LIFE ON A GREENLAND WHALER.
What surprised me most in the Arctic regions was the rapidity ■with which you reach them. I had never realised that they lie at our very" doors. I think that we were only four days out from 'Shetland tthen v?e were among the drift ioe~. - I awoke of a morning to hear the bump bump of the floating pieceß against the side of the ship, and I went on deck to see the whole sea covered with them to the horizon. They were none of them large, but they lay so thiok that a man might travel far by springing from one to the other, Their dazzling whiteness made the sea seem bluer by contrast, and with a blue sky above and that glorious Arotio air in one's nostrils it waa a morning to remember. Itisßeldom that one meets, anyone who understands the valne of a Greenland whale. A well boned and large one aa Bhe floats is worth to-day something between two and three thousand pounds. This huge prioe is due to the value of whalebone, whioh is a very rare cornmodify, and yet absolutely essential' for some trade purposes. The price tends to rise steadily, for the number of the creatures is diminishing. In 1880 Captain Gray calculated that there were probably not more than 300 of them left alive in the whole expanse of the Greenland seas. How few there are is shown by thefaot that he recognised individuals amongst those whioh we chased. There was one with a wart about the Bize of a beehive upon his tail, what he had remembered chasing when he was a lad oh his: father's ship; Perhaps other generations of whalers may follow that warty tail, for the whale is a very long-lived creature. How long they live has never been ascer* tamed; but in the days when it tras customary to stamp harpoons ' with the names of vessels, old harpoons have been cut out of whales bearing names long forgotten in the trade, and all the evidence goes to prote that a century is well within their powers. ■ ■•Ife'ia exciting work pulling on to a Whale. Your own baok iB turned to him, an& all you know about ! ' 'hid is what you read upon the face of the ! boat-Bteerer. He is staring outrover your head, watching the creature as it swims slowly through the water, raising his hand . now and again to stop rowing ff when' he* sees that the eye is, coming round, and then resuming the . stealthy approach when; the Whale is end on. There are so many ■floating pieoes of ice, that as long as the oars are ' quiet the boat alone trill not cause the creature to dive. So you oreep Blowly up, and at last you are so near that the boat-ateorer ■ knows that you oan get there before the creature has time to dive— for it takes some little time to get that huge body in motion. You see a sudden gleam in his eyes, and a flush in his cheeks, and its " Give way, boys 3 Give way, all 1 Hard !" Cliok goes the trigger of the. big harpoon gun, and the foam flies from our oars, mx strokes, perhaps, and then with a dull greasy squeloh the bows run into something soft, and you and your oars are sent flying in every direction. But little you oare 1 forihat, for as you touch the whale .''■ you have heard the orasb of the gun and- know that the harpoon has been fired point-blank into the huge lead-coloured ourve of itß side. The creature sinks like a stone, the bows - of the boat splash down into the water again, but there is a little red Jack flying from the centre thward to Bhow you that you are fast, and .there is the line whizzing swiftly under the seafa and over the bows between your outstretched feet. This iB the harpooning, and the boat bas no more to do. Bnt the lancing, when the weary fish is i killed with the cold steel, is a more exciting, because it is a more prolonged, experience. You may be for half an hour or so near the creature that, yon can lay your hand npon its slimy Bideß. The whale appears to have but little sensibility to pain, for it never winces when the long hnces are passed through its body. Bnt its instinct urges it to gets its tail to work on the boat atid yours urges you to keep poling - and boat-hooking along its side, so - as. to retain your safe position near its shoulders. Even there, however, we found upon this occasion that we were not quite ont of danger's way, for the creature in its flurry raised its huge side-flapper and poised it over tne boat. One ■ flap would have sent us to the bottom of the sea, and I ban never -forget how, as we pushed our way from under, 'each of us held one hand up to Btave'off that great ' threatening fin— as if any strength of onre could have availed if the
whale had meant it to descend. But it vas spent with loss of blood, and instead of ooming down tbe fin rolled over the other way, and we knew that it wsb dead. Who conld swap that moment for any triumph that sport oan give ? — Conan Doyle,
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