WHALE AND WHALING INDUSTRY (Historic Information)

There is a whale fishery at Tyee, on the south end of Admiralty Island. Later in the season we look on hoard one of the whalers. He said the whale were often as much as seventy-five feet long, and worth about five hundred dollars each for oil, baleen, dessicated bone fertilizer and many other marketable products, and from a fish once thought to be profitless.

I hat the mother whale gives birth to her calf at sea. which is then eight or ten feel long and fairly capable of looking out for itself. The whale is like a monster boat with a small engine. It is unable to protect itself from the smaller fish, escape from man or even dislodge the barnacles that grow upon its body. They are supposed to blow six times before sounding (or diving). I he whaler approaches in his launch and fires a bomb-pointed harpoon from a cannon on the prow. The weapon sinks deep and the bomb explodes in five seconds, spreading out the barbs and making a fatal wound. In its death struggles it may draw the boat a mile. After death it is towed in or fastened to a buoy, or inflated with air and later picked up again and towed to the station.

The 1908 catch at this station was over 200, and at Vancouver 600. The latter's catch was given as 241 humpbacks, 66 sulphur bottoms, 10 finbacks and one sperm whale. Of course, such luck does not apply to the Arctic whaler, his average being about three per boat each year, but his fish produces the whalebone of commerce, worth $5 per pound, and one whale will aggregate several thousand dollars while these do not.

The whaling industry is reviving, not the old kind, however. Now there is no danger for the hunter and no escape for the fish. At the rate of a thousand per year it will not be long until the sight of a whale will be as unusual as of a buffalo or sea otter. The commercial fever has no more respect for these leviathans of the deep than it has for the Niagara. It rushes to every part of this shore, probing the mountains for mineral, hunting the woods for game, harnessing the rivers, defacing the God-made pictures of nature, defiling the native youth with rum, and now depleting the sea of its innocent harmless whale.

Back to Table of Contents