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19th Century American Whaling

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Roshow Bezone Jr.
[pseudonym of W. H. Macy]

Ballou's Monthly Magazine
Vol. 77, No. 2 (Feb 1893)
pp. 140-147


By Roshow Bezone, Jr.

      We had been cruising on the Northwest Coast since the middle of May. It was now October; some days within the month, and the sun, that used to light us the whole round of its daily course, now scarce attained a greater height at noon, than twenty degrees above the southern horizon. Every day he was sinking still lower, admonishing us that if we would longer enjoy his company we must speedily close up our business and take our departure southward. We had been very successful in taking whales, and wanted exceedingly to fill up our ship – only a few hundred barrels more being required – that we might, on our return to the Sandwich Islands, be ready to start for home. Home! – There's a charm in that word, unknown to him who never leaves it – or merely goes to distant places in his own country, whence he can easily return. "Home" – when uttered in a whaleship, that has been three years tossing on the different oceans of the globe, touches the tenderest place in the heart of him who hears it. It arouses yearnings unspeakable, and the man who will not strain every nerve, and encounter many a peril, that he may the sooner be homeward bound, can hardly have a home worth going to.

      Very anxious, then, were we to fill our ship, that we might go home. Yet it was evident that we were exposing ourselves to some risk in lingering so long within those high latitudes. Our icy shrouds and slippery decks, of the misty mornings, had warned us, a month before, that we must not remain too long within reach of the Ice King's grasp. But yet we lingered – that we might the sooner go home.

      Are there any who would go a whaling – any who would see the reality of life in a whale man during a season of success on the Northwest Coast of America? Let them believe me, it. is very much pleasanter to read about than to experience. A term of hard labor within prison bars and walls, except for the disgrace attaching to it, is more to be desired than a successful cruise in a whaleman on the Northwest Coast. Fog, mist, rain, all icy cold, and keeping you miserably wet, alternate with great regularity with the pale cheerless days when the sun does struggle through, apparently to reanimate you. Every night, except in midsummer, films of ice will form on the deck. Yet those summer nights are short – scarcely to be commended; twilight hardly deepens to darkness ere "the morning light is breaking," and the lookout aloft cries, solemnly, "T-h-e-r-e she b-l-o-w-s! – T-h-e-r-e b-l-o-w-s!"

      Our matitutinal slumbers are ended; when whales are in sight no man is below, except at his own peril. The boats are lowered, and the strife for oil begins. If the whales are shy, much hard pulling results. If we succeed in fastening and killing our game, then work begins in earnest. No sooner is the whale alongside, flukes to the bows and head to the stern, than cutting commences. Rain or shine, it is all the same; and when begun, there is no cessation till completed; unless it is to chase and capture more whales, that have come most temptingly in sight. In our ship, which was a large one and carried an unusual number of men, we have had cutting in, trying out, and chasing whales all going on at the same time. For forty-eight hours at a time, and more, all hands were, on several occasions, deprived of all sleep except such as they got while at their labor on deck. Sleep under such circumstances is not very satisfactory; yet it could not be resisted. While standing erect, with their hands on the brake, heaving at the windlass, men’s eyes would close, their heads would fall back and mouths come open, and, unconscious of all around them, they would still remain on their feet and keep time with the movement of their fellows. So many would sometimes be in this condition that the strokes of the brakes would falter, and almost cease, till one of the officers would come along with a sharp word and rouse us again to action. Yet the officers sometimes yielded to the same overpowering necessity, and a serious accident happened to the second mate very early in the season. He was leaning over the forward hatch, overlooking some operation going on in the hold. when drowsiness overcame him. His grasp of the object that sup-


ported him relaxed, and he fell headlong into the hold. He was disabled for some time by a dislocated shoulder, and was afterwards very careful about exposing himself to like accidents. The beauties of whaling are not apparent to those who remain at home, but they had better not go too far to see them.

