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harpooneer 7
dart 6
one 6
whale 6
wonder 5
has 5
oar 4
out 4
whalemen 3
boat 3
should 3
expected 3
headsman 3
little 2
fish 2
body 2
long 2
chase 2
feet 2
any 2
both 2
bows 2
four 2
many 2
successful 2
harpoon 2
chapter 2
know 2
some 2
fishery 2
harpooneers 2
ship 2
very 2
start 2
speed 2
first 2
half 2
rowing 2
last 2
toil 1
prolonged 1
incident 1
exhausting 1
needs 1
pushes 1
known 1
strike 1
arm 1
nervous 1
strong 1

Chapter 62: The Dart.


A word concerning an incident in the last chapter.

According to the invariable usage of the fishery, the whale-boat pushes
off from the ship, with the headsman or whale-killer as temporary
steersman, and the harpooneer or whale-fastener pulling the foremost
oar, the one known as the harpooneer-oar. Now it needs a strong, nervous
arm to strike the first iron into the fish; for often, in what is called
a long dart, the heavy implement has to be flung to the distance of
twenty or thirty feet. But however prolonged and exhausting the chase,
the harpooneer is expected to pull his oar meanwhile to the uttermost;
indeed, he is expected to set an example of superhuman activity to the
rest, not only by incredible rowing, but by repeated loud and intrepid
exclamations; and what it is to keep shouting at the top of one's
compass, while all the other muscles are strained and half started--what
that is none know but those who have tried it. For one, I cannot bawl
very heartily and work very recklessly at one and the same time. In this
straining, bawling state, then, with his back to the fish, all at once
the exhausted harpooneer hears the exciting cry--"Stand up, and give it
to him!" He now has to drop and secure his oar, turn round on his
centre half way, seize his harpoon from the crotch, and with what little
strength may remain, he essays to pitch it somehow into the whale. No
wonder, taking the whole fleet of whalemen in a body, that out of fifty
fair chances for a dart, not five are successful; no wonder that so many
hapless harpooneers are madly cursed and disrated; no wonder that some
of them actually burst their blood-vessels in the boat; no wonder that
some sperm whalemen are absent four years with four barrels; no wonder
that to many ship owners, whaling is but a losing concern; for it is the
harpooneer that makes the voyage, and if you take the breath out of his
body how can you expect to find it there when most wanted!

Again, if the dart be successful, then at the second critical instant,
that is, when the whale starts to run, the boatheader and harpooneer
likewise start to running fore and aft, to the imminent jeopardy of
themselves and every one else. It is then they change places; and
the headsman, the chief officer of the little craft, takes his proper
station in the bows of the boat.

Now, I care not who maintains the contrary, but all this is both foolish
and unnecessary. The headsman should stay in the bows from first to
last; he should both dart the harpoon and the lance, and no rowing
whatever should be expected of him, except under circumstances obvious
to any fisherman. I know that this would sometimes involve a slight loss
of speed in the chase; but long experience in various whalemen of more
than one nation has convinced me that in the vast majority of failures
in the fishery, it has not by any means been so much the speed of the
whale as the before described exhaustion of the harpooneer that has
caused them.

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this
world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of