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On Tower-hill, as you go down to the London docks, you
may have seen a crippled beggar (or kedger, as the sailors say)
holding a painted board before him, representing the tragic
scene in which he lost his leg. There are three whales and
three boats; and one of the boats (presumed to contain the
missing leg in all its original integrity) is being crunched by
the jaws of the foremost whale. Any time these ten years,
they tell me, has that man held up that picture, and exhibited
that stump to an incredulous world. But the time of his justification
has now come. His three whales are as good whales
as were ever published in Wapping, at any rate; and his
stump as unquestionable a stump as any you will find in the
western clearings. But, though for ever mounted on that stump,
never a stump-speech does the poor whaleman make; but, with
downcast eyes, stands ruefully contemplating his own amputation.

Throughout the Pacific, and also in Nantucket, and New
Bedford, and Sag Harbor, you will come across lively sketches
of whales and whaling-scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves
on Sperm Whale-teeth, or ladies' busks wrought out of
the Right Whale-bone, and other like skrimshander articles, as
the whalemen call the numerous little ingenious contrivances
they elaborately carve out of the rough material, in their hours
of ocean leisure. Some of them have little boxes of dentistical-looking


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implements, specially intended for the skrimshandering
business. But, in general, they toil with their jack-knives alone;
and, with that almost omnipotent tool of the sailor, they will
turn you out anything you please, in the way of a mariner's

Long exile from Christendom and civilization inevitably
restores a man to that condition in which God placed him, i. e.
what is called savagery. Your true whale-hunter is as much a
savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a savage, owning no allegiance
but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any
moment to rebel against him.

Now, one of the peculiar characteristics of the savage in his
domestic hours, is his wonderful patience of industry. An
ancient Hawaiian war-club or spear-paddle, in its full multiplicity
and elaboration of carving, is as great a trophy of human
perseverance as a Latin lexicon. For, with but a bit of broken
sea-shell or a shark's tooth, that miraculous intricacy of wooden
net-work has been achieved; and it has cost steady years of
steady application.

As with the Hawaiian savage, so with the white sailorsavage.
With the same marvellous patience, and with the
same single shark's tooth, of his one poor jack-knife, he will
carve you a bit of bone sculpture, not quite as workmanlike,
but as close packed in its maziness of design, as the Greek
savage, Achilles's shield; and full of barbaric spirit and suggestiveness,
as the prints of that fine old Dutch savage, Albert

Wooden whales, or whales cut in profile out of the small
dark slabs of the noble South Sea war-wood, are frequently met
with in the forecastles of American whalers. Some of them
are done with much accuracy.

At some old gable-roofed country houses you will see
brass whales hung by the tail for knockers to the road-side
door. When the porter is sleepy, the anvil-headed whale


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would be best. But these knocking whales are seldom remarkable
as faithful essays. On the spires of some old-fashioned
churches you will see sheet-iron whales placed there for weathercocks;
but they are so elevated, and besides that are to all intents
and purposes so labelled with “Hands off!” you cannot
examine them closely enough to decide upon their merit.

In bony, ribby regions of the earth, where at the base of high
broken cliffs masses of rock lie strewn in fantastic groupings
upon the plain, you will often discover images as of the petrified
forms of the Leviathan partly merged in grass, which of a windy
day breaks against them in a surf of green surges.

Then, again, in mountainous countries where the traveller is
continually girdled by amphitheatrical heights; here and there
from some lucky point of view you will catch passing glimpses
of the profiles of whales defined along the undulating ridges.
But you must be a thorough whaleman, to see these sights;
and not only that, but if you wish to return to such a sight
again, you must be sure and take the exact intersecting latitude
and longitude of your first stand-point, else so chance-like are
such observations of the hills, that your precise, previous stand-point
would require a laborious re-discovery; like the Soloma
islands, which still remain incognita, though once high-ruffed
Mendanna trod them and old Figuera chronicled them.

Nor when expandingly lifted by your subject, can you fail to
trace out great whales in the starry heavens, and boats in pursuit
of them; as when long filled with thoughts of war the
Eastern nations saw armies locked in battle among the clouds.
Thus at the North have I chased Leviathan round and round
the Pole with the revolutions of the bright points that first defined
him to me. And beneath the effulgent Antarctic skies
I have boarded the Argo-Navis, and joined the chase against
the starry Cetus far beyond the utmost stretch of Hydrus and
the Flying Fish.

With a frigate's anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of har


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poons for spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the
topmost skies, to see whether the fabled heavens with all their
countless tents really lie encamped beyond my mortal sight!