      Our cruising had carried us well north, even within the Arctic Circle; and we had found our best whaling in and near Kotzebue’s Sound. Though not in sight of land, we could not have been very far from the coast, on a foggy, dark and dismal day in October. It was Sunday. We had finished trying out our last whale a day or two before, and the dense fog prevented our seeing others. We had, for the day, enjoyed a short respite from our almost incessant labors. Supper was over, and the watch had been set for the night, with every prospect of having undisturbed repose for a few hours. Though, during our early cruising, the days had been long enough, darkness now came early and stayed late. The coming night and the dense fog made the gloom of the last hours of daylight very solemn and sombre, and, it being also a calm, our sails – such as were set – hung limp and heavy, falling lazily against the masts with every undulating motion of the waters beneath us. Our voices, and the tramp of our feet on the deck, had a weird hollow sound, that added still greater solemnity to our situation, and made us almost anxious for something to come which might break the dismal spell that seemed to have fallen upon us.

      As if in answer to the thought, light ripples appeared on the surface of the water alongside; delicate cat’s-paws of air, coming from we hardly knew whither, just stirred the dense fog. We watched them, in the hope that the fog was about to disappear. It did not disperse, breaking away in great detached masses as it generally does, but, gradually, the white opaque walls seemed to remove further from us, till our view from the ship was obstructed for the distance, perhaps, of a cable length.

      Suddenly the stillness was broken by two explosions, as of pent-up steam escaping from its confinement. They were sounds we were accustomed to, and all eyes, of those on deck, were turned instantly in the direction from which they proceeded.

      "Hist, men!" said Mr. Smith, our first mate, "d’ye see them old fellows? There’s enough to fill us up, as sure as you're born!"

      Right abeam of its – almost alongside, as it were – were two as oily looking old graybacks as your eyes had ever looked upon. No better view of the leviathans of the deep will ever be obtained, in their native element, than these two old fellows – unconscious of such dangerous neighbors – presented to us for the moment that we first saw them. They had almost run against us, and were moving very slowly, in a parallel direction with the ship, as she was then heading. Their immense size struck us all, for their backs, cleft aft almost to their flukes, were out of water; and I noticed in one a sharp crook, as though it had been broken.

      Such an opportunity was not to be neglected; the temptation was too great to be resisted, even under more favorable circumstances, and Mr. Smith, in a low voice, gave the word to call all hands.

      The captain was quickly at his side, and getting a glimpse of the whales. ordered two boats to be lowered, and follow them. The darkness was so fast increasing, and the fog so dense, he would not risk more boats away from the ship at once. It was almost recklessness, of course, to pull away into that heavy fog-bank, with a long dark night shutting down upon us; but it was done.

      There were still three boats’ crews, besides the shipkeepers – some thirty men in all – on board the ship; myself among the number, for I did not chance to belong to either of the boats that lowered. Hardly had the men pulled a dozen strokes than they were gone, out of sight and hearing, into the darkness and fog ahead of us. We thought it strange that we should lose all sound of them so soon; but the fog so deadened the noise of their oars – which is always much subdued in the boats of whalemen, owing to the inside of the rowlocks being padded with leather – that it failed to reach more than a few hundred feet, even in the calm and quiet that surrounded us.

      We listened anxiously, supposing we should hear them when they got fast, certainly; or, if they failed in that, some signal would come from them in their endeavor to find their way back to the ship. Very soon the night was upon us, and effectually shut out all view of anything outside of the ship; and to add to our uneasiness, the first light puffs of wind had imperceptibly increased, till


now a growing breeze was stirring the dark waters and filling our sails. Nought but silence, succeeded, finally, by the rustling of the freshening breeze and the plashing of the waves, followed the departure of the boats.

