely. Mr. Landers and Gabriel sprang among them,
brushed them aside and lowered the boat themselves. A crew climbed down
the brig's side into the boat. Old Gabriel went as boatheader. In a jiffy
the sweeps were shot into place, the boat was shoved off, and the chase
was on.

All this had taken time. As the ship was drifting one way and I was
quartering off in an almost opposite direction, I must have been nearly a
half mile from the vessel when Gabriel started to run me down.

I swam on my side with a long, strong stroke that fast swimmers used to
fancy before the Australian crawl came into racing vogue. I was swimming
as I never in my life swam before--swimming for liberty. All my hope and
heart, as well as all my strength, lay in every stroke. The clear, warm
salt water creamed about my head and sometimes over it. I was making time.
Swimming on my side, I could see everything that was happening behind me.
As the boat came after me I noticed there was but a slight ripple of white
water about the prow. Plainly it was not making great speed.

"Pull away, my boys. We ketch dat feller," sang out Gabriel.

Wilson at the midship oar "caught a crab" and tumbled over backwards, his
feet kicking in the air. Wilson was a good oarsman. He was my friend. A
hundred yards more and Walker at the tub oar did the same. He also was my

The boys were doing their best to help me--to give me a chance. I knew it.
Gabriel knew it, too. The crafty old negro recognized the crisis. I could
not hear what he said or see all that he did, but the boys told me about
it afterwards. It must have been a pretty bit of acting.

Suddenly Gabriel half rose from his seat and peered anxiously ahead.

"My God!" he cried, "dat poor feller, he drown. Pull, my boys. Oh, good

The sailors at the sweeps had their backs to me. It was a good long swim
and the water was full of sharks. It was not difficult to make them
believe that I was verging on tragedy.

"Dere he go down!" Gabriel's voice was broken and sobbing. "He t'row his
hands up. He underneath de water. I cain't see him. Oh, dat poor feller!
No, dere he come up again--oh, good Lord! Pull away, my bully boys, pull
away. We save him yet."

Surely the stage lost a star when Gabriel became a whaler. The old
Thespian was good--he was great. His acting carried conviction. The
sailors believed I was drowning. They leaned upon their oars with a will.
The sweeps bent beneath the powerful strokes. The boat jumped through
the water. I noted the increased speed by the white spray that began to
stand at the bow. Gabriel helped along the speed by forward lurches of his
body, pushing at the same time upon the stroke oar. All the while he kept

"We save him yet, dat poor feller! Pull away, my boys."

The boat came up rapidly. In a little while it was almost upon me. I tried
to dodge it by darting off at right angles. It was no use--Gabriel slewed
his tiller and the boat came swishing round upon me. I had played the game
out to the last and I was beaten--that was all. I caught the gunwale near
the bow and pulled myself into the boat.

"You make dam good swim, my boy," said old Gabriel, smiling at me as he
brought the boat around and headed back for the ship.

I had made a good swim. I was fully a mile from the brig. I was not much
over a half mile from shore. I looked across the sunlit, dancing blue
water to the land. How easy it would have been to swim it! How easy it
would have been after I had crawled out upon the sands to hide in the
nearby mountains and live on wild fruit until the ship started for the
north and all danger of capture was past.

No land could have seemed more beautiful. Groves of banana, orange, and
cocoanut trees held out their fruit to me. Forests swept to the summits of
the mountains. Flowers were in riotous bloom everywhere. I could almost
count the ribs in the glossy fronds of the palms. I could hear the soft
crash of the combers on the coral beaches of those enchanted shores. It
all looked like paradise and I had missed it by half a mile.

When I reached the brig, Mr. Landers permitted me to put on dry clothing
and then put me in irons, as the sea phrase is. This consisted in
fastening my hands together in front of me with a pair of steel handcuffs
of the ordinary kind used by sheriffs and policemen everywhere. Then he
made me sit on the main hatch until Captain Winchester came back from
Honolulu, along toward sundown.

"What's the matter with that man?" roared the captain as he swung over the
rail and his eyes lighted on me.

"He jumped overboard and tried to swim ashore," said Mr. Landers in his
nasal Cape Cod drawl.

"Why didn't you get my rifle and shoot him?" thundered the captain.

"Well," returned Mr. Landers, "I don't shoot folks."

After supper the captain stuck his head out of the cabin gangway.

"Come down here, you," he said. I stepped into the cabin, now bright with
lighted lamps. The captain glared at me savagely.

"You want to give me a bad name with Captain Shorey when he takes command,
do you?" he shouted. "You want to make it appear I have been hard on my
men, eh? You think you're a smart sea lawyer, but I'll teach you the
bitterest lesson you ever learned. We are bound for the Arctic Ocean.
There are no ships up there but whale ships, and we do as we please. I
have been sailing to the Arctic for thirteen years as master and mate of
whale ships and I know just how far I can go in dealing with a man without
making myself liable to law. I am going to make it as rough for you as I
know how to make it. I will put you over the jumps right. I will punish
you to the limit. This ship is going to be a floating hell for you for
the rest of the voyage. And when we get back to San Francisco you can
prosecute me all you please."

He drew a key from his pocket and unlocked one manacle. It dropped from
one wrist and dangled from the other.

"Boy," he said to the Kanaka cabin boy, who has been listening with open
mouth and bulging eyes to this tirade, "get this man a cup of water and a

I had had nothing to eat since breakfast, and I sat down at the cabin
table and ate my one hardtack and drank my quart tin of water with a
relish. After my meal, the captain fastened my handcuff again and jerked a
little hatch out of the floor.

"Get down there," he said.

I climbed down and he clapped the hatch on again. I was in darkness except
for the light that filtered from the cabin lamps through the four cracks
of the hatch. When my eyes had become accustomed to the dimness, I made
out that I was in the ship's run, where the provisions for the captain's
table were stored. I rummaged about as well as I could in my handcuffs and
found a sack of raisins open and a box of soda crackers. To these I helped
myself generously. From a forecastle viewpoint they were rare dainties,
and I filled my empty stomach with them. I had not tasted anything so good
since I had my last piece of pie ashore. Pie! Dear me! One doesn't know
how good it is--just common pie baked in a bakery and sold at the corner
grocery--until one cannot get it and has had nothing but salt horse and
cracker hash for months. I used to yearn for pie by day and dream of pie
by night. At bedtime the captain snatched the hatch off again and tossed
me down my blankets. I bundled up in them as best I could and slept with
my manacles on.

I was kept in irons on bread and water for five days and nights. Sometimes
in the daytime, with one handcuff unlocked and hanging from my other
wrist, I was put at slushing down the main boom or washing paint-work. But
for the most part I was held a close prisoner in the run, being called to
the cabin table three times a day for my bread and water. Finally, when
Captain Shorey came aboard and assumed command and the vessel headed for
the north, I was released and sent to the forecastle. My shipmates proved
Job's comforters and were filled with gloomy predictions regarding my

"I pity you from now on," each one said.

But their prophecies proved false. After Captain Shorey took charge of
the ship Mr. Winchester became mate. As mate he was, as may be said,
the ship's foreman, directing the work of the men, and was in much more
intimate contact with the sailors than when he had been skipper. In his
new capacity he had much greater opportunity to make it unpleasant for me
in a thousand ways. But for some reason or other he never made good that
ferocious speech he had delivered to me in the cabin.

When other green hands bungled, he damned them in round terms for their
awkwardness. When I blundered he showed me how to correct my error. "Not
that way, my boy," he would say. "Do it this way." When I took my trick at
the wheel he would often spin a yarn or crack a joke with me. He loaned
me books from time to time. In Behring Sea, when he got out his rifle
and shot okchug seals as they lay basking on cakes of ice, he almost
invariably took me with him in the boat to bring back the kill. In short,
he treated me more considerately than he treated any other man in the
forecastle and before the voyage was over we had become fast friends.



Before leaving the islands, we shipped a Portuguese negro boat-steerer
to take the place of the Night King. He was coal black, had a wild roll
to his eyes, an explosive, spluttering way of talking, looked strikingly
like a great ape, and had little more than simian intelligence. His feet
had the reputation of being the largest feet in the Hawaiian Islands.
When I had seen them I was prepared to believe they were the largest in
the world. He was dubbed "Big Foot" Louis, and the nickname stuck to him
during the voyage. He came aboard barefooted. I don't know whether he
could find any shoes in the islands big enough to fit him or not. Anyway,
he didn't need shoes in the tropics.

When we began to get north into cold weather he needed them badly, and
there were none on board large enough for him to get his toes in. The
captain went through his stock of Eskimo boots, made of walrus hide and
very elastic, but they were too small. When we entered the region of snow,
Louis was still running about the deck barefooted. As a last resort he
sewed himself a pair of canvas shoes--regular meal sacks--and wore them
through snow and blizzard and during the cold season when we were in the
grip of the Behring Sea ice pack. Up around Behring straits the captain
hired an Eskimo to make a pair of walrus hide boots big enough for Louis
to wear, and Louis wore them until we got back to San Francisco and went
ashore in them. I met him wandering along Pacific Street in his walrus
hides. However, he soon found a pair of brogans which he could wear with
more or less comfort.

One night while I was knocking about the Barbary Coast with my shipmates
we heard dance music and the sound of revelry coming from behind the
swinging doors of the Bow Bells saloon, a free-and-easy resort. We stepped
inside. Waltzing around the room with the grace of a young bowhead out of
water was "Big-Foot" Louis, his arm around the waist of a buxom negress,
and on his feet nothing but a pair of red socks. We wondered what had
become of his shoes and spied them on the piano, which the "professor" was
vigorously strumming. Louis seemed to be having more fun than anybody, and
was perfectly oblivious to the titters of the crowd and to the fact that
it was not _de rigueur_ on the Barbary Coast to dance in one's socks.

We left the Hawaiian Islands late in March and, standing straight north,
soon left the tropics behind, never to see them again on the voyage. As we
plunged into the "roaring forties" we struck our first violent storm. The
fury of the gale compelled us to heave to under staysails and drift, lying
in the troughs of the seas and riding the waves sidewise. The storm was
to me a revelation of what an ocean gale could be. Old sailors declared
they never had seen anything worse. The wind shrieked and whistled in the
rigging like a banshee. It was impossible to hear ordinary talk and the
men had to yell into each other's ears. We put out oil bags along the
weather side to keep the waves from breaking. But despite the oil that
spread from them over the water, giant seas frequently broke over the
brig. One crushed the waist boat into kindling wood and sent its fragments
flying all over the deck. We were fortunate to have several other extra
boats in the hold against just such an emergency. Waves sometimes filled
the ship to the top of the bulwarks and the sailors waded about up to
their breasts in brine until the roll of the vessel spilled the water
overboard or it ran back into the sea through the scuppers and hawse-holes.

The waves ran as high as the topsail yard. They would pile up to windward
of us, gaining height and volume until we had to look up almost vertically
to see the tops. Just as a giant comber seemed ready to break in roaring
foam and curl over and engulf us, the staunch little brig would slip up
the slope of water and ride over the summit in safety. Then the sea would
shoot out on the other side of the vessel with a deafening hiss like that
of a thousand serpents and rush skyward again, the wall of water streaked
and shot with foam and looking like a polished mass of jade or agate.

I had not imagined water could assume such wild and appalling shapes.
Those monster waves seemed replete with malignant life, roaring out their
hatred of us and watching alertly with their devilish foam-eyes for a
chance to leap upon us and crush us or sweep us to death on their crests.

I became genuinely seasick now for the first time. A little touch of
seasickness I had experienced in the tropics was as nothing. To the rail
I went time and again to give up everything within me, except my immortal
soul, to the mad gods of sea. For two days I lay in my bunk. I tried
pickles, fat bacon, everything that any sailor recommended, all to no
purpose. I would have given all I possessed for one fleeting moment upon
something level and still, something that did not plunge and lurch and
roll from side to side and rise and fall. I think the most wretched part
of seasickness is the knowledge that you cannot run away from it, that you
are penned in with it, that go where you will, on the royal yard or in
the bilge, you cannot escape the ghastly nightmare even for a minute.

There is no use fighting it and no use dosing yourself with medicines or
pickles or lemons or fat meat. Nothing can cure it. In spite of everything
it will stay with you until it has worked its will to the uttermost, and
then it will go away at last of its own accord, leaving you a wan, limp
wreck. I may add, to correct a general impression, that it is impossible
to become seasoned to seasickness. One attack does not render the victim
immune from future recurrences. I was very sick once again on the voyage.
After a season ashore, the best sailors are liable to seasickness,
especially if they encounter rough weather soon after leaving port. Some
time later we were frozen solidly in Behring Sea for three weeks. When a
storm swell from the south broke up the ice and the motionless brig began
suddenly to rock and toss on a heavy sea, every mother's son aboard,
including men who had been to sea all their lives, was sick. Not one

[Illustration: Unalaska]

During the storm we kept a man at the wheel and another on the try-works
as a lookout. One day during my trick at the wheel, I was probably
responsible for a serious accident, though it might have happened with
the most experienced sailor at the helm. To keep the brig in the trough
of the seas, I was holding her on a certain point of the compass, but the
big waves buffeted the vessel about with such violence that my task was
difficult. Captain Shorey was standing within arm's length of me, watching
the compass. A sea shoved the brig's head to starboard and, as if it had
been lying in ambush for just such an opportunity, a giant comber came
curling in high over the stern. It smashed me into the wheel and for an
instant I was buried under twenty feet of crystal water that made a green
twilight all about us.

Then the wave crashed down ponderously upon the deck and I was standing
in clear air again. To my astonishment, the captain was no longer beside
me. I thought he had been washed overboard. The wave had lifted him
upon its top, swept him high over the skylight the entire length of the
quarter-deck and dropped him on the main deck in the waist. His right leg
was broken below the knee. Sailors and boat-steerers rushed to him and
carried him into the cabin, where Mr. Winchester set the broken bones.
We put into Unalaska a week later and the surgeon of the revenue cutter
_Bear_ reset the leg. This was in the last days of March. The captain was
on crutches in July, when we caught our first whale.

The storm did not blow itself out. It blew us out of it. We must have
drifted sidewise with the seas about six hundred miles. At dawn of
the second day, after leaving the fury of the forties behind, we were
bowling along in smooth water with all sails set. The sky was clear and
the sea like hammered silver. Far ahead a mountain rose into the sky--a
wedge-shaped peak, silver-white with snow, its foot swathed in purple
haze. It rose above Unimak Pass, which connects the Pacific Ocean and
Behring Sea between Unimak and Ugamok islands of the Fox Island chain.

Unimak Pass is ten miles broad, and its towering shores are sheer, black,
naked rock. Mr. Winchester, who had assumed command after the captain
had broken his leg, set a course to take us directly through the passage.
Running before a light breeze that bellied all our sails, we began to draw
near the sea gorge at the base of the mountain. Then, without warning,
from over the horizon came a savage white squall, blotting out mountain,
pass, sea, and sky.

I never saw bad weather blow up so quickly. One moment the ship was
gliding over a smooth sea in bright sunlight. The next, a cloud as white
and almost as thick as wool had closed down upon it; snow was falling
heavily in big, moist flakes, a stiff wind was heeling the vessel on its
side, and we could not see ten feet beyond the tip of the jib boom.

The wind quickened into a gale. By fast work we managed to furl sails and
double-reef the topsail before they carried away. Soon the deck was white
with four or five inches of snow. On the forecastle-head Big Foot Louis
was posted as lookout. Everybody was anxious. Mr. Winchester took his
stand close by the main shrouds at the break of the poop and kept gazing
ahead through his glasses into the mist. The sailors and boat-steerers
crowded the forward rails, peering vainly into the swirling fog. Big Foot
Louis bent forward with his hand shielding his eyes from the falling snow.

"Land, land!" he cried.

If it were land that Louis saw through the clouds and blinding snow, it
was mighty close. Our doom seemed sealed. We expected the ship to crash
bows-on upon the rocks. We nerved ourselves for the shock. A momentary
vision of shipwreck on those bleak coasts in snow and storm obsessed me.
But Louis's eyes had deceived him. The ship went riding on its stately way
through the blinding snow before the gale.

