Diagrams of a whaling harpoon and harpoons awaiting
attachment of the head and explosive charge.
The top diagrams show the harpoon head with barbs,
or flukes, retracted and extended. The slot that runs the length of
the shaft of the harpoon takes a wire strop which is spliced to the
end of the rope attached to the catcher boat.
The barbs on these harpoons are about a foot long,
much more than the few inches on an old hand harpoon. Whereas the hand
harpoon was designed to attach the whale boat to the whale (maybe 1-2
tons in total) these harpoons are designed to stop whales of up to 100
tons and more from sinking and being lost in the ocean depths. The head
is attached to the shaft by a universal joint.
The bottom photograph shows harpoons lined up ready
for use on a factory ship. The barbs have been wired in place already
and they await the attachment of the explosive head which is screwed
onto the projecting boss at the top of the harpoon. After use, the harpoons
were recovered from the dead whale as it was being flensed and taken
to the blacksmiths shop on board the ship where they were straightened
and mended ready for re-use.