As the elephant is the largest land animal, the whale is the largest creature in the sea. We should not say it is the largest fish in the sea, because it is not really a fish, though it looks like one and lives like one. It is really an animal. A full-grown whale is often forty feet long, and as it is round and flat, it looks very huge. Because whales do not breathe in the water, like fishes, they cannot stay underwater all the time, but every now and then come up to “blow”. They blow out the water, which rises in a big fountain, and breathe in the air; and then they sink down again under the surface. Sometimes on the voyage to England one may see from the ship a whale at some distance, it’s long black back above the surface of the sea, and the fountain of water spouting up from its head. But whales are not generally found so far south: they love the seas of the cold north.
Whales are hunted for the oil which they contain which is called “whale oil”, and which is used for different purposes. Hunting the whale is called “whaling” and it is a hard and dangerous job. The whalers go out in special strong ships into the northern seas and search for a “school, or shoal, of whales; for these animals move about in companies. When they see one in the distance, they leave the ship in a strong boat and row towards it.
In the bows or front, of the boat, stands the “harpooner”, who is a skilled sailor armed with a kind of heavy spear called a “harpoon” which is fastened by a very long and strong rope. When the boat gets near enough, he throws this harpoon so as to pierce and stick in the side of the whale. The wounded whale at once dives and rushes away, but it is held by the rope. A wounded whale often drags the heavy boat after it for miles before it dies, and sometimes upsets the boat But if the harpoon has been well thrown the whale, at last, gets worn out and dies, and its body comes to the surface and floats there. Then the whalers get out of the boat onto the whale’s back and begin to cut out the “blubber”, or oily fat, from its body, which they take back and store in their ships.