The situation was ticklish, if not critical. We had been headed squarely
for the passage before the storm closed down. Now we could not see where
we were going. If we held directly upon our course we were safe. If the
gale blew us even slightly out of our way, shipwreck and death on the
rock-bound shore awaited us. Which would it be?

Mr. Winchester was a man of iron nerve. He demonstrated this now as he
did many times afterward. He was as skillful a navigator as he was a
fearless one. He knew his reckonings were good. He knew that when the
squall shut out the world the brig's nose was pointed directly at the
center of Unimak Pass. So he did not veer to east or west, or seek to tack
back from the dangerous coasts on our bows, but drove the vessel straight
upon its course into the blank white wall of mist and snow.

An hour later the squall lifted as quickly as it had come. Blue skies and
sunshine came back. We found ourselves almost becalmed on a placid sea. To
the south lay the outline of a lofty coast.

A boat-steerer bustled forward. "We are in Behring Sea," he said with a

We had shot through the narrow channel without sighting the shores. I have
often wondered just how close to port or starboard death was to us that
morning on the black cliffs of Unimak Pass.



From Unalaska, into which port we put to have the captain's leg attended
to, the brig stood northwesterly for the spring whaling on the bowhead
and right whale grounds off the Siberian coast. We were a week's sail
from the Fox Islands when we encountered our first ice. It appeared in
small chunks floating down from the north. The blocks became more numerous
until they dappled the sea. They grew in size. Strings and floes appeared.
Then we brought up against a great ice field stretching to the north as
far as the eye could see. It was all floe ice broken into hummocks and
pressure ridges and pinnacles, with level spaces between. There were no
towering 'bergs such as are launched into the sea from the glaciers on the
Greenland coast and the Pacific coast of Alaska. The highest 'berg I saw
on the voyage was not more than forty feet high. It was composed of floe
ice which had been forced upward by the pressure of the pack.

The crow's nest was now rigged and placed in position on the cross-trees
abaft the fore-mast, between the topsail and the fore-top-gallant-sail
yard. It was a square box of heavy white canvas nailed upon a wooden
frame-work. When a man stood in it the canvas sides reached to his breast
and were a protection against the bitter winds. From early morning until
dark an officer and a boat-steerer occupied the crow's nest and kept a
constant lookout for whales.

As soon as we struck the ice the captain's slop-chest was broken open
and skin clothes were dealt out to the men. Accoutred for cold weather,
I wore woolen underwear and yarn socks next my flesh; an outer shirt of
squirrel skin with hood or parka; pants and vest of hair seal of the
color and sheen of newly minted silver; a coat of dogskin that reached
almost to my knees; a dogskin cap; deer-skin socks with the hair inside
over my yarn socks; walrus-hide boots and walrus-hide mittens over yarn
mittens. The walrus-boots were fastened by a gathering string just below
the knees and by thongs of tanned skin about the ankle. Some of the men
wore heavy reindeer-skin coats. The skin clothes worn by the officers and
boat-steerers were of finer quality and more pretentious. Perhaps the
handsomest costume was that of Little Johnny. It consisted of coat, vest,
and trousers of silvery hair-seal, with the edges of the coat trimmed with
the snowwhite fur of fur-seal pups. With this he wore a black dogskin cap
and walrus-hide boots.

While we were among the ice, the officer in the crow's nest directed the
course of the brig. Whaling officers are great fellows to show their skill
by just grazing dangerous ice. Many a time we green hands stood with
our hearts in our mouths as the ship seemed about to crash into a 'berg

"Starboard, sir," the helmsman would respond.

"Starboard," would come the order from aloft.

[Illustration: Waiting For the Floes to Open]

The bow would swing slowly to one side and the 'berg would go glancing
along the rail so close perhaps that we could have grabbed a snowball off
some projection.

"Steady," the officer would call.

"Steady, sir." The bow would stop in its lateral swing.


"Port, sir." The bow would swing the other way.

"Steady." We would be upon our old course again.

Once I remember the mate was in the crow's nest and had been narrowly
missing ice all day for the fun of the thing--"showing off," as we rather
disturbed green hands said. A 'berg about thirty feet high, a giant for
Behring Sea waters, showed a little ahead and to leeward of our course.
The mate thought he could pass to windward. He kept the brig close to the
wind until the 'berg was very near. Then he saw a windward passage was
impossible and tried suddenly to go to leeward.

"Hard up your wheel," he cried.

"Hard up it is, sir."

The bow swung toward the 'berg--swung slowly, slowly across it. The tip
of the jib-boom almost rammed a white pinnacle. Just when everybody was
expecting the brig to pile up in wreck on the ice, the great 'berg swept
past our starboard rail. But we had not missed it. Its jagged edges
scraped a line an inch deep along our side from bow to stern.

Shooting _okchug_ (or, as it is sometimes spelled, ooksook) or hair seals
was a favorite amusement in the spring ice. The mate was an expert with a
rifle. He shot many as they lay sunning themselves on ice cakes. Okchugs
are as large as oxen and are covered with short silvery hair so glossy
that it fairly sparkles. If an okchug was killed outright, its head
dropped over upon the ice and it lay still. If only slightly wounded, the
animal flounced off into the sea. If vitally hurt, it remained motionless
with its head up and glaring defiance, whereupon a boat's crew would row
out to the ice cake and a sailor would finish the creature with a club.

It was exciting to step on a small ice cake to face a wounded and savage
okchug. The animal would come bouncing on its flippers straight at one
with a vicious barking roar. The nose was the okchug's most vulnerable
point. A tap on the nose with a club would stretch the great creature out
dead. It required a cool head, a steady nerve, and a good aim to deliver
this finishing stroke upon the small black snout. If one missed or slipped
on the ice, the possible consequences would not have been pleasant. We
tanned the skins of the okchugs and made them into trousers or "pokes."
The meat was hung over the bows to keep in an ice-box of all outdoors.
Ground up and made into sausages, it was a _pièce de resistance_ on the
forecastle bill of fare.

One night in the latter part of May we saw far off a great light flaring
smokily across the sea. It was what is known in whaler parlance as a
bug-light and was made by blazing blubber swinging in an iron basket
between the two smokestacks of a whale-ship's try-works. By it the crew
of that distant ship was working at trying out a whale. The bug-light
signaled to all the whaling fleet the first whale of the season.

The great continent of ice drifting southward gradually closed round the
fleet. The ships had worked so far in there was no escape. In the early
part of June the brig was frozen in. For three weeks the vessel remained
motionless in solid ice with every stitch of canvas furled. No water or
land was in sight--nothing but one great sweep of broken and tumbled ice
as far as the eye could see. Those three ice-bound June weeks were given
over to idleness. A stove was placed in the forecastle and was kept going
night and day. This made it possible to keep comfortable and to read.

We went on frequent seal hunts. We strolled across the frozen sea to visit
the other ships, the nearest of which was two miles away. Visiting is
called "gamming" by whalers. We learned the gossip of the fleet, who had
taken the first whale, how many whales had been caught, the adventures of
the ships, the comedies and tragedies of the whaling season.

We established, too, what we called the "Behring Sea Circulating Library."
There were a number of books in every forecastle. These greasy, dog-eared
volumes were passed about from ship to ship. Perhaps there were twenty
books aboard the brig which had been read by almost every member of the
crew, forward and aft. Before we got out of the ice, we had exchanged
these volumes for an entirely new lot from other ships.

One morning I awoke with the ship rocking like a cradle. I pulled on my
clothes and hurried on deck. The ice fields were in wild commotion. Great
swells from some storm upon the open sea to the south were rolling under
them. Crowded and tumultuous waves of ice twenty feet high chased each
other across the frozen fields from horizon to horizon. The ship would
sink for a moment between ridges of ice and snow, and then swing up on the
crest of an ice mountain. Great areas of ice would fall away as if the sea
had opened beneath them. Then they would shoot up and shut out half the
sky. The broken and jagged edges of these white and solid billows appeared
for an instant like a range of snowy sierras which, in another instant,
would crumble from view as if some seismic cataclysm had shaken them down
in ruin. The air was filled with grinding, crushing, ominous noises and

The ship was in imminent peril. In that mad turmoil of ice it seemed
certain she would be ground to pieces. Captain Shorey, who was hobbling
about on crutches, ordered a cask of bread, a cask of water, and a barrel
of beef hoisted on deck ready to be thrown out on an ice cake in case the
brig were wrecked and we were cast away.

In the grinding of the floes, the ship became wedged in between two
immense pieces of ice. The great bergs washed closer and closer. When they
rose on some tremendous billow, great caverns, washed out by the sea,
appeared in their sides like mouths, edged with splinters and points of
blue and glittering ice, like fangs. As they rose and fell, it seemed the
two white monsters were opening and closing devouring maws for us while
the suck of the water in their ice caves made noises like the roar of
hungry beasts of prey.

A cable was run out hurriedly over the bow and a bowline at the end of
it was slipped over a hummock of ice. With the inboard end wound around
the windlass, all hands worked like beavers to heave the brig out of her
dangerous position. It was all the crew could do to swing the windlass
bars up and down. The ship went forward slowly, almost imperceptibly, and
all the time the great bergs swept closer and closer. For a long time it
looked as if we were doomed. There was no doubt about the ship's fate
if the bergs struck it. But inch by inch, heave by heave, we hauled her
through. Ten minutes later, the ice monsters came together with a force
that would have crushed an ironclad.

Gradually patches of clear water began to appear in the ice. It was
as though the white fields were opening great blue eyes. Little lakes
and zigzag lanes of water formed. Sails were set. The brig began to
work her way along. Soon she was swinging on heavy billows--not white
billows of ice but green billows of water, thick with ice in stars and



We had hardly washed clear of the ice in the heavy seas when "Blow!" rang
from the crow's nest. A school of whales close ahead, covering the sea
with fountains, was coming leisurely toward the ship. There were more than
thirty of them.

"Bowheads!" shouted the mate.

Their great black heads rose above the surface like ponderous pieces of
machinery; tall fountains shot into the air; the wind caught the tops of
the fountains and whisked them off in smoke; hollow, sepulchral whispers
of sound came to the brig as the breath left the giant lungs in mighty
exhalations. Why they were called bowheads was instantly apparent--the
outline of the top of the head curved like an Indian's bow. As the head
sank beneath the surface, the glistening back, half as broad as a city
street and as black as asphalt, came spinning up out of the sea and went
spinning down again.

Our crippled captain in his fur clothes and on crutches limped excitedly
about the quarter-deck glaring at $300,000 worth of whales spouting under
his nose. But with so much ice about and such a heavy sea running he was
afraid to lower.

If the whales saw the brig they gave no sign. They passed all around the
vessel, the spray of their fountains blowing on deck. One headed straight
for the ship. The mate seized a shoulder bomb-gun and ran to the bow. The
whale rose, blew a fountain up against the jib-boom, and dived directly
beneath the brig's forefoot. As its back curled down, the mate, with one
knee resting on the starboard knighthead, took aim and fired. He surely
hit the whale--there was little chance to miss. But the bomb evidently did
not strike a vital spot, for the leviathan passed under the ship, came up
on the other side and went on about its business.

The sight of all these whales passing by us with such unconcern, blowing
water on us as if in huge contempt, almost seeming to laugh at us and mock
our bombs and harpoons and human skill, drove the captain frantic. Should
he allow that fortune in whales to escape him without a try for it? With
purple face and popping eyes he gazed at the herd now passing astern.

"Lower them boats!" he cried.

"What?" expostulated Mr. Landers. "Do you want to get us all killed?"

"Lower them boats!" yelled the skipper.

"Don't you know that a boat that gets fast to a whale in that ice will be
smashed, sure?"

"Lower them boats!" shouted the captain.

Mr. Winchester, enthusiastic and fearless whaleman that he was, was eager
for the captain's order. His boat and Mr. Landers's went down. The waist
boat--mine--was left on its davits. But Gabriel, its boatheader, armed
with a shoulder gun, went in the mate's boat. Left aboard to help work
ship, I had an opportunity to view that exciting chase from beginning to

With storm-reefed sails, the boats went plunging away over the big seas,
dodging sharply about to avoid the ice cakes. Not more than two hundred
yards away on our starboard beam a great whale was blowing. The mate
marked it and went for it like a bull dog. He steered to intercept its
course. It was a pretty piece of maneuvering. The whale rose almost in
front of him and his boat went shooting upon its back. Long John let
fly his harpoon. Gabriel fired a bomb from his shoulder gun. There was
a flurry of water as the whale plunged under. Back and forth it slapped
with its mighty flukes as it disappeared, narrowly missing the boat. Down
came the boat's sail. It was bundled up in a jiffy and the mast slewed aft
until it stuck out far behind. Out went the sweeps. The mate stood in the
stern wielding a long steering oar. I could see the whale line whipping
and sizzling out over the bows.

For only a moment the whale remained beneath the surface. Then it
breached. Its black head came shooting up from the water like a titanic
rocket. Up went the great body into the air until at least forty feet
of it was lifted against the sky like some weird, mighty column, its
black sides glistening and its belly showing white. Then the giant bulk
crashed down again with a smack on the sea that might have been heard for
miles and an impact that sent tons of water splashing high in air. For an
instant the monster labored on the water as if mortally hurt, spouting up
fountains of clotted blood that splattered over the ice blocks and turned
them from snow white to crimson. Then a second time the whale sounded and
went speeding away to windward, heading for the ice pack.

It dragged the boat at a dizzy clip despite the fact that the line was
running out so fast as to seem to the men in the boat a mere vibrant,
indistinct smear of yellow. The boat was taken slicing through the big
waves, driving its nose at times beneath the water, and knocking against
lumps of ice. A long ice block appeared in its course. A collision seemed
inevitable unless the boat was cut loose from the whale.

Captain Shorey was watching the chase with fierce intentness as he leaned
upon his crutches on the forecastle head. He had been filled with great
joy, seized with anxiety or shaken with anger as the hunt passed from one
phase to another. He shouted his emotions aloud though there was never a
chance for the men in the boats to hear him.

"Good boy, Long John," he had cried when the boatsteerer drove his harpoon

"That's our fish," he had chortled as the wounded leviathan leaped high
against the sky and spouted blood over the ice.

Now when it seemed possible that the mate would be forced to cut loose
from the whale to save his boat from destruction, the captain danced about
on his crutches in wild excitement.

"Don't cut that line! Don't cut that line!" he yelled.

Mr. Winchester realized as well as the captain that there was something
like $10,000 on the other end of the rope, and he had no idea of cutting
loose. Towed by the whale the boat drove toward the ice. The mate worked
hard with his steering oar to avoid striking the block. It was impossible.
The bow smashed into one end of the ice cake, was lifted out of the water
and dragged across to slip back into the sea. A hole was stove in the
starboard bow through which the water rushed. The crew thereafter was kept
busy bailing.

It was evident from the fountains of blood that the whale was desperately
wounded, but its vitality was marvelous and it seemed it might escape.
When Mr. Landers saw the mate's line being played out so rapidly he should
have hurried to the mate's boat and bent the line from his own tub to the
end of the mate's line. As an old whaleman Mr. Landers knew what to do
in this crisis, but in such ice and in such high seas he preferred not
to take a chance. He was a cautious soul, so he held his boat aloof. The
mate waved to him frantically. Long John and Gabriel wigwagged frenzied
messages with waving arms.

As for Captain Shorey on his crutches on the forecastle head, when it
seemed certain that the whale would run away with all the mate's line
and escape, he apparently suffered temporary aberration. He damned old
man Landers in every picturesque and fervent term of an old whaleman's
vocabulary. He shook his fist at him. He waved a crutch wildly.

"Catch that whale!" he yelled in a voice husky and broken with emotion.
"For God's sake, catch that whale!"

All this dynamic pantomime perhaps had its effect on Landers. At any rate,
his men began to bend to their sweeps and soon his boat was alongside that
of the mate. His line was tied to the free end of the rope in the mate's
almost exhausted tub just in time. The mate's line ran out and Landers'
boat now became fast to the whale.

