As whales are so large, the basic job of killing the
whale has always been something of a problem. The favoured way by
most early (pre explosive harpoon) whalers was to harpoon the whale
with a rope attached, let the rope out somewhat, then hold it tight
to the whaling boat. The whale would then be swimming rapidly away from
the boat but fastened to it via harpoon and rope. The aim was to tire
the whale out, the boat being fastened to the whale meant it couldn't
get away from the whalers.
This very harrowing
and dangerous time while the whale sped away was called the "Nantucket
An engraving from
"The cruise of the Cachalot"