      A half hour, it may be, passed thus, and then, by the captain's orders, we bestirred ourselves to make a noise, and rig our lights, that should serve, if possible, to show the men in the boats our whereabouts. The bells were rung loudly, on the forecastle and at the wheel; muskets were fired; the horns of monstrous length – provided for such occasions as these – made the night hideous, to those on board, at least; and, coming all together in the waist, our voices were united in a frightful chorus of halloos, hurrahs, screeches and screams. After each outburst of this nocturnal melody, a deep and most impressive silence would ensue, while, scarce breathing, we listened for some answering shout from our absent men. But none came; not a sound. They seemed to have gone from us as effectually as though they had entered another world.

      With the breeze continually freshening, we were, erelong, braced on the wind and moving through the water at the rate of several knots an hour; yet wearing round every half hour or so that we might retain as nearly as possible our original position. Lights were hung out, forward and from the mizzen peak, and two baskets, that would hold about a bushel each, made of iron hoops, called "bug lights," were filled with scraps, tar and such like material, and lighted and extended far over the side by means of studding-sail booms. As the fires within them grew low, they were hauled in and replenished, and kept burning all that dismal night. One of our quarter deck guns, stumpy old fellows, that had more bark than bite – neither ornamental nor very useful that I could see except that they might afford an occasional comfortable seat for the captain and his officers – was unlashed and hauled into the waist, that its defiant notes might carry cheer to the hearts of our lost shipmates.

      Long were those hours in which we vainly strove to recover the missing boats. Cimmirian darkness surrounded us; and the sighing of the wind through the shrouds, the dashing of growing waves, and the lurid light shed by the strange fires over the side, broken at intervals by the heavy discharge of our gun, formed a scene of such exciting interest as nowhere else has come within my experience.

      Hour after hour went by, and another day was drawing near. How anxiously we looked for the coming dawn! --how fearful lest it should fail to bring us our missing friends! But it came – calmly and soberly as ever – all regardless of the little band of hope and fear that so anxiously watched its coming. It showed us the fog still clinging tenaciously to the white-capped waters; as yet the winds had failed to rive it or drive it away. Our hearts sank within us, for hope was almost gone. Yet we could see to a considerable distance, all around us; it was light and thin compared with what it had been the previous night. The diameter of the area that soon became visible to us might have been half a mile; scarcely more.

      Wearing round once more, so soon as the daylight had revealed all it had to show, we had just begun to gather way on the other tack, when an opening was observed in the fog, some two or three points on our weather bow. It seemed to be lifting and opening at the same time, and our view in that direction was fast extending.

      "Boat ho!" A dozen pair of eyes saw it at once – a boat with a signal waif flying, indicating that a dead whale was in tow. But where was the other? We saw but one; it was just where the fog was rising and clearing the fastest, and less than a mile distant. Was the other indeed lost? Most anxiously we surveyed the gradually opening space, keeping the ship closer to the wind, meantime, that we might run as near to the boat as possible, and wishing that the fog would quit its hold upon the waters and float bodily away. But nowhere could the eye penetrate to the clear sky; the foggy envelop still surrounded us, though seemingly retreating and swaying to and fro in the direction in which we were heading.

      Not till we had nearly come up with the boat already in view did we discover the second, between two banks of fog, at least ten miles away, and almost directly to windward. She, too, had her waif flying; and then we knew that they must have fastened to and killed both the whales, and had been lying by them all night. This afterwards proved to be the case; but we must attend to one at a time. Overjoyed at the safety and success of our boats, we went merrily to work to get the first prize along side. We


were not quite able to reach the boat without making another tack, but the distance was so short that this was soon accomplished, and our big haWser was quickly around the old gentleman's flukes, and he lay comfortably alongside, his barnacled snout coming just about even with the rudder, aft. The boys in the boat seemed a happy set when they came on board, for they said they had neither seen nor heard anything of us all night, and thought they were surely lost. The noise of our big gun, even, had failed to reach them; which is not very strange when we consider the fog and their windward position.