Fortune favored Landers. His boat was dragged over the crests of the seas
at thrilling speed, but he managed to keep clear of ice. The whale showed
no sign of slowing down. In a little while it had carried away all the
line in Mr. Landers' tub. The monster was free of the boats at last. It
had ceased to come to the surface to blow. It had gone down into the deep
waters carrying with it the mate's harpoon and 800 fathoms of manila rope.
It seemed probable it had reached the safety of the ice pack and was lost.

The boats came back to the brig; slowly, wounded, limping over the waves.
The flying spray had frozen white over the fur clothes of the men, making
them look like snow images. They climbed aboard in silence. Mr. Landers
had a hang-dog, guilty look. The skipper was a picture of gloom and
smoldering fury. He bent a black regard upon Mr. Landers as the latter
swung over the rail, but surprised us all by saying not a word.

When the next day dawned, we were out of sight of ice, cruising in a quiet
sea. A lookout posted on the forecastle head saw far ahead a cloud of
gulls flapping about a dark object floating on the surface. It was the
dead whale.



Two boats were sent to secure the whale. I lowered with one. As we came up
to the whale, I marveled at its immense bulk. It looked even larger than
when it had breached and I had seen it shoot up, a giant column of flesh
and blood, against the heavens. It had turned belly up as dead whales do,
its ridged white abdomen projecting above the waves. It seemed much like
a mighty white and black rock, against which the waves lapped lazily.
Seventy-five feet long the officers estimated it--an unusually large bull
whale. I had never imagined any animal so large. I had seen Jumbo, said
to be the largest elephant ever in captivity. Jumbo made ordinary circus
elephants seem like pigmies. This whale was as big as a dozen Jumbos. The
great hairy mammoth, of which I had seen stuffed specimens in museums,
would have seemed a mere baby beside this monster of the deep.

As proof that the whale was ours, the harpoon sticking in its back bore
the brig's name, and fast to the haft and floating far out on the sea in
a tangled mass was the 800 fathoms of line from the brig's two tubs. Our
first work was to recover the line. As this had to be straightened out
and coiled in the boats, it was a long and tedious job. Then with a short
sharp spade, a hole was cut through the whale's flukes and a cable passed
through and made fast. With both boats strung out along the cable, the men
bent to the sweeps, hauling the carcass slowly toward the brig. Meanwhile
the vessel had been sailing toward us. So we had but a hundred yards or so
to pull.

The loose end of the hawser was passed through the hawse-hole in the
starboard bow and made fast to the fore-bitt. In this way the flukes
were held close to the bow. As the brig made headway under short sail,
the great body washed back against the vessel's side and lay upon the
surface, the head abreast the wheel on the quarter-deck--which will give
an idea of the whale's length.

The gang-plank was taken from the bulwarks and a cutting stage lowered
over the whale. This stage was made of three broad planks. Two projected
from the ship's side, the third joined their outer ends. Along the inside
of the third plank was a low railing. Two officers took their station
on the outer plank with long-handled spades to cut in the blubber. The
spade was enough like a garden spade in shape to suggest its name and was
fastened to a long pole. Its cutting edge was as sharp as a razor.

A block and tackle was rigged above the whale, the upper block fastened
to the cross-trees of the main mast and the tackle carried forward to
the windlass. A great hook was fastened into the whale's blubber, and
everything was ready for the cutting in.

As the officers with their spades cut under the blubber, the sailors
heaved on the windlass. The blanket piece of blubber began to rise. As
it rose, the officers kept spading under it, rolling the whale over
gradually. Thus the whale was peeled much as one would peel a roll of
bologna sausage. When the great carcass had been rolled completely over,
the blanket piece of blubber came off. The upper end of it fast to the
tackle hook was up almost against the cross-trees as the lower end swung
free. The largest blanket pieces weighed perhaps ten tons. Six were
taken off in the process of skinning. The weight of the whale, I should
estimate, was roughly something like one hundred tons, perhaps a little

When the blanket piece was cut free from the whale it swung inboard,
and as it came over the main hatch, it was lowered into the hold. There
men fell upon it with short spades, cutting it into small pieces and
distributing them equally about the ship to prevent the vessel from
listing. It took most of the day to strip the whale of its blubber. When
this had been finished the great flensed carcass stretched out along the
ship's side a mass of blood-red flesh. The final work was cutting in the
"old head."

Long John with an axe climbed down upon the whale's back. As it was his
boat that had struck the whale the cutting in of the head was his job.
Nobody envied him the task. The stripped body of a whale offers a surface
as slippery as ice. As the waves rocked the whale, Long John had much
ado to keep his footing. Once he fell and almost tumbled into the water.
Finally he cut himself two foot-holds and began to wield his axe, raining
blows upon the neck. He chopped through from the upper neck surface into
the corners of the mouth, thus loosening the head and upper jaw from the
body. The lower jaw is devoid of teeth. The tackle hook having been fixed
in the tip-top of the head's bowlike curve, the windlass men heaved away.
Up rose the head above the bulwarks and swung inwards.

"Lower, lower away!" cried the mate.

Down came the head upon the deck and a great cheer went up. The "old head"
was safe. Immediately afterwards, the mate came forward with a bottle of
Jamaica rum and gave each man a swig. "Bringing in his old head," as it
is called, is a memorable event in cutting in a whale, and is always
celebrated by dealing out a drink all around.

Great hunks of meat were cut out from the carcass. These were hung over
the bow. The meat was served in the form of steaks and sausages in both
forecastle and cabin. And let me give my testimony right here that whale
steak is mighty good eating. It tastes something like tender beef, though
it is coarser grained and of ranker flavor. We preferred to eat it as
steaks, though made into meat balls with gravy it was extremely toothsome.
I do not know how whale would taste if served on the home table, but at
sea, after months of salt horse and "sow belly," it was delicious. The
hunks became coated with ice over the bow and kept well. They lasted us
for several weeks.

When the carcass was cut adrift it went floating astern. Flocks of gulls
and sea birds that had been constantly hovering about the ship in hundreds
waiting for the feast swooped down upon it. The body washed slowly out of
sight, still swarmed over by the gulls.

The head rested in the waist near the poop. It was, I should say, twelve
feet high at the crest of the bow, and suggested some strange sort of
tent. I stepped inside it without bending my head and walked about in it.
Its sides were shaggy with the long hair hanging from the teeth or baleen,
and the interior resembled, in a way, a hunter's forest lodge made of pine
boughs. If the head had been in a forest instead of on the deck of a ship
it would have formed an ideal shelter for a winter's night with a wood
fire burning at the opening.

Only the lower tip of the head or what we might call the nose rested
on the deck. It was supported otherwise upon the teeth. I now had my
first opportunity to see baleen in its natural setting. The teeth viewed
from the outside looked something like the interior of a piano. The
whale's gums, following the bony skeleton of the jaw, formed an arched
and undulant line from nose tip to the back of the jaw. The front teeth
were six inches long; the back ones were ten feet. Each tooth, big and
little alike, was formed of a thin slab of bluish whalebone, almost flat.
The largest of these slabs were six inches broad at their base in the
gum. The smallest were an inch. All tapered to a point. They were set in
the gum with the flat surfaces together and almost touching. They were
extremely pliant and at the outer ends could be pulled wide apart. The
inner edges were hung with black coarse hair, which seemed exactly like
that of a horse's tail. The hair on the small front teeth was an inch long
perhaps; on the back teeth, it was from six to ten inches long.

Such teeth are beautifully adapted to the animal's feeding habits. The
baleen whale feeds on a kind of jelly fish. We saw at times the sea
covered with these flat, round, whitish living discs. The whale swims
through an area of this food with its mouth open. When it has obtained
a mouthful, it closes its jaws. The water is forced out between the
slab-like teeth; the jelly fish remain tangled in the hair to be gulped

Our first job after the cutting in of the whale was to cut the baleen from
the jaw. It was cut away in bunches of ten or a dozen slabs held together
by the gums and stowed away in the hold not to be touched again until
later in the voyage.

[Illustration: "Trying Out"]

While the baleen was being prepared for stowage, the lid was removed
from the try-works, uncovering the two big copper caldrons. A fire was
started in the furnace with kindling and a handful of coal, but kept going
thereafter with tried-out blubber called "scrap." Two men dressed in
oil-skins were sent down into the blubber-room as the portion of the hold
was called in which the blanket pieces of blubber had been stowed. Their
oil-skins were to protect them from the oil which oozed from the blubber.
Oilskins, however, are but slight protection as I learned later when I was
sent into the blubber room at the taking of another whale. The oil soaks
through the water-proof oil-skins and saturates one's clothes and goes
clear through to the skin leaving it as greasy as if it had been rubbed
with oil.

A whale's blubber lies immediately beneath its skin, which is black and
rubbery and about a quarter of an inch thick. The blubber is packed
between this thin covering and the flesh in a layer of pink and
opalescent fat from six inches to two feet thick. The blubber is so full
of oil that the oil exudes from it. One can squeeze the oil from a piece
of raw blubber as water from a sponge.

The two blubber-room men with short handled spades cut the great blankets
of blubber in what in whaling parlance are called "horse pieces." These
horse pieces are two or three feet long and about six inches wide. They
are pitched into tubs on deck and the tubs dragged forward to the mincing
vat. This is an immense oblong tub across the top of which is fastened a
plank. Two sailors with mincing knives are stationed at each end of the
plank. The mincing knife is like a carpenter's drawing knife, except that
the edge is on the outside. The sailor lays a horse piece along the plank.
Then grasping the mincing knife by its two handles, he passes the blade
back and forth from side to side across the blubber until it has been cut
into leaves something like those of a book, each leaf perhaps a quarter of
an inch thick and all of them held together at the back by the black skin.
Thus minced the horse pieces are pitch-forked into the caldrons that
are kept bubbling with boiling oil. When the oil has been boiled out of
them, the horse-pieces, now shrunken and twisted into hard, brittle lumps,
called "scrap," are skimmed off and thrown into a vat at the port side of
the try-works to be used later as fuel in trying out the remainder of the
blubber. The oil is ladled off into a cooling vat at the starboard side
where, after it has cooled, it is siphoned into hogsheads or tanks and
these are later stowed in the hold.

The trying out of the whale gave several delicacies to the forecastle
menu. Hardtack biscuit soaked in buckets of sea water and then boiled in
the bubbling caldrons of oil made relishing morsels. The crisp, tried-out
blubber, which looked like honey-comb, was palatable to some. Black whale
skin freed of blubber and cut into small cubes and pickled in salt and
vinegar had a rather agreeable taste, though it was much like eating
pickled rubber. These things with whale steaks and whale sausages made
trying-out days a season of continual feasting.

At night "scrap" was put into an iron basket swung between the two
chimneys of the try-works and set on fire, making a flaring yellow
blaze which lighted the ship from stem to stern and threw weird shadows
everywhere. The beacon not only gave us plenty of light to work by, but
advertised the brig's good luck to any ship which happened in sight of us.
In the blubber-room, holes were cut in a blanket piece and rope yarns,
having been rubbed upon the blubber, were coiled in the hole and lighted.
As they burned they lighted the oil from the blubber. These unique lamps
had all the oil in a ten-ton blanket piece to draw on. It was only the
wick that ever gave out. New strands of rope yarn had to be provided from
time to time. Three or four of these lamps blazing and spluttering made
the blubber-room bright.

Working night and day, it took three days to cut in and try out the whale.
While the work was going on, the decks were so greasy that we could run
and slide anywhere for long distances like boys on ice. After the whale
had been tried out and the oil casks had been stowed below, we fell upon
the decks and paint work with lye and water. Hard work soon had the ship
looking as bright as a new pin.



The ship's prow was turned northward after work on the whale had been
finished. I expected we would soon run into the ice again. We sailed
on and on, but not a block of ice big enough to make a highball did we
sight. The white floes and drifts and the frozen continent floating
southward, along the coasts of which we had cruised for whales and which
had surrounded us and held us captive for three weeks, had disappeared
entirely. The warm water from the south, the southern winds, and the
spring sunshine had melted the ice. Its utter disappearance savored of

A long hilly coast rose ahead of us covered with grass, barren of trees or
shrubs, dotted with blackened skeletons of old ice--an utterly desolate
land. It was Siberia. We put into a bight called St. Lawrence Bay.
There was an Eskimo village on the shore. The huts were made of whale
ribs covered with hides of walrus and reindeer. In the warm weather,
some of the hides had been removed and we saw the white gleaming bones
of the frame work. We could see the dogs with tails curling over their
backs frisking about and could hear their clamor as they bayed the great
white-winged thing that had come up from over the sea's verge.

In this first part of July it was continuous day. The sun set at eleven
o'clock at night in the northwest. Its disc remained barely below the
horizon--we could almost see its flaming rim. A molten glow of color made
the sky resplendent just above it as it passed across the north pole. It
rose at 1:30 in the morning high in the northeast. All the time it was
down a brilliant twilight prevailed--a twilight like that which in our
temperate zone immediately follows the sinking of the sun behind a hill.
We could see to read without difficulty.

Soon boats and kyacks were putting off from the village. When we were
still a mile or two out, strange craft came alongside and Eskimo men,
women, and children swarmed aboard. Very picturesque they looked in
clothes made of the skins of reindeer, hair seals, dogs, and squirrels,
oddly trimmed and decorated with fur mosaics in queer designs. Some of
the women wore over their furs a yellow water-proof cloak made of the
intestines of fish, ornamented with needle-work figures and quite neat

The men and the older women had animal faces of low intelligence. The
young girls were extremely pretty, with glossy, coal-black hair, bright
black eyes, red cheeks, lips like ripe cherries, and gleaming white teeth
forever showing in the laughter of irresponsibility and perfect health.

The captain ordered a bucket of hardtack brought out in honor of our
guests. The biscuit were dumped in a pile on the main deck. The Eskimos
gathered around in a solemn and dignified circle. The old men divided the
bread, giving an equal number of hardtack to each.

This ceremony of welcome over, the Eskimos were given the freedom of the
ship, or at least, took it. We kept a careful watch upon them, however,
to see that they took nothing else. Several of the Eskimo men had a
sufficient smattering of English to make themselves understood. They had
picked up their small vocabulary among the whalers which every spring
put in at the little ports along the Siberian and Alaskan coasts. One
of them had been whaling to the Arctic Ocean aboard a whale ship which
some accident had left short handed. He spoke better English than any
of the others and was evidently regarded by his fellow townsmen as a
wonderfully intellectual person. He became quite friendly with me, showing
his friendship by begging me to give him almost everything I had, from
tobacco to clothes. He constantly used an Eskimo word the meaning of which
all whalers have learned and it assisted him materially in telling his
stories--he was a great story teller. This word was "_pau_,"--it means
"nothing." I never knew before how important nothing could be in human
language. Here is a sample of his use of "nothing:"

[Illustration: Callers from Asia]

"Winter," he said, "sun pau; daylight pau. All dark. Water pau; all ice.
Land pau, all snow. Eskimo igloo, plenty fire. Moss in blubber oil all
time blaze up. Cold pau. Plenty hot. Eskimo, he sweat. Clothes pau. Good
time. Hot time. Eat plenty. Sleep."

This seemed to me a good, vivid description. The picture was there,
painted chiefly with "nothing."

Of course he had the English words "yes" and "no" in his assortment, but
his way of using them was pure Eskimo. For instance: "You wear no clothes
in winter?" I asked him. "No," he replied. "No?" I echoed in surprise.
"Yes," he said. His "yes" merely affirmed his "no." It sometimes required
a devious mental process to follow him.

A pretty girl came up to me with a smile and an ingratiating air.

"Tobac," she said holding out her hand.

I handed her my smoking plug. She took half of it at one cavernous bite
and gave the remainder back to me, which I thought considerate. She
enjoyed the tobacco. She chewed upon it hard, working her jaws as if she
were masticating a dainty tidbit. Did she expectorate? Not a drop. She
evidently did not propose to waste any of the flavor of that good weed.
Neither did she get sick--that pretty Eskimo girl. At last when she had
chewed for twenty minutes or so, she removed her quid and stuck it behind
her right ear. She chewed it at intervals later on, always between times
wearing it conspicuously behind her ear.

