Friday, November 23, 2007

Adventures in modern whaling.

In Vava'u [Tonga], the local people tried strapping half-sticks of dynamite to the harpoon shaft. The practice required very careful timing. The fuse for the dynamite had to be cut to the right length and lit just before throwing the harpoon. The technique was abandoned after one harpooner threw the charged harpoon into the whale, the whale dived, and the while line tugged out the harpoon. It floated up, right under the boat, and exploded, destroying the whaleboat. The crew escaped without loss of life but they had been hoisted, quite literally, by their own petard.
Tim Severin, In Search Of Moby Dick 113 (Little, Brown & Co., 1999).

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