      To attempt to beat up to the other boat with the prize we already had alongside was hardly practicable; therefore it was thought best for a part of the men to begin cutting in, while one boat should go up and lend a hand to tow down the other whale. Mr. Potter’s boat was appointed to the last duty, and belng one of her crew, I was soon at my oar, pulling my best with the rest, to reach and help what we exultingly called "our last whale." Two such monsters – by far the biggest we had yet taken – would actually run us over with oil, and then – "hurrah for home!"

      We pulled merrily and with a will, you may believe, and were not long in coming within hail of the other boat. The boys in her were glad to see us, and some jokes were passed, as to how they had passed the night, and what we sleepy heads had been doing down there to leeward so long. We carried them a lunch of boiled salt pork, which the captain was so thoughtful as to have prepared against the return of our missing men, should we be so fortunate as to find them, and while they refreshed themselves with that, we made the necessary preparations to assist in towing, chatting good-naturally with each other the while.

      Thus busied, it did not occur to us to turn our eyes in the direction of the ship for some time, and the first intimation we had of her disappearance was "little Abe's" question:

      "Whar’s the ship? Golly, mister Robinson, ship gone up!"

      Thus startled, we all looked towards where we supposed she ought to be; but, indeed, she was not there. Yet there seemed to be but little fog in that direction for fully the distance, it seemed to us, we had come. Had we lost her bearings, or what had become of her? That she was enveloped in a fog bank we were well assured; but yet there was a mystery, we could not tell where she was.

      We were not much concerned, however, but that she would soon appear again, through some drifting rent in the clinging cloud, and we thought best to wait patiently till we knew certainly where she was. So, munching and chatting, a half hour may have passed before we began to feel seriously alarmed. Then we saw plainly that the fog was increasing, and drawing around us on every side; and it seemed to us as though the wind was hauling around, too and blowing in a different direction from what it had been when we left the ship. Now, indeed, we began to feel. serious apprehensions of being lost. Our jubilant spirits had made us careless, and we had neglected to take our bearings by the boat’s compasses, while it was comparatively clear, which we ought to have done under any circumstances.

      Not many thoughts were now given to the dead whale, for it was our own safety that chiefly occupied our minds. We could gain nothing by moving, in any direction, for we were just as likely to go wrong as right: and then our distance from the ship would be increased instead of diminished. We listened anxiously for the report of guns, or some other signal. For a whole hour did we strain our sense of hearing, and bend down to the water, that we might catch any note that would indicate the direction of the ship. None reached us; and to increase our anxiety, the breeze was certainly strengthening, and we knew by the short chopping waves that it was blowing from a different quarter from what it had been a short time before. It was cold, too, withal. Excitement and exertion had prevented our noticing it much before, but now sitting so long almost motionless in the boat, we felt very chilly and uncomfortable. Our friends said they had had a cold night of it, and were glad to see the ship, almost as much that they might warm themselves by pulling towards her as for any other reason.

      But what could we do? There was every appearance that the fog had settled down again for the day, and we were beyond reach of any sound from the shin. Our situation was indeed a perilous one; at that


late season of the year, with those northern waters forsaken by almost every ship but our own, to be lost upon them in open boats, with no store of provisions except the usual small keg of bread with which the boats were always supplied, and with nothing to cover us except the clothes we had on, was a fate we hardly dared contemplate; yet it was the one that stared us broadly in the face. Those in the ship had undoubtedly been too busily engaged to give us much attention at the time the fog shut us out from view – but they had our bearings, of course, and were it not for the whale alongside, would immediately look for us. Would they stop to cut him in? Would they be willing to cut from him and lose him? One or the other they must do before they could give us any assistance. But then – how did they know we were lost? It was our business to keep ourselves informed of the bearing of the ship, and they did not know the condition in which our carelessness had placed us. They would very likely remain at this work and trust to our reaching them with the other whale in two or three hours – unless the wind had shifted; and we felt certain that it had. What would they do then? Probably they would expect us to cut from our whale and pull for the ship without him. To tow a dead whale against the wind, or in any other direction than with it, would be a most discouraging task. We could not expect any help from the ship.

