The cutting in of a whale was a particularly vulnerable time for the crew since not only were they dealing with slick footing, there was also the constant threat of sharks eager to get their share of the kill. Francis Olmstead, writing about his time aboard the bark North America in the 1830s gives us a clear picture of the challenges faced by the men as they worked to cut in a fresh kill.
"It is no very easy matter to introduce the hook into the proper place, while the sea is dashing the whale against the ship and the waves are breaking over him; so that a man runs the risk of being strangled, or of being bruised by the concussion of the animal with the vessel. The danger of being horribly mutilated by the sharks that assemble in great numbers during the "cutting in" attracted by the scent of blood, is by no means inconsiderable. They are so voracious, that not withstanding the deep gashes they receive from the cutting spades, they rush upon the whale, and tear off larger masses of blubber with their formidable jaws." (Olmstead)
Courtesy of the Trustees of the New Bedford Free Public Library