I rather expected our guests would depart after a call of an hour or so.
Not so. They had come to stay indefinitely. When they became tired they
lay on deck--it didn't make any particular difference where--and went
quietly to sleep. They seemed to have no regular time for sleeping. I
found Eskimos asleep and awake during all my deck watches. As it was day
all the twenty-four hours, I wondered if these people without chronometers
did not sometimes get their hours mixed up.

New parties of Eskimos kept coming to see us. One of these had killed a
walrus and the skin and the raw meat, butchered into portable cuts, lay in
the bottom of their big family canoe of hide. The boat was tied alongside
and the Eskimos came aboard. If any of them became hungry, they climbed
down into the canoe and ate the raw walrus meat, smacking their lips over
it. When the sailors would lean over the rail to watch this strange feat
of gastronomy, the Eskimos would smile up at them with mouths smeared with
blood and hold out a red chunk in invitation. It was their joke.

We loafed in St. Lawrence Bay for more than a week. We could not have
sailed away if we had wanted to, for all the time there was a windless
calm and the sea heaved and fell, unruffled by a ripple, like a vast sheet
of moving mercury.

It was weather characteristic of the Arctic summer--a beautiful dream
season of halcyon, silver seas, opalescent haze, and tempered golden
sunlight. To the men in skin clothes, it was warm weather, but one had
only to step from sunshine to shadow to pass from summer to winter. One
perspired in the sunlight; in the shadow there was frost, and if the spot
were damp, a coating of ice.

I went duck hunting with a boat's crew one day. Mr. Winchester, who
headed the boat, was a good hand with a shotgun and brought back a fine
bag. One of the ducks, knocked over on the wing, dropped within a few feet
of shore. When we rowed to pick it up, I touched Siberia with an oar. I
felt that it was a sort of handshake with the Asiatic continent. I never
landed and never got any nearer.

In a little while, most of us had traded for a number of nicely tanned
hair-seal skins and had set the Eskimo women and girls to work tailoring
trousers and vests and coats. It was marvelous how dexterous they were
at cutting and sewing. They took no measurements and yet their garments
fitted rather snugly. Before they began sewing they softened the edges of
the skins by chewing them. They wore their thimble on their index finger
and drove the needle into one side of the skins and jerked it through from
the other side with such amazing rapidity that the two movements seemed
one. A good seamstress--and all seemed remarkably expert--could cut and
sew a pair of trousers in an hour, a bit of work it would have taken a
sailor a day or two to accomplish. We could hire a seamstress for an
entire morning or afternoon for five hardtack. A bowl of soup with a piece
of salt horse was sufficient pay for a day's labor.

My old skin clothes, which I had obtained from the slop-chest were
greasy, dirty, and worn and I had an Eskimo woman make me a complete
new outfit from hair-seal skins I purchased from her husband. She cut
out a coat, vest, and trousers, spreading the skins on deck and using a
knife in cutting. She sat cross-legged on deck most of the day sewing
on the garments and I carefully superintended the job. She ornamented
the coat with a black dogskin collar and edged it down the breast and
around the bottom with the same material, which set off the glistening
seal skin attractively. I also bought a new squirrel skin shirt with a
hood attached. When I appeared on deck in my new toggery, I felt quite

However, I was not alone in gorgeous regalia. Most of my shipmates were
soon looking like animate statues of silver in their shining seal skins.
Our turns up and down deck became fashion parades. We strutted like
peacocks, it must be admitted, and displayed our fine clothes to best
advantage under the eyes of the Eskimo beauties.

It remained for Peter, our rolypoly little Swede, to make the only real,
simon-pure conquest. In his new clothes, which sparkled like a silver
dollar fresh from the mint, and with his fresh boyish face, he cut quite
a handsome figure and one little Eskimo maid fell a victim to his fatal
fascinations. "'E's killed her dead," said English Bill White. She was
perhaps fifteen years old, roguish eyed, rosy cheeked, and with coal-black
hair parted in the middle and falling in two braids at the sides of her
head. Plump and full of life and high spirits, the gay little creature was
as pretty as any girl I saw among the Eskimos.

Peter was all devotion. He gave his sweetheart the lion's share of all
his meals, feasting her on salt horse, hardtack, soup, and gingerbread
which to her primitive palate that never had risen to greater gastronomic
heights than blubber and raw meat must have seemed epicurean delicacies.
The sailors called the girl "Mamie," which was very different from the
Eskimo name her mother spluttered at her. If Peter was missed at any time,
it was only necessary to locate the charming Miss Mamie, and there by her
side Peter would be found, speaking only with his eyes and making distinct

Sometimes Peter, finding optical language not entirely satisfactory,
pressed into his service the intellectual Eskimo as interpreter. These
three-cornered efforts at love making were amusing to all who chanced
to overhear them;--the dashing young Romeo could scarcely talk English
himself, the interpreter could talk even less and the object of Peter's
adoration could not speak a word.

As the upshot of this interesting affair, the little lady and Peter
plotted between them that Peter should run away from the ship and live
among her people. This plan appealed to Peter who was a cold weather
product himself and almost as primitive as his inamorata. But Peter made
one mistake;--he took old Nels Nelson, his countryman and side-partner,
into his confidence. Nelson loved the boy like a father and did his best
to persuade him to give up the idea, but Peter was determined.

One twilight midnight with the sun just skimming below the horizon,
Peter wrapped from head to foot in an Eskimo woman's mackintosh of fish
intestine, with the hood over his head and half hiding his chubby face,
climbed over the rail into an Eskimo boat with a number of natives, his
sweetheart among them, and set out for shore. Nelson and several sailors
watched the boat paddle away, but no one but Nelson knew that the person
bundled up in the native raincoat was Peter. The boat got half a mile from
the brig. Then Nelson could stand it no longer. The strain was too much.
He rushed back to the quarter-deck where old Gabriel was walking up and

"Peter's run away," Nelson blurted out. "There he goes in that boat.
That's him dressed up like a woman in fish-gut oil-skins."

[Illustration: Peter's Sweetheart]

Without ado Gabriel called aft the watch, manned a boat, and set out in
pursuit. The Eskimo canoe was quickly overhauled and Peter was captured
and brought back aboard.

"You ben bigges' fool for sech a li'l' boy I ever have see," said Gabriel
severely. "You don't know you freeze to deaf up here in winter time, no?"

Peter had nothing to say. He was ashamed, but he was mad, too. He was not
punished. When Captain Shorey learned of the escapade, he merely laughed.
Peter took the matter quite to heart and pouted for days. To the end of
the voyage, he still dreamed of his Eskimo sweetheart and of the happiness
that might have been his. Every time he spoke of her his eyes grew bright.
"She was fine gal," he used to say.



We noticed that several of our Eskimo guests appeared at times to be
slightly under the influence of liquor and thought perhaps they had
obtained gin or rum from some whaling vessel that had touched at the port
before we arrived. We asked the intellectual Eskimo where these fellows
had got their booze. He pointed to an Eskimo and said, "Him."

"Him" was a lordly person dressed in elaborately trimmed and ornamented
skin clothes. From the way he strutted about, we had fancied him a chief.
He turned out be a "moonshiner."

This doubtless will surprise those whose ideas of "moonshiners" are
associated with southern Appalachian ranges, lonely mountain coves,
revenue raids, and romance. But here was an Eskimo "moonshiner" who
made unlicensed whiskey under the midnight sun and yet was as genuine
a "moonshiner" as any lawless southern mountaineer. The sailors, being
thirsty souls, at once opened negotiations with him for liquor. He drew
from beneath his deer-skin coat a skin bottle filled with liquor and sold
it to us for fifteen hardtack. Wherefore there was, for a time, joy in the
forecastle--in limited quantity, for the bottle was small. This product of
the ice-bound North was the hottest stuff I ever tasted.

The captain was not long in discovering that the Eskimo had liquor to sell
and sent a boat ashore with a demijohn. The jug was brought back filled
with Siberian "moonshine," which had been paid for with a sack of flour.
The boat's crew found on the beach a little distillery in comparison
with which the pot stills of the Kentucky and Tennessee mountains, made
of old kitchen kettles would seem elaborate and up-to-date plants. The
still itself was an old tin oil can; the worm, a twisted gun barrel; the
flake-stand, a small powder keg. The mash used in making the liquor,
we learned, was a fermented mixture of flour and molasses obtained in
trade from whale ships. It was boiled in the still, a twist of moss
blazing in a pan of blubber oil doing duty as a furnace. The vapor from
the boiling mash passed through the worm in the flake-stand and was
condensed by ice-cold water with which the powder keg was kept constantly
filled by hand. The liquor dripped from the worm into a battered old
tomato can. It was called "kootch" and was potently intoxicating. An
Eskimo drunk on "kootch" was said to be brave enough to tackle a polar
bear, single-handed. The little still was operated in full view of the
villagers. There was no need of secrecy. Siberia boasted no revenue

The owner of the plant did an extensive trade up and down the coast and
it was said natives from Diomede Islands and Alaska paddled over in their
canoes and _bidarkas_ to buy his liquor. They paid for it in walrus tusk
ivory, whale bone, and skins and the "moonshiner" was the richest man in
all that part of Siberia.

If contact with civilization had taught the Eskimo the art of distillation
and drunkenness, it also had improved living conditions among them. Many
owned rifles. Their spears and harpoons were steel tipped. They bartered
for flour, molasses, sugar, and all kinds of canned goods with the whale
ships every summer. They had learned to cook. There was a stove in the
village. The intellectual Eskimo boasted of the stove as showing the high
degree of civilization achieved by his people. The stove, be it added, was
used chiefly for heating purposes in winter and remained idle in summer.
The natives regarded the cooked foods of the white man as luxuries to be
indulged in only occasionally in a spirit of connoisseurship. They still
preferred their immemorial diet of blubber and raw meat.

Aside from these faint touches of civilization, the Eskimos were as
primitive in their life and mental processes as people who suddenly had
stepped into the present out of the world of ten thousand years ago. I
fancy Adam and Eve would have lived after the manner of the Eskimos if
the Garden of Eden had been close to the North Pole.

There is apparently no government or law among these Eskimos. They have
no chiefs. When it becomes necessary to conduct any business of public
importance with outsiders, it is looked after by the old men. The Eskimos
are a race, one may say, of individuals. Each one lives his life according
to his own ideas; without let or hindrance. Each is a law unto himself.
Under these conditions one might expect they would hold to the rule of the
strong arm under which might makes right. This is far from true. There is
little crime among them. Murder is extremely rare. Though they sometimes
steal from white men--the sailors on the brig were warned that they would
steal anything not nailed down--they are said never--or hardly ever--to
steal from each other. They have a nice respect for the rights of their
neighbors. They are not exactly a Golden Rule people, but they mind their
own business.

The infrequency of crime among them seems stranger when one learns that
they never punish their children. Eskimo children out-Topsy Topsy in
"just growing." I was informed that they are never spanked, cuffed, or
boxed on the ears. Their little misdemeanors are quietly ignored. It might
seem logical to expect these ungoverned and lawless little fellows to grow
up into bad men and women. But the ethical tradition of the race holds
them straight.

When a crime occurs, the punishment meted out fits it as exactly as
possible. We heard of a murder among the Eskimos around St. Lawrence Bay
the punishment of which furnishes a typical example of Eskimo justice.
A young man years before had slain a missionary by shooting him with a
rifle. The old men of the tribe tried the murderer and condemned him to
death. His own father executed the sentence with the same rifle with which
the missionary had been killed.

Tuberculosis is a greater scourge among the Eskimos than among the peoples
of civilization. This was the last disease I expected to find in the cold,
pure air of the Arctic region. But I was told that it caused more than
fifty per cent. of the deaths among the natives. These conditions have
been changed for the better within the last few years. School teachers,
missionaries, and traveling physicians appointed by the United States
government have taught the natives of Alaska hygiene and these have passed
on the lesson to their kinsmen of Siberia. Long after my voyage had ended,
Captain A. J. Henderson, of the revenue cutter _Thetis_ and a pioneer
judge of Uncle Sam's "floating court" in Behring Sea and Arctic Ocean
waters, told me of the work he had done in spreading abroad the gospel of
health among the Eskimos.

Finding tuberculosis carrying off the natives by wholesale, Captain
Henderson began the first systematic crusade against the disease during
a summer voyage of his vessel in the north. In each village at which the
_Thetis_ touched, he took the ship's doctor ashore and had him deliver
through an interpreter a lecture on tuberculosis. Though the Eskimos lived
an out-door life in summer, they shut themselves up in their igloos in
winter, venturing out only when necessity compelled them, and living in
a super-heated atmosphere without ventilation. As a result their winter
igloos became veritable culture beds of the disease.

[Illustration: Eskimos Summer Hut at St. Lawrence Bay]

Those afflicted had no idea what was the matter with them. Their witch
doctors believed that they were obsessed by devils and attempted by
incantations to exorcise the evil spirits. The doctor of the _Thetis_
had difficulty in making the natives understand that the organism that
caused their sickness was alive, though invisible. But he did succeed in
making them understand that the disease was communicated by indiscriminate
expectoration and that prevention and cure lay in plenty of fresh air,
cleanliness, and wholesome food.

In all the villages, Captain Henderson found the igloos offensively
filthy and garbage and offal scattered about the huts in heaps. He made
the Eskimos haul these heaps to sea in boats and dump them overboard. He
made them clean their igloos thoroughly and take off the roofs to allow
the sun and rains to purify the interiors. After this unroofing, Captain
Henderson said, the villages looked as if a cyclone had struck them. He
taught the natives how to sew together sputum cups of skin and cautioned
the afflicted ones against expectoration except in these receptacles.

The Eskimos were alive to the seriousness of the situation and did their
utmost to follow out these hygienic instructions to the last detail.
As a result of this first missionary campaign in the cause of health,
the Eskimos have begun to keep their igloos clean and to ventilate
them in winter. There has grown up among them an unwritten law against
indiscriminate expectoration more carefully observed than such ordinances
in American cities. The villages have been gradually turned into open-air
sanitariums and the death rate from tuberculosis has been materially



With the first breeze, we set sail for Port Clarence, Alaska, the northern
rendezvous of the Arctic Ocean whaling fleet in early summer. There in the
latter part of June or the early part of July, the fleet always met the
four-masted schooner _Jennie_, the tender from San Francisco, by which all
firms in the whaling trade sent mail and supplies to their vessels. On our
way across from Siberia to Alaska, we passed just south of Behring Straits
and had our first distant glimpse of the Arctic Ocean. When we dropped
anchor in the windy roadstead of Port Clarence, eighteen whale ships were
there ahead of us.

The land about Port Clarence was flat and covered with tall, rank grass--a
region of tundra stretching away to distant hills. The _Jennie_ came in
direct from San Francisco soon after we arrived. Boats from the whale
ships swarmed about her as soon as she dropped anchor, eager for letters
and newspapers. Our mate brought back a big bundle of San Francisco
newspapers which were sent forward after the cabin had read them. They
gave us our first news since leaving Honolulu of how the great world was
wagging. Every man in the forecastle who could read read these papers
from the first headline to the last advertisement. It seemed good to get
into touch once more with the men and events of civilization. Exiles of
the sea, the news of our country seemed to have an intimate personal
meaning to us which it never could possibly have to stay-at-homes to whom
newspapers are every-day, casual budgets of gossip and information. I
remember that a telegraphic brevity describing a murder in my native state
seemed like a message from home.

Among the Eskimos who came aboard the brig from the large village on
shore, was a white man dressed like an Eskimo to the last detail and
looking like one except for a heavy beard. He had run away from a whale
ship three years before, hoping to make his way to some white settlement
to the south and there secure passage on shipboard back to San Francisco.
He had escaped, he said, in an Eskimo kyack tied alongside his ship. As
soon as he was missed officers and boatsteerers put ashore in a boat and
trailed him. He led his pursuers a long chase inland and though he was
shot at several times, he managed to elude them and reach the safety of
the hills.

