Whaling from open boats was a dangerous business and
at no time more dangerous than when the boat went in for the kill.
When the whale had been exhausted by harpoons - possibly several being
thrown into it, and after having dragged the whaling boat for several
minutes or more, the boat would close in for the "lancing".
This was the actual killing of the whale and was a
highly skilled job. The lance used was a long wooden handle with a blade
on the end shaped like a diamond at the end of a narrow metal pole to
enable the lance to be sunk deep into the whales vital organs. To do
this required the boat to get right next to a wounded and angry beast
of some 40-60 tonnes or more, if it was not accomplished quickly and
correctly, the consequences could be disastrous for the crew of the
If the crew were lucky and gauged it correctly, the
whale would be exhausted and could be dispatched quickly and easily,
if not, then it could have enough energy left for a final flurry destroying
the whale boat and possible taking several men with it.
In this illustration two whaling boats are closing
on the whale with the remains of a third smashed boat surrounding it
in the water.
An engraving from
"The cruise of the Cachalot"