      If we had only known in what direction she was, that line would have been quickly served, and all the strength of our muscles applied to the oars that were resting idly on the thwarts. But in what direction should we pull? The fog had settled around us so thickly that we were more confused than ever; but it was almost beyond human endurance to sit quiet under such circumstances, and so we got our oars and pulled – still fast to the whale – towards the point where it seemed to our officers the ship ought to be.

      Yes, we pulled long and strong, like desperate men; though we knew not to what end. Where is the man – who is not a dyspeptic – who can sit calmly down by the side of death, when he knows that life is very near – even requiring but a struggle – if in the right direction, to reach it? And so we struggled, and our bodies grew warm, not with hope, but with exercise; and we pulled at least a good long hour before we stopped again, to listen for any noise that might show that we had come in the right direction. We could hear nothing, and in the drear silence that followed, fear crept into our hearts. How dismal were our prospects; what a transition from the cheering hope of the morning. The whale to which we were attached was no longer thought of as spoil, but yet it was quickly decided not to cut from him, as, should we miss of the ship, the flesh of his carcass might be the means of prolonging, for a time, our lives. Starvation was before us in such an event, and very near. with no other sustenance than the little packages of bread within our boats. The flesh of the whale – a coarse, red, beef-like mass – quite palatable to a whaling crew when cooked, would sustain life, perhaps, so long as we could keep the carcass afloat; and therefore we determined not to part with it.

      And thus "we lay, all that day," as an old sea song goes, enveloped in the foggy mist that kept us wet and chill, except when we took an occasional pull at the oars to start the drowsy blood within us into new life. The breeze increased, till the combing waves lapped at times over the gunwales of the boats, and made our situation still more uncomfortable; but yet the clinging fog was driving ever down before it, and precluded all hope of getting a view of the horizon before night should again. shut down and bury us in darkness. Such days as those are very trying to a man’s fortitude. if he is in the habit of thinking of his God, his mind occasionally wanders that way, and he says a little prayer, all unheard by those around him, but which, nevertheless, does not fall on unmindful ears. There are not many among the crew of a whaleman who would dare to pray to God aloud, even if they were alone; but I can safely aver that there are some who, in, times of difficulty, send little petitions heavenward, from the silent depths of their souls. But whatever the heart may say, there are never wanting tongues that are not ashamed to curse the "ill luck" that. has brought them into trouble, and to despondingly bewail the rashness of others who have been instrumental in bringing them into such perilous positions, so, among our dozen men, there were some who were cheerful and hope- inspiring, some who were dejected and cast down, some who were apathetic and unfeel-


ing, and some who were a little mad, judging from the way in which they expressed themselves.

      Our anxiety made us unmindful of hunger for a time. but as the gloom of night was gathering around us we bethought us again of our bread, and a single cake of it was given to each man, which, considering the prospect before us. was a very generous allowance. A little water from the boat-keg washed it down, and then we could only moor our boats to the dead whale by attaching our lines in new places, and dropping to leeward, and wait curled up and half frozen for the morning. The boats' heads were thus kept to the wind without any exertion of our own. and we had the advantage of being in smoother water. Yet it was miserable comfort we got that night, our wet garments stiffening on us with the cold, our bodies quaking and teeth chattering, and hands and feet almost freezing. I am writing these lines in a pleasant room warmed by a cheerful December fire, and the experience of that and other dismal nights which I passed in perilous exposure on the North West Coast, has fully prepared my mind to rise in thankfulness to Him who has preserved and brought me hither.

      The darkness of the night was intense. The moon was at its very smallest, and no ray from it, or from friendly stars, came through the deathlike gloom that enshrouded us. It is scarcely possible to conceive of a more deplorable condition than was ours. Yet it might have been worse – much worse, for the experience of many shipwrecked mariners has exceeded ours in misery.