After he had seen the whaling fleet sail away, he ventured back to the
Eskimo village on shore where he was welcomed by the natives. He soon
found that escape by land was practically impossible; the nearest white
settlement was hundreds of miles distant and he would have to thread his
way through pathless forests and across ranges of mountains covered at all
seasons with ice and snow. Moreover, he learned what he should have known
before he ran away that no vessels except whaling ships, their tender, and
an occasional revenue cutter ever touched at Port Clarence which at that
time was far north of the outmost verge of the world's commerce. There
was nothing left for him to do but settle among the Eskimos and wait for
the arrival of the whaling fleet in the following summer.

During the long Arctic night, with the temperature forty and fifty degrees
below zero, he lived in an igloo after the manner of the natives; learned
to eat raw meat and blubber--there was nothing else to eat--became fluent
in the Eskimo language; and took an Eskimo girl for a wife. He found
existence among these human anachronisms left over from the stone age
a monotonously dreary and soul-wearying experience, and he waited with
nervous impatience for the coming of the fleet with its annual opportunity
for getting back to civilization.

The first year passed and the ships anchored in Port Clarence. He hurried
out in his kyack to ask the Captains for permission to work his way
back to San Francisco. He never once doubted that they would give him
his chance. But a sad surprise was in store for him. From ship to ship
he went, begging to be allowed to remain aboard, but the hard-hearted
captains coldly refused him, one after the other. He was a deserter, they
told him; he had made his bed and he could lie in it; to take him away
would encourage others to desert. Some captains cursed him; some ordered
him off their vessels. Finally the ships sailed away for the whaling
grounds, leaving him marooned on the bleak shore to pass another year in
the squalor of his igloo.

Next year when the whaling fleet came again it was the same story over
again. Again he watched the ships arrive with a heart beating high with
hope and again he saw their topmasts disappear over the horizon, leaving
him hopeless and wretched behind. Before he came aboard the brig, he had
made the rounds of the other ships and had met with the same refusals as
of yore. I saw him go aft and plead with Captain Shorey and that stern
old sea dog turned him down as curtly as the other skippers had done. The
ships sailed away, leaving him to his fate. To me his story was the most
pathetic that ever fell within my personal experience. I never learned
whether he ever managed somehow to get back home or left his bones to
bleach upon the frozen tundra.

From Port Clarence, we headed back to Unalaska to ship our whale bone to
San Francisco by steamer. Midway of our run down the Behring Sea a thick
fog closed about us and we kept our fog horn booming. Soon, off our bows,
we heard another fog horn. It seemed to be coming closer. Our cooper, an
old navy bugler, became suspicious. He got out his old bugle and sounded
"assembly" sharply. As the first note struck into the mist, the other fog
horn ceased its blowing. We did not hear it again. When the mist lifted,
no vessel was in sight, but the situation was clear. We had chanced upon
a poaching sealer and when she heard our cooper's bugle, she concluded we
were a revenue cutter and took to her heels.

[Illustration: At the Gateway to the Arctic]

Aday or two later, we saw the revenue cutter _Corwin_ chasing a poacher.
Heeled over under crowded sail, the sealing schooner was scurrying before
a stiff wind. The _Corwin_ was plowing in hot pursuit, smoke pouring from
her funnel and hanging thick in the wake of the chase. She was gaining
steadily, for she was a steamship and the schooner had only her sails
to depend on. Finally the revenue cutter sent a solid shot across the
schooner's bows. The ball knocked up a great splash of water. But the
poacher did not heave to--just kept on her way, leaning so far over that
the clews of her lower sails almost touched the waves and a big white
feather of spray stood up in front of her. So pursuer and pursued passed
over the horizon and we did not see the end of the hunt. But we knew that
there could be but one end. The fate of that poacher was sealed. Only a
fog could save her, and the sky was clear.

We passed close to St. George Island, the southernmost of the Pribiloff
group, the breeding place of the fur seals. As we came near the shores,
the air literally shook with the raucous, throbbing bark of countless
seals. The din was deafening. Along the shore, a shelving beach ran up
to rocky declivities and beach and rocks were packed with seals. There
may have been a hundred thousand; there may have been a million; and
it seemed as if every seal was barking. The water alongshore swarmed
with them. Thousands of heads were sticking out of the sea. Thousands of
other seals were playing, breaching out of the water like porpoises. They
swam close to the brig and floated lazily on the surface, staring at us
unafraid. If we had been poachers, I should think we could have taken
several hundred thousand dollars worth of seals without difficulty.

A dozen little pup seals whose fur was of a snowy and unspotted white came
swimming about the vessel. These sea babies were soft, furry, cunning
little fellows and they paddled about the brig, sniffing at the strange
monster that had invaded their home. They seemed absolutely fearless and
gazed up at us out of big, brown, wondering, friendly eyes. Sealers kill
them, as their fur makes beautiful edgings and borders for fur garments.

The fur seals are supposed to pass the winter somewhere in the South
Pacific, but whether in the open sea or on land has never been definitely
learned. From their mysterious southern hiding places, they set out for
the North in the early spring. They first appear in March in the waters
off California. Coastwise vessels find the sea alive with thousands of
them. They travel slowly northward following the coast line, fifty or a
hundred miles out at sea, feeding on fish and sleeping on the surface.
Regularly each year in April, a revenue cutter setting out from Port
Townsend for patrol service in Behring Sea and Arctic Ocean waters,
picks up the herd and convoys it to the Pribiloffs to guard it against
the attacks of poachers. The seals swarm through the passes between the
Aleutian islands in May and arrive at the Pribiloffs in the latter part of
that month or early in June.

They remain on the Pribiloffs during the breeding and rearing season and
begin to depart for the South again in the latter part of September. They
are all gone as a rule by November, though in some years the last ones
do not leave until December. They are again seen as they crowd through
the Aleutian channels, but all track of them is lost a few hundred miles
to the south. At what destination they finally arrive on that southward
exodus no man knows. It is one of the mysteries of the sea.

We saw no whales on our southward passage and did not much expect to
see any, though we kept a lookout at the mast-head on the off chance
of sighting some lone spout. The summer months are a second "between
seasons," dividing the spring whaling in Behring Sea from that in the
Arctic Ocean in the fall. The whales had all followed the retreating ice
northward through Behring Straits.

The Fourth of July found us in the middle of Behring Sea. We observed the
glorious Fourth by hoisting the American flag to our gaff-topsail peak,
where it fluttered all day long. Mr. Winchester came forward with two
bottles of Jamaica rum and dealt out a drink all around.

We entered Unalaska harbor by the same long, narrow, and precipitous
channel through which we had passed on our voyage north when we put into
the harbor to have the captain's leg set. Negotiating this channel--I
should say it was about two miles long--was another illustration of our
captain's seamanship. We had to tack innumerable times from one side of
the channel to the other, our jib-boom at every tack projecting over the
land before the brig came around. We finally dropped anchor opposite
the old, cross-crowned Greek church which stands in the center of the
struggling village.



It was the heart of the Arctic summer and the high hills that rose all
about the town were green with deep grass--it looked as if it would reach
a man's waist--and ablaze with wild flowers. I was surprised to see such
a riot of blooms in this far northern latitude, but there they were, and
every off-shore breeze was sweet with their fragrance. The village was
dingy enough, but the country looked alluring and, as the day after we
dropped anchor was Sunday and nothing to do aboard, the crew decided to
ask for a day's liberty ashore. Bill White, the Englishman, and Slim, our
Royal Life Guardsman, agreed to act as the forecastle's ambassadors to the
cabin. They dressed up in their smartest clothes and went aft to interview
Captain Shorey on the quarter-deck. White made the speech of the occasion
and proffered the forecastle's request in his best rhetoric. Captain
Shorey puffed silently at his cigar. "I'll see about it," he said. That
closed the incident as far as the captain was concerned. We got no shore

As the day wore away and the desired permission failed to materialize, the
forecastle became piqued at what it considered the skipper's gratuitous
ungraciousness. Slim waxed particularly indignant.

"He'll 'see about it,'" Slim sneered. "He never had no idea of letting us
go in the first place. He's a cold-blooded son of a sea cook--that's what
he is--and as for me, I'll never do another tap of work aboard the bloody

This was strong language. Of course, none of us took it seriously, feeling
sure Slim would reconsider by the next morning and turn to for work with
the rest of us. But we did not know Slim. Bright and early Monday morning,
the men mustered on deck and went to work, but Slim remained in his bunk.

Having rowed our whale bone to the dock and stored it in a warehouse to
await the first steamer for San Francisco, a boat's crew towed three or
four hogsheads roped together ashore for water. Another boat went ashore
for coal. Those left aboard the brig were put to work in the hold near
the main hatch under the supervision of Mr. Winchester. The mate suddenly
noted Slim's absence.

"Where's Slim?" he asked.

Nobody answered.

"He didn't go ashore in the boats," said the mate. "Where is he?"

Someone volunteered that Slim was sick.

"Sick, eh?" said the mate.

He hustled off to the forecastle scuttle.

"Slim," he sang out, "what's the matter with you?"

"I'm sick," responded Slim from his bunk.

"If you're sick," said the mate, "come aft and report yourself sick to the

In a little while, Slim shuffled back to the cabin. A few minutes later
wild yells came from the cabin. We stopped work. The mate seemed to think
we might rush to the rescue.

[Illustration: Hoisting the Blubber Aboard]

"Get busy there," he roared. "Slew that cask around."

The yells broke off. We went to work again. For a half hour, there was
silence in the cabin. We wondered what had happened. Slim might have been
murdered for all we knew. Finally Slim emerged and went silently forward.
We noticed a large shaved spot on the top of his head where two long
strips of court-plaster formed a black cross.

The first thing Slim did after getting back to the forecastle was to
take one of his blue flannel shirts and, while none of the officers was
looking, shin up the ratlines and hang it on the fore-lift. This is an
old-time sailor sign of distress and means trouble aboard. The mate soon
spied the shirt swinging in the breeze.

"Well, I'll be darned," he said. "Jump up there one of you and take that
shirt down."

No one stirred. The mate called the cabin boy and the young Kanaka brought
down the shirt. Slim told us at dinner time all about his adventure in the

"I goes down in the cabin," said Slim, "and the captain is standing with
his hands in his pants pockets, smiling friendly-like. 'Hello, Slim,' he
says. 'Sit down in this chair.' I sits down and the captain says, 'Well,
my boy, what's the matter with you?' 'I'm sick,' says I. 'Where do you
feel bad?' he says. 'I ache all over,' says I. He steps over in front of
me, still with that little smile on his face. 'I've got good medicine
aboard this ship,' he says, 'and I'll fix you up in a jiffy, my boy,' says
he. With that he jerks one of his hands out of his pocket and he has a
revolver clutched in it. 'Here's the medicine you need,' he says and he
bats me over the cocoanut with the gun.

"The blood spurts all over me and I jumps up and yells, but the captain
points his pistol at me and orders me to sit down again. He storms up and
down the cabin floor. 'I'll teach you who's master aboard this ship,' he
shouts and for a minute he was so purple in the face with rage, I thought
he was going to murder me for sure. By and by he cools down. 'Well, Slim,'
he says, 'I guess I hit you a little harder than I meant to, but I'm a bad
man when I get started. You need tending to now, sure enough.'

"So he has the cabin boy fetch a pan of warm water and he washes the blood
out of my hair with his own hands and then shaves around the cut and
pastes sticking plaster on. That's all. But say, will I have the law on
him when we get back to Frisco? Will I?"

It was a long way back to Frisco. In the meantime we wondered what was in
store for the luckless Irish grenadier.

That afternoon, the revenue cutter _Corwin_ came steaming into port towing
a poaching sealer as a prize. It was the same schooner, we learned, we had
seen the _Corwin_ chasing a few days before. As the cutter passed us, Slim
sprang on the forecastle head while Captain Shorey and everybody aboard
the brig looked at him and, waving a blue flannel shirt frantically,
shouted: "Please come aboard. I've had trouble aboard." "Aye, aye," came
back across the water from the government patrol vessel. Waving a shirt
has no significance in sea tradition, but Slim was not enough of a sailor
to know that, and besides, he wanted to leave nothing undone to impress
the revenue cutter officers with the urgency of his case.

No sooner had the _Corwin_ settled to her berth at the pier than a
small boat with bluejackets at the oars, two officers in gold braid and
epaulettes in the stern, and with the stars and stripes flying, shot out
from under her quarter and headed for the brig.

"Aha," we chuckled. "Captain Shorey has got his foot in it. He has Uncle
Sam to deal with now. He won't hit him over the head with a revolver."

The boat came alongside and the officers climbed over the rail. Captain
Shorey welcomed them with a smile and elaborate courtesy and ushered them
into the cabin. Slim was sent for.

"Tell 'em everything, Slim," we urged. "Give it to the captain hot and
heavy. He's a brute and the revenue cutter men will take you off the brig
as sure as shooting. They won't dare leave you aboard to lead a dog's life
for the rest of the voyage."

"I'll show him up, all right," was Slim's parting shot.

Slim came back from the cabin a little later.

"I told 'em everything," he said. "They listened to everything I had to
say and took down a lot of notes in a book. I asked 'em to take me off the
brig right away, for, says I, Captain Shorey will kill me if they leave me
aboard. I guess they'll take me off."

An hour later, the two officers of the _Corwin_ emerged from the cabin,
accompanied by Captain Shorey. They were puffing complacently at a couple
of the captain's cigars. They seemed in high good humor. After shaking
hands with Captain Shorey, they climbed down into their boat and were
rowed back to their vessel. That was the last we ever saw of them. Poor
Slim was left to his fate.

And his fate was a rough one. There was no outward change in the attitude
of the captain or the officers of the brig toward him. Whenever they spoke
to him, they did it with as much civility as they showed the rest of us.
But Slim was compelled to work on deck all day and stand his regular
night watches into the bargain. That meant he got eight hours sleep during
twenty-four hours one day and four hours sleep during the next. As the
ship was in whaling waters from now on, the crew had little to do except
man the boats. But Slim always had plenty to do. While we smoked our pipes
and lounged about, he was kept washing paint work, slushing down masts,
scraping deck and knocking the rust off the anchors. Any one of a hundred
and one little jobs that didn't need doing, Slim did. This continued until
the brig squared her yards for the homeward voyage. Slim had more than
three months of it. The Lord knows it was enough. When his nagging finally
ended, he was a pale, haggard shadow of his former self. It almost killed



From Unalaska, we headed north for the Arctic Ocean. For one day of
calm, we lay again off the little Eskimo village of St. Lawrence Bay and
again had the natives as our guests. Peter made an elaborate toilet in
expectation of seeing once more his little Eskimo sweetheart, but she did
not come aboard. A little breeze came walking over the sea and pushed us
on northward. On August 15, we sailed through Behring Straits and were at
last in the Arctic.

The straits are thirty-six miles wide, with East Cape, a rounded,
dome-shaped mass of black basalt, on the Asiatic side and on the American
side Cape Prince of Wales, a headland of sharper outline, but neither
so lofty nor so sheer. In between the two capes and in line with them,
lie the two islands of Big and Little Diomede. Through the three narrow
channels between the capes and the islands, the tide runs with the
swiftness of a river's current.

The Eskimos constantly cross from continent to continent in small boats.
In still weather the passage can be made in a light kyack with perfect
safety. The widest of the three channels is that between Big Diomede and
East Cape and is, I should say, not more than fifteen miles across. While
we were passing through the straits, we saw a party of Eskimos in a skin
boat paddling leisurely across from America to Asia. They no doubt had
been on a visit to relatives or friends on the neighboring continent. We
were told that in winter when the straits are frozen solidly, the Eskimos
frequently walk from one continent to the other.

