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The vast flukes of the whale shore off the bow of the attacking boat
Whales and whaling pictures - 11

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Whale boats would often operate in pairs or threes rather than alone as a constant hazard was the huge thrashing flukes of a stricken whale which were more than capable of destroying a wooden whaling boat. Sailors at the time were notoriously bad swimmers and it was not uncommon to lose a man overboard never to be seen again.

Even if the men were good swimmers, the odds of survival were against them, if they were hunting sperm whales, then they would probably have been far from land as this species frequent deep water, and if hunting almost any other type of whale they would probably be in regions of very cold water where survival times were short.

An engraving from "The cruise of the Cachalot"

 

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