      But morning came – the blessed morning light, and with it the cheering prospect that the fog would soon drift away. It was lifting and breaking all around us, and erelong our view extended far and wide; but what we most desired to cheer our hearts – the white sails of the good ship wherein we had so long had our home were nowhere to be seen. Yet, icy and stiff as we were, we could but hail with delight another object that soon broke through and dispelled the drifting clouds – the glorious sun, that rises in even greater beauty upon the forlorn ocean waif than upon the favored one who views him from the portals of his regal home. He smiled upon us, and we welcomed his return with a joyful hurrah; we roused up, and shook and stretched ourselves. and the chills which had so beset us during the long night departed. Hunger was knocking, and reminding us strongly of our mortal natures. His claims were not to be denied, and our attention was turned once more to our small stock of bread. It was small, truly; scarce thirty cakes to each boat; we felt as though we could devour it all at one meal. But better judgement prevailed, and but half a cake was allowed to each man If any man was disposed. however, he had liberty to test the quality of the whale beef; which was at our disposal; but no man was inclined to broach the animal as yet, though if there had been any means of cooking his flesh, we should not have been fastidious about disposing of it.

      Our light breakfast finished, some time was spent in eagerly scanning the horizon in every direction. till the last lingering hope that had remained within us of seeing our ship was driven out, and we drew together to consult as to our future course.

      Our officers were aware that we were not very distant from land; and the wind, which had by this time moderated to a light breeze, was supposed to be setting us in its direction, which was, as they calculated, about southeast. It was immediately decided that we could not do better than to try to reach it; as in all probability our captain would count on our taking that course, and naturally come there to look for us.

      Acting on this decision – but unwilling to leave our whale for the reason I have stated – we again attached our lines so as to take him in tow, and then began to pull steadily. though at no hurried rate, towards the southeast. The frostiness of the air made it better for us to be in motion than to remain inactive, and our spirits, also, were less depressed when our bodies were under the influence of moderate exercise. We did not know the nature of the coast we sought to gain, but anything that was terra firma would be better than the rolling wave, under our present circumstances.

      Our drifting and pulling failed to bring us in sight of land the first day, and another of those long Arctic nights was soon upon us. About noon another half cake of bread had been given to each man, and there had been some talk of hauling up and making an excavation into the back of the whale, that we might satisfy our hunger with a few fresh steaks. But we were not quite ready for


that yet, though we knew we should soon come to it; as in fact we did the next morning. We would have continued pulling all night were it not for exhaustion and the want of sleep. Sleep will take no denial; it comes under the most adverse circumstances, as I have already shown. and though a man may be freezing and starving, yet he must sleep; he yields to the irresistible influence, and for a time his sorrows and discomforts are forgotten. So, though cramped and aching with cold, we slept; and woke to sleep again; for our uncomfortable position recalled us occasionally to consciousness, and finally wore another night away, and welcomed the dawn of another morning.

      The rising sun glistened upon the snow-white, hills to the southward. We were in sight of land. Yes, it was land; though within the circle of eternal ice and snow.

      The land was still some leagues distant, however, and looked as though it would afford but cold comfort when reached. This morning the cravings of hunger could be no longer resisted. and with a lance and boataxe we made an incision in the whale’s blubber, and tore some of the red flesh beneath. We ate of it more than was for our good – none refusing to partake – and several among us suffered considerably during the day in consequence; none wished for more that day. Having accomplished our breakfast, we again took to the oars, hoping ere night to reach the land, if not to fall in with our ship; as we were very confident she would look for us in that direction.

      With such a load in tow our progress must necessarily be slow; but to-day we exerted ourselves to the full extent of our powers, and towards night had the satisfaction of being within two or three miles of the shore; but here we found, what we ought certainly to have expected. quantities of ice floating in the water, which gradually increased as we approached nearer to the land. so as, finally, almost to obstruct our passage.