[Illustration: Our Guests Coming Aboard in St. Lawrence Bay]

While we were sailing close to the American shore soon after passing
through the straits, the cry of "Walrus, walrus!" from the mast-head
sent the crew hurrying to the rail to catch a glimpse of these strange
creatures which we had not before encountered. We were passing an immense
herd. The shore was crowded with giant bulks, lying perfectly still in
the sun, while the waters close to land were alive with bobbing heads. At
a distance and at first glance, those on shore looked like a vast herd
of cattle resting after grazing. They were as big as oxen and when the
sun had dried them, they were of a pronounced reddish color. Those in the
water looked black.

They had a way of sticking their heads and necks straight up out of the
sea which was slightly suggestive of men treading water. Their heads
seemed small for their great bodies and with their big eyes, their
beard-like mass of thick bristles about the nose, and their long ivory
tusks they had a distinctly human look despite their grotesque ugliness.
They lifted their multitudinous voices in gruff, barking roars like
so many bulldogs affected with a cold. There must have been 10,000 of
them. They paid little attention to the ship. Those on shore remained as
motionless as boulders.

"Want to collect a little ivory?" Captain Shorey said with a smile to Mr.

"No, thank you, not just now," replied the mate. "I want to live to get
back to 'Frisco."

An ivory hunter among those tusked thousands doubtless would have fared
disastrously. Walrus are famous fighters. When attacked, they sometimes
upset a boat with their tusks and drown the hunters. They are dangerous
even in small herds. Moreover they are difficult to kill. Their thick
hides will turn a bullet that does not hit them solidly. Though slow and
unwieldy on land or ice, they are surprisingly agile in the water and a
harpooned walrus will frequently tow a boat at a dizzy clip.

The region about Cape Prince of Wales is a favorite feeding ground for the
animals. The coasts swarm with clams, mussels, and other shell-fish upon
which the walrus live. Thirteen varieties of edible clams, it is said,
have been discovered by scientists about Cape Prince of Wales. The walrus
dig these shell-fish out of the sand and rocks with their tusks, crush
them with their teeth, eject the shells, and swallow the dainty tidbits.
Their tusks serve them also as weapons of defense and as hooks by which
to haul themselves upon ice floes.

We did not dare take chances in the boats among such vast numbers of these
formidable creatures and soon left the great herd astern. A little higher
up the coast we ran into a small herd numbering about a hundred, and Mr.
Winchester, armed with his repeating rifle, lowered his boat to have a try
for ivory.

When the mate's boat dashed among the animals they did not dive or run
away, but held their ground, standing well up out of water and coughing
out defiance. Long John darted a harpoon into one of the beasts and it
plunged below and went scurrying away. One might have thought the boat was
fast to a young whale from the way the line sizzled out over the bow. The
walrus dragged the boat about half a mile, and when the animal again came
to the surface for air Mr. Winchester killed it with a bullet.

But the blood and the shooting had thrown the remainder of the herd into
violent excitement. Roaring furiously, the great beasts converged from
all sides in the wake of the chase. By the time Long John had cut off
the head of the dead walrus and heaved it aboard and had recovered his
harpoon, the animals were swarming menacingly about the boat. Long John,
who had been in such ticklish situations before, began to beat a tattoo on
the gunwales with his sheath knife, at the same time emitting a series of
blood-curdling yells. This was intended to awe the boat's besiegers and
had a momentary effect. The brutes stood in the water apparently puzzled,
but still roaring savagely. But they were not long to be held off by mere
noise. Led by a monster bull, they rushed at the boat in a concerted
attack. The sailors belabored them over the head with the sweeps. The mate
pumped lead into them from his rifle. Still they came on.

When Captain Shorey, who had been watching the battle from the
quarter-deck, saw how serious the situation was becoming, he grew alarmed.

"Those men will be killed," he shouted to Mr. Landers. "Call the watch and
lower those other boats, and be quick about it."

In a jiffy the boats were lowered, the crews piled in, masts were
stepped, and we shot away to the rescue. But the mate's crew solved their
own problem before we could come into action. When it seemed likely
the walrus would swamp the boat, Long John harpooned the leader of the
herd. The big walrus dived and made off, hauling the boat out of the
midst of the furious brutes to safety. The other animals did not pursue.
They bobbed about the scene of the conflict for some time and finally
disappeared. Long John killed the big bull to which the boat was fast, cut
off its head, and the boat went back to the battleground to take similar
toll of the walrus that had died under the mate's rain of bullets. Eight
carcasses were found afloat and as many more probably had sunk.

Ten heads with their ivory tusks were brought aboard the brig as trophies
of the hunt. The tusks of the bull that had led the attack measured two
feet six inches. The animal, according to Mr. Winchester, must have been
ten or twelve feet long. The mate estimated its weight at 1,800 pounds--a
guess, of course, but perhaps a close one.



We were cruising in open water soon afterward with two whaling ships in
sight, the _Reindeer_ and the _Helen Marr_, both barkentines and carrying
five boats each, when we raised a school of bowheads straight ahead and
about five miles distant. There were twenty-five or thirty whales and a
broad patch of sea was covered with their incessant fountains. The other
ships saw them about the same time. The long-drawn, musical "Blo-o-o-w!"
from their mastheads came to us across the water. Aboard the brig, the
watch was called and all hands were mustered to the boats. Falls were
thrown off the hooks and we stood by to lower as soon as the captain gave
the word. There was equal bustle on the other ships. Traveling before a
favoring breeze in the same direction as the whales, the three vessels
waited until they could work closer. Each captain in the meanwhile kept a
watchful eye on the others. None of them proposed to let his rivals get
the start. The _Reindeer_ was to windward of us, the _Helen Marr_ on our

When the ships had reached within a mile of the whales Captain Shorey sent
our boats down. Instantly the other skippers did the same. Soon thirteen
whale boats were speeding on the chase.

Fine sailing weather it was, with a fresh breeze ruffling the surface of a
gently heaving sea. With all sails set and keeping well apart, the boats
heeled over, their crews sitting lined up along the weather gunwales.
There seemed no chance of any clash or misunderstanding. There were plenty
of whales, and with any luck there would be glory enough and profit enough
for all.

Like a line of skirmishers deployed against an enemy, the boats stole
silently toward the whales. We soon saw the great animals were busy
feeding. A few inches below the surface the sea was filled with "whale
food," a round, diaphanous, disk-like jellyfish about the size of a
silver dollar and perfectly white. When he arrived in this Arctic Ocean
whale pasture the water seemed snowy with the millions of jellyfish. With
open jaws, the whales swam this way and that, making zigzag swaths a
hundred yards long through the gelatinous masses, their great heads and
backs well out of water, their fins now and then flapping ponderously.
When they had entangled a sufficient quantity of the jellyfish in the long
hair hanging from the inner edges of their teeth they closed their mouths
with reverberating snaps that sent the water splashing out on either side.

Before the whales were aware of danger, the boats rushed in among them.
Each boatheader singled out a whale, and five boats were quickly fast--two
from the _Reindeer_, two from the _Helen Marr_, and Mr. Winchester's boat.
Wild turmoil and confusion instantly ensued among the great animals.
They went plunging below in alarm and the boats that made no strike at
the first onslaught had no chance thereafter. The whales did not stop to
investigate the causes of the sudden interruption of their banquet. The
sea swallowed them up and we did not see them again. A little later we
caught a glimpse of their fountains twinkling against the sky on the far

Mr. Winchester's whale was wriggling about among the jellyfish with jaws
widely distended when the boat slipped silently upon it. As the prow
bumped against its black skin, Long John drove a harpoon up to the hitches
in its back. With a tonite bomb shattered in its vitals, the monster
sounded in a smother of foam. In the dynamic violence with which it got
under way it literally stood on its head. Its flukes, easily twenty feet
from tip to tip, shot at least thirty feet into the air. They swung over
to one side, the great body forming a high arch, and struck the sea with a
resounding smack. Then they sailed on high again to come down on the other
side with another broadside smash. Again they rose like lightning into the
air and the whale seemed to slip down perpendicularly into the ocean.

It was evident at the outset that the animal was badly wounded. It swam
only a short distance below the surface and not rapidly, sending up
thousands of bubbles to mark its course. This broad highway of bubbles
curved and turned, but Mr. Winchester, who had been smart enough not to
lower his sail, followed it as a hound follows the trail of a deer. The
boat sailed almost as swiftly as the whale swam and was able to keep
almost directly above it. When the whale came to the surface the mate was
upon it and Long John's second harpoon stopped it dead in its track. The
whale went through no flurry, but died instantly and rolled over on its

With excitement all about, there was nothing for Mr. Landers or Gabriel to
do. So we sat still in the boats and watched the swift incidents of the
far-flung battle.

One of the whales struck by a boat from the _Reindeer_ breached almost
completely out of water as soon as it felt the sting of the harpoon. It
floundered down like a falling tower, rolled about for a moment before
sinking to a swimming depth, and made off at mad speed. It rose within
twenty feet of where our boat lay at a standstill and we could see its
wild eye, as big as a saucer, as the injured creature blew up a fountain
whose bloody spray fell all over us. The boat it was dragging soon went
flashing past us, the crew sitting crouched down and silent.

"Swing to him, fellers," shouted Kaiuli, standing up and waving his hat
about his head.

But the others paid no attention to our South Sea island savage. They were
intent just then on tragedy. Their boat struck the whale at its next rise.
The animal went into a violent flurry. It beat the sea into a lather with
fins and flukes and darted around on its side in a semi-circle, clashing
its great jaws, until it finally collapsed and lay limp and lifeless.

The whale struck by the other boat from the Reindeer ran out a tub of
line, but a second boat had come up in time to bend on its own line and
took the animal in tow. Before the whale had run out this new tub, a third
boat harpooned it. With two boats fast to it, it continued its flight to
windward and was at least two miles from us when its pursuers at last
overtook and killed it.

Two boats from the _Helen Marr_ struck whales while the monsters were
feeding within an oar's length of each other. One whale started off at
right angles to the direction taken by the other. It looked for a time
as if the two lines would become entangled and the boats would crash
together. But the whale that cut across the other's course swam above the
latter's line and dragged its boat so swiftly after it that a collision
was averted by a few feet.

One of the whales was bombed and killed after a short flight. The other
acted in a way that whales hardly ever act. It ran hard to windward at
first, as whales usually do when struck. Then it suddenly turned and ran
in an exactly opposite direction. This unexpected change in its course
almost upset the boat, which was jerked violently over on its beam-ends
and spun round like a top, while the crew held on for dear life and barely
escaped being pitched into the sea. Once righted and on its way again, the
boat rapidly hauled up on the whale, whose fast-going vitality showed in
its diminished speed. After a flight that had covered at least a mile,
the whale was finally killed close to the spot at which it had first been

When, the sharp, fast work of the boats ended, five mighty carcasses lay
stretched upon the sea. The great whale drive, which had lasted less than
an hour, had bagged game worth something like $60,000.

The three ships soon sailed to close quarters and the boats had a
comparatively easy time getting the whales alongside. That night the
try-works were started and big cressets whose flames were fed by "scrap"
flared up on all the ships, lighting them in ghostly-wise from the deck to
the topmost sail.

At the cutting in of this whale I had my first experience at the windlass.
The heaviest labor falls to the sailors who man the windlass and hoist
in the great blanket pieces of blubber and the "old head." Gabriel, the
happiest-spirited old soul aboard, bossed the job, as he always did, and
cheered the sailors and made the hard work seem like play by his constant
chanteys--those catchy, tuneful, working songs of the sea. All the old
sailors on the brig knew these songs by heart and often sang them on the
topsail halyard or while reefing on the topsail yard. The green hands
soon picked up the words and airs of the choruses and joined in. The day
laborer on land has no idea how work at sea is lightened by these songs.

Gabriel knew no end of them, and in a round, musical voice led the men
at the windlass in such rollicking old-time sea airs as "Whiskey for the
Johnnies," "Blow the Man Down," "Blow, Boys, Blow," and "Rolling Rio."
He would sing a verse and the sailors would stand with their hands on
the windlass bars until he had concluded. Then they would heave away
with a will and make the pawls clank and clatter as they roared out the
chorus. The old negro's favorite was "Whiskey for the Johnnies." It had
a fine rousing chorus and we liked to sing it not only for its stirring
melody but because we always harbored a hope--which, I may add, was never
realized--that the captain would be touched by the words and send forward
a drop of liquor with which to wet our whistles. Gabriel would begin in
this way:

  "O whiskey is the life of man."

And the sailors as they heaved would chorus:

  "O whiskey, O Johnny.
   O whiskey is the life of man,
   Whiskey for the Johnnies."

Then Gabriel would sing:

  "Whiskey killed my poor old dad,
   Whiskey drove my mother mad,
   Whiskey caused me much abuse,
   Whiskey put me in the calaboose,
   Whiskey fills a man with care,
   Whiskey makes a man a bear."

And the men would come through with the refrain:

  "Whiskey, Johnny.
   I drink whiskey when I can.
   O whiskey for the Johnnies."

At the end of our song which ran through verses enough to bring a blanket
piece of blubber swinging inboard, we would look wistfully toward the
quarter-deck and wonder if the "old man" would take our musical hint.

Or Gabriel would start up "Rolling Rio":

  "I'll sing you a song of the fish of the sea."

The men would thunder:

  "Rolling Rio."

Gabriel would continue:

  "As I was going down Broadway Street
   A pretty young girl I chanced to meet."

And the sailors would sing:

  "To my rolling Rio Grande.
   Hurrah, you Rio, rolling Rio.
   So fare you well, my pretty young girl,
   I'm bound for the Rio Grande."

"Blow, Boys, Blow" was another with which we made the Arctic ring. The
other ships could not have failed to hear its swinging rhythm as it burst
from our lusty lungs in this fashion:


  "A Yankee ship came down the river."

The sailors:

  "Blow, boys, blow."


  "And who do you think was skipper of her?
   Dandy Jim of old Carolina."


  "Blow, my bully boys, blow."


  "And who do you think was second greaser?
   Why, Pompey Squash, that big buck nigger."


  "Blow, boys, blow."


  "And what do you think they had for dinner?
   Monkey lights and donkey's liver."

[Illustration: The Lip of a Bowhead Whale]


  "Blow, my bully boys, blow."


  "And what do you think they had for supper?
   Old hard tack and Yankee leather.
   Then blow, my boys, for better weather.
   Blow, my boys, I love to hear you."


  "Blow, my bully boys, blow."

So with a heave and a song we soon had our whale stowed, bone and blubber,
below hatches. The _Reindeer_ and the _Helen Marr_ had drifted far away
from us by the time our work was finished, but they were still in sight
and their try-works smoking. Our whale yielded 1,800 pounds of bone.



The whaling fleet divided soon after entering the Arctic Ocean. Some of
the ships went straight on north to the whaling grounds about Point Barrow
and Herschel Island. The others bore to the westward for the whaling along
the ice north of eastern Siberia. We stood to the westward. In a few days
we had raised the white coasts of a continent of ice that shut in all the
north as far as the eye could see and extended to the Pole and far beyond.
With the winds in the autumn always blowing from the northwest, the sea
was perfectly calm in the lee of this indestructible polar cap. I have
been out in the whale boats when they were heeled over on their beam-ends
under double-reefed sails before a gale of wind upon a sea as smooth as
the waters of a duck pond.

It was now no longer bright twilight at midnight. The sun already well on
its journey to the equator, sank earlier and deeper below the horizon.
Several hours of darkness began to intervene between its setting and its
rising. By September we had a regular succession of days and nights.

With the return of night we saw for the first time that electric
phenomenon of the Far North, the aurora borealis. Every night during our
stay in the Arctic the skies were made brilliant with these shooting
lights. I had expected to see waving curtains of rainbow colors, but I
saw no colors at any time. The auroras of those skies were of pure white
light. A great arch would suddenly shoot across the zenith from horizon to
horizon. It was nebulously bright, like a shining milky way or a path of
snow upon which moonlight sparkles. You could hear it rustle and crackle
distinctly, with a sound like that of heavy silk violently shaken. It
shed a cold white radiance over the sea like the light of arc lamps, much
brighter than the strongest moonlight.

