There Blows!

"Blows, blows, Thar she blows!" Such a cry from a sailor on lookout duty caused all hands on deck to stop what they were doing and look in the direction of the suspected whale. The captain peered through his spyglass, hoping to see a dark shadow or water spout. If there appeared to be whales on the horizon, he shouted orders to get the boats ready.

The long hours of waiting were finally over. Groups of six men in small whaleboats lowered themselves over the edge of the bark and headed away from the main ship in search of the oily giants. One fourteen year-old recalled the anxiety and excitement of his first whale hunt. "I wanted to lower and get him and I don't supose that anyone moved any faster than I did," he explained.

A mate, standing at the back of a whaleboat, steered the crew members in the direction of the whales that periodically lifted their flukes and then sounded. This pursuit, aided by a mast and sail, could last from one to three hours or longer. Sometimes the whales escaped. At least one greenhand expressed disappointment when his first whale hunt ended without success; "we turn [the whaleboat] about and gon on board disheartened, tired and disgusted."

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Courtesy of the Trustees of the New Bedford Free Public Library