      We had fears, likewise, about venturing so far within this floating mass, lest an unusually cold night might so cement it as effectually to imprison us within its cold embrace. But desperate men venture into many perilous places, and we continued to urge our boats through the yielding cakes, till they finally touched a firm and solid border which extended out a hundred feet, it may have been, from the shore. As yet no welcome sail had cheered our view. Our ship, if searching for us, must have struck the coast at some other point. In going from our present position in either direction, we were as likely to leave her behind as to approach her, and therefore it was decided to land, and remain for a time where we were.

      Though the nights came so early, still, with a clear sky, the twilights were long, for the sun sank very slowly behind the western waters. The sun had already disappeared when we moored our whale alongside the solid ice-shelf, and drew our boats upon it, and made such other arrangements as the case would admit of for passing a comfortable night. A comfortable night! Perhaps you would not call it so. I should not, of my own choice, usually accept such a condition as a comfortable one. But yet we did pass what we then called a comfortable night – for we were on land, or ice, rather – and had means of building a fire. There were some dwarfish trees of fir not far from where we landed. and two or three men with the boat-axes immediately made firewood – such as it was – of some of them. It was no great amount. and would not have served us long had we not bethought ourselves of another source of warmth, which had encumbered our progress toward the land.

      Some one suggested that we might help our warming fire by the addition of a little of the whale’s blubber, and no sooner said than done; some small strips were immediately cut of! and brought to our fire, where, hacked into chips. it was consigned to the flames, and did us glorious service. We were almost happy at the discovery that we had such abundant means of warming ourselves; and then, too, the thought immediately struck us that we had now the means of cooking our whale-meat. Surely, we were well to do, after all, and we became decidedly more cheerful than we had been since the previous morning.

      The fire was built just between our boats, which were placed as near to it as they could be with safety; and then their two sails were so extended as to afford some protection from the frosty night air on the windward side; and thus arranged, we really seemed to be quite cosily situated. as compared with our condition during the former nights. With a couple of men to keep the fire replenished, each in turn standing a short watch for that purpose, we managed to get


a very comfortable night’s sleep considering we had no sort of covering except the clothes we had on.

      Those unacquainted with the outfit of a whaleboat will not understand how we lighted a fire so readily. Every boat is provided with the means – matches, candles, or a lantern of some sort – safely stowed in a snug dry place in the sternsheets. Besides, a whaleboat is always supplied with several other articles that are very handy and useful, and absolutely necessary in case of accident; so that, as before said, we were not near so badly off as we might have been.

      The next morning we had broiled steaks for breakfast, as the result of our forethought in holding on to the whale. The old fellow was actually made to roast himself for our benefit. Perhaps some future Arctic explorer will take a hint from this, and when he goes into winter quarters make it in his way to take a dead whale along with him. With the returning light we looked anxiously seaward, hoping to see our ship coming to our relief; but only the vacant waters, filled, as it seemed from where we stood, with floating ice, met our view.

      Almost desponding, we now set down around our fire and talked over our situation, what we should do if the ship should fail to appear. Our cogitations were not very encouraging, and I believe ended in the firm resolve that we would not be left there alone to freeze and starve; the ship must come to our relief.

      Well, to make a story that is already long enough shorter, the ship came. But it was not till the second day after we had landed that the joyful cry of "Sail ho!" greeted our ear. How our hearts bounded – how our lifeblood leapt at the word! Lips quivered, and tears came into eyes that would have been ashamed to weep; the hidden fountains that had never yielded to sorrow were stirred by the joyful cry, and drops of joy attested the thankfulness of bronzed and weather-beaten men. "Sail ho! Glory be to God!" shouted with stentorian voice our sturdy second mate, Mr. Potter; and all who heard said "Amen."


Author: Roshow Bezone Jr. (pseud.)
Title: Darkness and Fog.
Publication: Ballou's Monthly Magazine.
Vol/No/Date: Vol 77, No. 2 (Feb 1893)
Pages: 140-147.