It was not quite bright enough to read by--but almost--and it threw sharp,
black shadows on the deck. Gradually the arch would fade, to be succeeded
by others that spanned the heavens from other angles. Often several arches
and segments were in the sky at the same time. Sometimes, though rarely,
the aurora assumed the form of a curtain hanging vertically along the
horizon and shimmered as though agitated by a strong wind.

I was pleasantly surprised by the temperatures encountered in the Arctic.
We were in the polar ocean until early in October, but the lowest
temperature recorded by the brig's thermometer was 10 degrees below zero.
Such a temperature seems colder on sea than on land. Greater dampness has
something to do with it, but imagination probably plays its part. There is
something in the very look of a winter sea, yeasty under the north wind
and filled with snowy floes and icebergs, that seems to congeal the marrow
in one's bones. In the cold snaps, when a big wave curled over the bows,
I have seen it break and strike upon the deck in the form of hundreds of
ice pellets. Almost every day when it was rough, the old Arctic played
marbles with us.

What with the mists, the cold rains, the sleets and snows and flying
spray, the brig was soon a mass of ice. The sides became encased in a
white armor of ice which at the bows was several feet thick. We frequently
had to knock it off. The decks were sheeted with ice, the masts and spars
were glazed with it, the shrouds, stays, and every rope were coated with
ice, and the yard-arms and foot-ropes were hung with ice stalactites. One
of the most beautiful sights I ever saw was the whaling fleet when we fell
in with it one cold, gray morning. The frost had laid its white witchery
upon the other ships as it had upon the brig, and they glided through the
black seas, pallid, shimmering, and phantom-like in their ice armor--an
armada of ghostly _Flying Dutchmen_.

The brig was constantly wearing and tacking on the whaling grounds and
there was considerable work to be done aloft. By the captain's orders, we
did such work with our mittens off. Hauling bare-handed on ropes of solid
ice was painful labor, and "Belay all!" often came like a benediction
to souls in torment. Then we had much ado whipping our hands against
our sides to restore the circulation. After Big Foot Louis had frozen a
finger, the captain permitted us to keep our mittens on.

Work aloft under such conditions was dangerous. Our walrus-hide boots were
heelless and extremely slippery and our footing on the foot-ropes was
precarious. We had to depend as much upon our hands as upon our feet to
keep from falling when strung out for reefing along the topsail yard. Many
were the slips and hair-breadth escapes. It seems now, on looking back on
it, almost miraculous that some of us green hands did not tumble to our

We saw whales frequently. Sometimes the boats were lowered half a dozen
times a day. Often we spent whole days in the boats, and even in our
skin clothes it was freezing business sitting still on the gunwale of a
beam-ended boat driving along at thrilling speed in the teeth of an Arctic
gale. Our skipper was a good gambler, and he lowered whenever there was
an off chance to bag a leviathan.

As we worked to the westward, twin peaks rose out of the sea ahead of
us. Covered with snow and ice, they stood out against the sky as white
as marble. It was our first glimpse of Herald Island, in latitude 71
degrees north. We sailed north of the island and close to it. It looked
forbiddingly desolate. Along the shores there was a rampart of black rock.
Nowhere else was a glimpse of earth or herbage of any sort. The island was
a gleaming white mass of snow and ice from the dark sea to the tips of
the twin mountains. It was discovered in 1849 by Captain Kellett of the
English ship _Herald_ and named after his vessel. Captain De Long, leader
of the ill-fated _Jeanette_ expedition, was frozen in close to the island
in the winter of 1880. He found polar bear plentiful and trapped and shot
a number.

Here at Herald Island we fell in with eighteen ships of the whaling
fleet--all that had cruised to the westward--and it was only by good luck
that some of them did not leave their hulks on those desolate shores. The
polar pack rested solidly against the island's western end and curved in
a great half-moon to the north and east. The pocket thus formed between
the island and the ice looked good for whales and the ships hunted it out

Far to the eastward, a long arm of ice reached out from the pack and
grasped the island's eastern end. This arm was perhaps a mile wide. It
barred our passage back to the open sea. The ships had been caught in a
trap. They were bottled up in a hole of water perhaps a hundred square
miles in extent. Busy on the lookout for whales, the captains of the fleet
did not realize the situation for several hours. When they discovered
their predicament, they hurried to the crow's-nests with glasses to try to
spy out an avenue of escape. Sail was cracked on. The ships began to fly
about like panic-stricken living creatures.

The great polar pack was pressing rapidly toward the island. Unless the
ships escaped, it seemed likely they would be securely hemmed in before
night. In this event, if they escaped wreck by ice pressure they faced
the prospect of lying still in an ice bed until the pack broke up in the

[Illustration: A Close Call Off Herald Island]

All day long the frightened ships scurried up and down the ice barrier
without finding an opening. They ran to the westward. There was no escape
there. They flew back to the east. An ice wall confronted them. The case
seemed hopeless. The panic of the captains became more and more evident.
If a ship hurried off in any direction, the other ships flocked after
her like so many scared sheep. Morning and afternoon passed in this wild
search for an outlet. Night was coming on.

A bark squared her yards and shot away to the southeast. It was the _Sea
Breeze_. When the others expected her to tack, she did no such thing, but
kept going straight ahead. On she went alone, far from the fleet. It was
exciting to watch that single ship flying eastward. What could it mean?
Had she found an opening? The other ships turned their prows after her,
one by one. A long line of vessels soon was careering in the wake of the
_Sea Breeze_. She had dwindled to a little ship in the far distance when
at last we saw her break out the American colors at her mizzen peak. Every
man aboard the brig gave a cheer. Cheers from the other ships came across
the water. It meant that the _Sea Breeze_ was clear.

She had found a lead that suddenly had opened through the eastern ice
strip, as leads will open in drifting floes. The lead was not entirely
clear. A narrow strip of ice lay across it. The _Sea Breeze_ butted
through this strip and sailed on to freedom. The other vessels followed.
Our brig was the tenth ship to pass through. As we negotiated the narrow
passage, the ice was so close on both sides we could have leaped upon it
from the bulwarks. It was with a joyous sense of escape that we cleared
the pack and swung once more on the open sea. Soon after the last ship of
the fleet had bumped her way to safety the ice closed solidly behind.



Early one morning the old familiar cry rang from the

A lone whale, in plain view from the deck, was sporting lazily on the
surface about a mile and a half off our starboard bow. The three boats
were hurriedly lowered and the crews scrambled in. We took to the oars,
for not a breath of air was stirring and the sea was as smooth as polished
silver. Away went the boats together, as if from a starting line at the
crack of a pistol, with the whale as the goal and prize of the race.

Mr. Winchester had often boasted of the superiority of his crew. Mr.
Landers had not seemed interested in the question, but Gabriel resented
the assumption. "Just wait," he used to say to us confidentially. "We'll
show him which is de bes' crew. Our time'll come." The men of the mate's
boat had shared their officer's vainglorious opinion. They had long
swaggered among us with a self-complacent assurance that made us smart.
Our chance had at last come to prove their pride a mockery under the
skipper's eyes. If ever men wanted, from the bottom of their hearts, to
win, we did. We not only had our name as skillful oarsmen to vindicate,
but a grudge to wipe out.

So evenly matched were the crews that the boats rushed along side by side
for at least half a mile, Mr. Winchester insouciant and superciliously
smiling, Mr. Landers indifferent, Gabriel all eagerness and excitement.
Perhaps Mr. Landers knew his crew was outclassed. If he did not, he was
not long in finding it out, for his boat began to drop steadily behind and
was soon hopelessly out of the contest. But the other two crews, stroke
for stroke, were proving foemen worthy of each other's prowess.

"Oho, Gabriel," Mr. Winchester laughed contemptuously, "you think your
boat can out-pull us, eh? Bet you ten pounds of tobacco we beat you to the

"I take you," cried Gabriel excitedly. "Dat's a bet."

If Gabriel accepted the challenge, so did we, and right heartily at that.
We threw ourselves, heart and soul, into the struggle. The men in the
mate's boat, holding us cheaply, believed they could draw away whenever
they chose and go on to win, hands down. The mate kept looking over at us,
a supercilious smile still curling the corners of his mouth.

"Come on now, my boys," he cried. "All together. Shake her up a bit. Give
those fellows a taste of your mettle."

We heard his words as distinctly as his own crew heard them--he was only
a few boat lengths away. They inspired us to greater exertion than they
inspired his own men. They spurted. So did we. Still the two boats raced
neck and neck. We were not to be shaken off. The mate looked disconcerted.
His men had done their level best to take the lead and they had failed.
That spurt marked the crisis of the race.

The mate's smile faded out. His face grew anxious. Then it hardened
into an expression of grim determination. He had sat motionless at the
beginning. Now when he saw his vaunted superiority slipping through his
fingers he began to "jockey"--throwing his body forward in violent lunges
at every stroke of the sweeps, pushing with all his might on the stroke
oar, and booming out, "Pull, my boys; pull away, my boys."

But old Gabriel was "jockeying," too, and encouraging us in the same

"We show dat mate," he kept repeating. "We show him. Steady together, my
lads. Pull away!"

And we pulled as if our lives depended on it, bending to the oars with
every ounce of our strength, making the long sweeps bend in the water. We
began to forge ahead, very slowly, inch by inch. We saw it--it cheered
us to stronger effort. Our rivals saw it--it discouraged them. Under the
heart-breaking strain they began to tire. They slipped back little by
little. They spurted again. It was no use. We increased our advantage.
Open daylight began to broaden between the stern of our boat and the bow
of theirs. They were beaten in a fair trial of strength, oarsmanship, and

"Ha, my boys," chuckled Gabriel. "We win. Good-by to dat mate. Now we
catch dat whale."

We shot along at undiminished speed, pulling exultantly. What the whale
was doing or how close we were to it, we at the oars could not see.

"Stand by, Louis," said Gabriel presently.

"Aye, aye, sir," responded Louis.

A few more strokes and a great black bulk loomed close alongside.

"Give it to him, Louis," cried Gabriel.

And as the boat glanced against that island of living ebony, Louis's
harpoon sank deep into the soft, buttery mass. We heard the tiny
concussion of the cap of the tonite gun, and a fraction of a second later
the bomb exploded with a muffled roar in the whale's vitals.

"Stern, stern!" shouted Gabriel. "Stern for your lives!"

We backed water as hard as we could. The great back went flashing down,
the mighty tail rose up directly over us, shutting out the sky. It curled
over away from us and smote the sea with deafening thunder. As quick as
lightning it rose into the air again, curled high above us with tragic
menace, and came crashing down, this time toward us. But we had backed
just out of harm's way. Death and that terrible tail missed us by about
three feet.

The mate's boat came rushing up. It was too late. The whale--our
whale--had sounded.

"Your boat can beat us, eh?" Gabriel called tauntingly to Mr. Winchester.
"Not much. I know we break blackskin first. I know we win dat race."

Our line began to dance and sing, leaping up from its neatly laid coils in
the tub in dizzy spirals and humming out over the bow.

"Ha, boys," sang out Kaiuli, our Kanaka bow oarsman. "Now for fine ride
behind Arctic race horse--eh?"

With a whale harnessed to our boat and a sea as smooth as any turnpike
for our highway, we settled ourselves for the ride. The friction of the
line set the boat going. It gathered momentum. In a little while we were
tearing along through that sea of oil, our bow deep in the smother as the
whale pulled down upon it, and flashing walls of white spray flaring out
on either side.

The other boats pulled for the point at which it seemed most probable the
whale would come up. When it rose to the surface, the mate's boat was

"Lay me on four seas off and I'll get him," we heard Long John shout to
Mr. Winchester. The mate did just that. The whale was up but a moment and
Long John tried for it, but it was too long a dart, and his harpoon fell
into the sea. Before he had recovered his iron we had shot past. When the
whale rose again, we bumped out of water on its body. A second harpoon
drove home in its back, a second bomb exploded in its insides. A great
shudder seized the monster. The water foamed white with its throes. Then
everything grew still. Slowly the great body rolled over, belly up.

Big Foot Louis danced up and down in the bow, raising his knees high in a
sort of joyful cake-walk. Gabriel, equally excited, waved his hat.

"By golly," he shouted, "dat mate don't strike him. Dat feesh is all ours.
It takes old Gabriel fer kill de whale, by golly."

When we got back to the brig we looked like snow-powdered Santa Clauses.
The spray kicked up in our wild ride behind the Arctic Ocean race horse
had wet us from head to foot and, freezing on our fur clothes, had frosted
us all over with fine white ice. Mr. Winchester was a good sportsman and
paid his bet promptly. Out of his winnings Gabriel gave each man of his
boat's crew a plug of tobacco.

After the whale had been brought alongside the ship and the blubber had
been peeled off its body, it fell to the lot of Big Foot Louis to cut
in the "old head." It was his first opportunity to show his experience
in such work and he was as elated as a boy. He threw off his coat with
a theatrical flourish, hitched up his trousers, seized an axe, and with
an air of bravado climbed down on the stripped carcass. A little sea had
begun to run and the whale was bending sinuously throughout its length
and rolling slightly from side to side.

Louis chopped two little ledges in the whale's flesh with the deftness of
an old hand, and planting his feet in these, began raining blows with his
axe on the neck. He was getting on famously, and the crew, hanging over
the bulwarks, was watching with admiring eyes. Suddenly the whale gave
an unexpectedly violent roll--our Arctic Ocean race horse was proving a
bronco even in death--and Louis's big foot slipped off into the water.
He lost his balance, pitched forward, and sprawled face downward on
the whale, his axe sailing away and plunking into the sea. He clutched
frantically at the whale, but every grip slipped loose and, inch by inch,
with eyeballs popping out of his head, he slid off into the sea and with a
yell went under.

Everybody laughed. The captain held his sides and the officers on the
cutting stage almost fell off in the violence of their mirth. Louis came
up spluttering and splashing. He was an expert swimmer, as expert as the
Kanakas among whom he had lived for years, and he needed all his skill
to keep afloat in his heavy boots and skin clothes. As soon as the mate
could control his merriment, he stuck the long handle of his spade down
and Louis grasped it and was pulled back on the whale's body. He sat
there, dripping and shivering and with chattering teeth, rolling his white
eyes up at the laughing crew along the rail with a tragic "Et tu, Brute"
expression. He couldn't see the joke.

"Lemme aboard," he whimpered.

"Stay where you are," roared the captain, "and cut in that head."

Louis lived in mortal fear of the skipper, and the way he straightened up
in his slippery seat and said "Aye, aye, sir!" made the crew burst out
laughing again. Another axe was passed down to him. He floundered to his
feet, and though he found it harder than ever in his wet boots to keep his
footing, and slipped more than once and almost fell off again, he finally
succeeded in cutting off the head. He had regained his air of bravado by
the time he had scrambled back on deck.

"Pretty close shave, Louis," ventured a sailor.

"Humph," returned Louis, "dat's nothin'--nothin' at all." And with quite
lordly dignity, despite the dripping brine, he stalked off to the cabin to
change his clothes.



Soon after taking our third whale, we saw our first polar bears--two of
them on a narrow floe of ice. When the brig was within fifty yards of
them the mate got out his rifle and began blazing away. His first shot
struck one of the bears in the hind leg. The animal wheeled and snapped
at the wound. The second shot stretched it out dead. The second bear was
hit somewhere in the body and, plunging into the sea, it struck out on a
three-mile swim for the main ice pack. It swam with head and shoulders
out, cleaving the water like a high-power launch and leaving a creaming
wake behind. Moving so swiftly across the brig's course, it made a
difficult target.

"I'm going down after that fellow," said Mr. Winchester.

He called a boat's crew and lowered, taking his place in the bow with his
rifle, while Long John sat at the tiller. He had got only a short distance
from the ship when Captain Shorey ordered Gabriel after him.

"Killing that bear may be a bigger job than he thinks," he said. "Lower a
boat, Mr. Gabriel, and lend a hand. It may be needed."

In a few minutes Gabriel was heading after the mate's boat. Neither boat
hoisted sail. With four men at the sweeps, it was as much as the boats
could do to gain on the brute. If the bear was not making fifteen miles an
hour, I'm no judge.

