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Smith Academy Record, 8 (Apr 1905) [1]-3

It was in ’71, I remember, that I was on the whaling ship Parallel Opipedon, in the South Pacific. One day after a prolonged spell of bad luck, we happened to be becalmed off Tanzatatapoo Island. We lay motionless for several days and although the mizzen top-gallant shrouds had been repeatedly belayed to the fore staysail, and the flying-jib-boom cleared, and lashed to the monkey rail, we made no progress whatever. It was a very hot and sultry day, and the captain was pacing the quarter-deck, fanning himself. The watch were amusing themselves holystoning the deck, while the rest of the crew were eating ice cream in the fore chains.

Suddenly the lookout in the fore-top sighted a whale off the port-bow. The jolly-boat, the gig, and the cutter immediately set off for the great creature. The gig arrived first, and from my position in the bow, I at once let fly a harpoon at the animal. The effect was remarkable. The whale dashed around and rushing at us from behind, deftly pushed his tail under the boat, which rose seventy-three feet in the air. It was smashed to bits, but myself and two others of its crew landed safely on the whale’s back. The latter at once started off with such velocity that the ship and the boats were soon left behind.

There we stayed, rather worse off than Jonah, for the monster might take it into his head at any moment to dive to the bottom, and leave us floundering in the water. He, however, remained on the surface, and for three days and nights carried us about at his will. After the first few hours we got used to it and began to enjoy ourselves. We did not lack for food, as the flying fish flew by in such numbers at night that we merely had to stand and let them hit against us. As to cooking them, it is well known that the flesh of whales is saturated with that oil that is so valuable. We simply cut out and burnt large chunks of the meat by which we fried the fish. Then for desert we often had jelly-fish and sponge cake, made out of the sponges which grew on the bottom of the great animal.

On the fourth day the whale died. I do not know whether it was because of the loss of flesh we used as food, or from indigestion, as he had the day before swallowed a large whale-boat whole. At any rate we were free from the danger of sinking. Yet there was small chance of reaching land, as he now drifted about according to the winds.

Toward the evening of the next day the wind fell, and we took the opportunity for a swim. As I was paddling around I observed a great mass of floating wreckage. I swam up to it, and noticed several masts and a whole mainsail. At this moment I thought of an idea which I communicated to my companions.

With great exertion we dragged several of the spars on the back of our friend before nightfall. Next morning we set to work and dug a hole in the middle of the whale’s back. Into this we set one of the largest spars, and lashed it firmly to the spine. We then spread the sail on spars and hoisted it up the mast. It is true that in a high wind two of us had to hold the mast steady, which looked rather undignified. But we got ahead at about three knots an hour, and after an uneventful voyage arrived in Honolulu in three months.

t. e. ’05

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press