Mr. Winchester kept pegging away, his bullets knocking up water all around
the animal. One ball struck the bear in the back. That decided the animal
to change its tactics. It quit running away and turned and made directly
for its enemies.

"Avast rowing," sang out the mate.

The men peaked their oars, turned on the thwarts, and had their first
chance to watch developments, which came thick and fast. Rabid ferocity,
blind fury, and deadly menace were in every line of that big white head
shooting across the water toward them. The boat sat stationary on a
dancing sea. The mate's rifle cracked repeatedly. The bullets peppered the
sea, sending up little spurts of water all about the bear. But the beast
did not notice them, never tried to dodge, never swerved aside--just kept
rushing for the boat with the directness of an arrow.

It was a time of keen excitement for the men in the boat. They kept
glancing with an "Oh, that Blücher or night would come" expression toward
Gabriel's boat, which was doing all that oars could do to get into the
fray, Big Foot Louis standing all the while in the bow with harpoon ready.
The bobbing of his boat disconcerted the mate's aim. Though he was a crack
shot, as he had often proved among the okchugs, I never saw him shoot so
badly. But he kept banging away, and when the bear was within fifteen or
twenty yards he got home a ball in its shoulder. The beast plunged into
the air, snarling and clawing at the sea, then rushed again for the boat
like a white streak. It rammed into the boat bows-on, stuck one mighty
paw over the gunwale, and with a snarling roar and a frothing snap of
glistening fangs, leaped up and tried to climb aboard.

Just at this critical instant Gabriel's boat came into action with a port
helm. Louis drove a harpoon into the beast behind the shoulder--drove it
up to the haft, so that the spear-head burst out on the other side. At
the same moment the mate stuck the muzzle of his rifle almost down the
bear's throat and fired. The great brute fell back into the water, clawed
and plunged and roared and clashed its teeth and so, in a whirlwind of
impotent fury, died.

For a moment it lay limp and still among the lapping waves, then slowly
began to sink. But Louis held it up with the harpoon line and the animal
was towed back to the brig. It measured over seven feet in length and
weighed 1,700 pounds--a powerful, gaunt old giant, every inch bone and
sinew. Mr. Winchester retrieved the other bear from the ice floe. It was
considerably smaller. The pelts were stripped off and the carcasses thrown
overboard. The skins were in good condition, despite the earliness of the
season. They were stretched on frames fashioned by the cooper, and tanned.

A week or so later we sighted a lone bear on an ice floe making a meal off
a seal it had killed. It was late in the afternoon and one had to look
twice before being able to make out its white body against the background
of snow-covered ice. When the brig sailed within seventy-five yards the
bear raised its head for a moment, took a squint at the vessel, didn't
seem interested, and went on eating.

Resting his rifle on the bulwarks and taking careful aim, Mr. Winchester
opened fire. The pattering of the bullets on the ice seemed to puzzle the
bear. As it heard the missiles sing and saw the snow spurt up, it left the
seal and began walking all about the floe on an investigation. Finally
it reared on its hind legs to its full height. While in this upright
position, a bullet struck it and turned it a sudden twisting somersault.
Its placid mood was instantly succeeded by one of ferocious anger. It
looked toward the vessel and roared savagely. Still the bullets fell
about it, and now alive to its danger, it plunged into the sea and struck
out for the polar pack a mile distant.

Mr. Winchester again lowered, with Gabriel's boat to back him up. The
chase was short and swift. The boats began to overhaul the bear as it
approached the ice, the mate's bullets splashing all about the animal,
but doing no damage. As the brute was hauling itself upon the ice, a ball
crashed into its back, breaking its spine. It fell back into the water and
expired in a furious flurry. A running bowline having been slipped over
its neck, it was towed back to the brig.

Not long afterward, while we were cruising in open water, a polar bear
swam across the brig's stern. There was neither ice nor land in sight.
Figuring the ship's deck as the center of a circle of vision about ten
miles in diameter, the bear already had swum five miles, and probably
quite a bit more, and it is certain he had an equal distance to go before
finding any ice on which to rest. It probably had drifted south on an ice
pan and was bound back for its home on the polar pack.

The bear made too tempting a target for the mate to resist, and he brought
out his rifle and, kneeling on the quarter-deck, he took steady aim and
fired. His bullet struck about two feet behind the animal. He aimed again,
but changed his mind and lowered his gun.

"No," he said, "that fellow's making too fine a swim. I'll let him go."

Cleaving the water with a powerful stroke, the bear went streaking out of
sight over the horizon. It is safe to say that before its swim ended the
animal covered fifteen miles at the lowest estimate, and possibly a much
greater distance.

One moonlight night a little later, while we were traveling under short
sail with considerable ice about, a whale blew a short distance to
windward. I was at the wheel and Mr. Landers was standing near me. "Blow!"
breathed Mr. Landers softly. Suddenly the whale breached--we could hear it
distinctly as it shot up from a narrow channel between ice floes. "There
she breaches!" said Mr. Landers in the same low voice, with no particular
concern. We thought the big creature merely was enjoying a moonlight
frolic. It breached again. This time its body crashed upon a strip of
ice and flopped and floundered for a moment before sliding back into the
water. Then it breached half a dozen times more in rapid succession. I had
never seen a whale breach more than once at a time, even when wounded. Mr.
Landers became interested. "I wonder what's the matter with that whale,"
he said.

To our surprise, two other black bodies began to flash up into the
moonlight about the whale. Every time the whale breached, they breached,
too. They were of huge size, but nothing like so large as the whale.

"Killers!" cried Mr. Landers excitedly.

Then we knew the whale was not playing, but fighting for its life. It
leaped above the surface to a lesser and lesser height each time. Plainly
it was tiring fast. When it breached the last time only its head and a
small portion of its body rose into the air and both killers seemed to be
hanging with a bulldog grip upon its lower jaw. What the outcome of that
desperate battle was we did not see. The whale and its savage assailants
moved off out of eye-shot. But for some time after we had lost sight of
the whale we could hear its labored and stertoreous breathing and its
heavy splashes as it attempted to breach.

Killers, Mr. Landers told me, are themselves a species of rapacious,
carnivorous whale, whose upper and lower jaws are armed with sharp,
saw-like teeth. They are otherwise known as the Orca gladiator, and
tiger-hearted gladiators of the sea they are. The great, clumsy bowhead
with no teeth with which to defend itself, whose only weapons are its
flukes and its fins, is no match for them. They attack the great creature
whenever they encounter it, and when it has exhausted itself in its
efforts to escape, they tear open its jaws and feast upon its tongue. The
killer whale never hunts alone. It pursues its titanic quarry in couples
and trios, and sometimes in veritable wolf-like packs of half a dozen.
There is usually no hope for the bowhead that these relentless creatures
mark for their prey.



Our fourth and last whale gave us quite a bit of trouble. We sighted this
fellow spouting in a choppy sea among ice islands two or three miles
off the edges of the polar pack. All three boats lowered for it. It was
traveling slowly in the same direction the brig was sailing and about
two miles from the vessel. It took the boats some time to work to close
quarters. When the mate's boat was almost within striking distance, the
whale went under. As frightened whales usually run against the wind, Mr.
Winchester steered to windward. But the whale had not been frightened;
it had not seen the boats. Consequently it failed to head into the wind,
but did the unexpected by coming up to leeward, blowing with evident
unconcern. This brought it nearest to Gabriel, who went after it in a
flash. After a sharp, swift run down the wind, we struck the whale, which
dived and went racing under water for the ice pack. The dizzy rate at
which it took out our line might have led us to believe it was not hurt,
but we knew it was seriously wounded by the fountains of blood it sent up
whenever it came to the surface.

The captain's signals from the brig, by this time, had headed the other
boats in our direction, but they could not reach us in time to be of any
assistance. The whale ran away with our tub of line and we sat still and
watched the red fountains that marked its course as it headed for the big
ice to the north.

Directly in the whale's course lay an ice floe about half a mile long, a
few hundred yards wide and rising from five to ten feet above the surface.
We naturally supposed the creature would dive under this and keep going
for the main pack. To our surprise we soon saw fountain after fountain,
red with blood, shooting up from the center of the floe. The whale
evidently was too badly injured to continue its flight and had sought
refuge beneath this strip of drifting ice.

[Illustration: Skin Boat of the Siberian Eskimos]

Men were hurriedly landed from all the boats with harpoons and shoulder
guns, leaving enough sailors on the thwarts to fend the boats clear of
the ice. The landing parties clambered over the broken and tumbled ice,
dragging the harpoon lines. We found the whale half exposed in a narrow
opening in the center of the floe, all the ice about it red with clotted
blood. Long John and Little Johnny threw two harpoons each into the big
body and Big Foot Louis threw his remaining one. As a result of this
bombardment, five tonite bombs exploded in the whale, which, with the
harpoons sticking all over its back, suggested a baited bull in a Spanish
bullring hung with the darts of the banderilleros. But the great animal
kept on breathing blood and would not die. After all the harpoons had been
exhausted, shoulder guns were brought into play. In all, twelve tonite
bombs were fired into it before the monster gave a mighty shiver and lay

But with the whale dead, we still had a big problem on our hands. In some
way the giant bulk had to be hauled out of the ice. This was a difficult
matter even with plenty of time in which to do it. Night was coming on and
it was the brig's custom in the hours of darkness to sail far away from
the great ice pack with its edging of floating bergs and floes in order
to avoid possible accident and to sail back to the whaling grounds on
the morrow. This Captain Shorey prepared to do now. As a solution of the
dilemma, an empty bread cask or hogshead was brought on deck and the name
of the brig was seared in its staves with a hot iron in several places.
This cask was towed to the floe, hauled up on the edge of the ice, and the
long line of one of the harpoons sticking in the whale was made fast to it
by means of staples. Thus the cask marked the floe in which the whale was

It was growing dark when the brig went about, said good-night to the
whale, and headed for open water to the south. We sailed away before a
stiff breeze and soon cask and floe and the great white continent beyond
had faded from view. When morning broke we were bowling along under light
sail in a choppy sea with nothing but water to be seen in any direction.
The great ice cap was somewhere out of sight over the world's northern
rim. Not a floe, a berg, or the smallest white chunk of ice floated
anywhere in the purple sphere of sea ringed by the wide horizon. Being a
green hand, I said to myself, "Good-bye, Mr. Whale, we certainly have seen
the last we'll ever see of you."

Let me make the situation perfectly clear. Our whale was drifting
somewhere about the Arctic Ocean embedded in an ice floe scarcely to be
distinguished from a thousand other floes except by a cask upon its margin
which at a distance of a few miles would hardly be visible through strong
marine glasses. The floe, remember, was not a stationary object whose
longitude and latitude could be reckoned certainly, but was being tossed
about by the sea and driven by the winds and ocean currents. The brig,
on the other hand, had been sailing on the wind without a set course. It
had been tacking and wearing from time to time. It, too, had felt the
compulsion of the waves and currents. So throughout the night the brig
had sailed at random and twenty miles or so away the whale in its floe had
been drifting at random. Now how were we going to find our whale again?
This struck me that morning on the open sea with neither whale nor ice in
sight, as a problem certainly very nice, if not hopeless. The way it was
solved was as pretty a feat of navigation as I ever saw.

When Captain Shorey came on deck after breakfast, he "shot the sun"
through his sextant and went below to make his calculations. In a little
while he came on deck again and stepped to the man at the wheel. The
helmsman was steering full and by.

"How do you head?" asked Captain Shorey.

"Northwest," answered the sailor.

"Keep her northwest by west half west," said the captain.

For several hours the brig sailed steadily on this course. Along about
9 o'clock, we saw the peculiar, cold, light look above the sky line
ahead which meant ice and which sailors call an "ice horizon," to be
distinguished at a glance from a water horizon, which is dark. A little
later, we sighted the white loom of the great ice continent. Later still,
we picked up the bergs, floes, islands, and chunks of ice which drift
forever along its edge.

The brig kept on its course. A floe of ice, looking at a distance like a
long, narrow ribbon, lay ahead of us, apparently directly across our path.
As we drew nearer, we began to make out dimly a certain dark speck upon
the edge of the ice. This speck gradually assumed definiteness. It was our
cask and we were headed straight for it. To a landlubber unacquainted with
the mysteries of navigation, this incident may seem almost unbelievable,
but upon my honest word, it is true to the last detail.

After the brig had been laid aback near the ice, a boat was lowered and a
hole was cut in the bow of the whale's head. A cable was passed through
this and the other end was made fast aboard the ship. Then under light
sail, the brig set about the work of pulling the whale out of the ice.
The light breeze fell away and the three boats were strung out ahead with
hawsers and lent assistance with the oars. It was slow work. But when the
breeze freshened, the ice began gradually to give, then to open up, and
finally the whale was hauled clear and drawn alongside for the cutting in.



It was on October tenth that we broke out the Stars and Stripes at our
main gaff and squared our yards for home. Everybody cheered as the flag
went fluttering up, for everybody was glad that the end of the long, hard
voyage was in sight. Behring Straits which when we were about to enter the
Arctic Ocean--sea of tragedy and graveyard of so many brave men and tall
ships--had looked like the portals of inferno, now when we were homeward
bound seemed like the gateway to the Happy Isles.

The four whales we had captured on the voyage had averaged about 1,800
pounds of baleen, which that year was quoted at $6.50 a pound. We had
tried out all our whales except the last one and our casks were filled
with oil. Our entire catch was worth over $50,000. The officers and
boatsteerers made a pretty penny out of the voyage. The captain, I was
told, had shipped on a lay of one-sixth--and got it. The sailors had
shipped on the 190th lay--and didn't get it. That was the difference.
At San Francisco, the forecastle hands were paid off with the "big iron
dollar" of whaling tradition.

The homeward voyage was not a time of idleness. We were kept busy a large
part of the time cleaning the bone of our last three whales--the bone from
our first whale had been shipped to San Francisco from Unalaska. As we had
at first stowed it away, the baleen was in bunches of ten or a dozen slabs
held together at the roots by "white horse," which is the whaler name for
the gums of the whale. These bunches were now brought up on deck and each
slab of baleen was cut out of the gums separately and washed and scoured
with cocoanut rind procured for the purpose in the Hawaiian Islands. Then
the slabs were dried and polished until they shone like gun metal, tied
into bales, and stowed under hatches once more.

A little south of King's Island in the northern end of Behring Sea,
Captain Shorey set a course for Unimak Pass. We ran down Behring Sea with
a gale of wind sweeping us before it and great billows bearing us along.
When we bore up for the dangerous passage which had given us such a scare
in the spring, we were headed straight for it, and we went through into
the Pacific without pulling a rope. It was another remarkable example of
the navigating skill of whaling captains. We had aimed at Unimak Pass when
700 miles away and had scored a bull's-eye.

Again the "roaring forties" lived up to their name and buffeted us with
gale and storm. The first land we sighted after leaving the Fox Islands
was the wooded hills of northern California. I shall never forget how
beautiful those hills appeared and what a welcome they seemed to hold
out. They were my own country again, the United States--home. My eyes
grew misty as I gazed at them and I felt much as a small boy might feel
who, after long absence, sees his mother's arms open to him. The tug that
picked us up outside of Golden Gate at sundown one day seemed like a long
lost friend. It was long after darkness had fallen, that it towed us into
San Francisco harbor, past the darkly frowning Presidio and the twinkling
lights of Telegraph Hill, to an anchorage abreast the city, brilliantly
lighted and glowing like fairyland. I never in all my life heard sweeter
music than the rattle and clank of the anchor chain as the great anchor
plunged into the bay and sank to its grip in good American soil once more.

My whaling voyage was over. It was an adventure out of the ordinary, an
experience informing, interesting, health-giving, and perhaps worth while.
I have never regretted it. But I wouldn't do it again for ten thousand


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Note

Hyphenation of boat-steerer vs. boatsteerer was not changed as there were
approximately equal number of each version. Other words were changed to
match the most used version. Minor typos were corrected. The illustrations
were moved to prevent splitting paragraphs.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Year with a Whaler" ***

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