The Norwegian tail grab or hval kla is another of
the inventions that made industrial whaling using factory ships and
slipways on those ships possible.
A dead whale could be taken to the slipway and a line
passed around it to start the process of winching it up the slipway.
But such a great weight and relatively thin lines could cause problems,
not the least of which was passing a strong enough line around the whale
to haul it up the slipway and then to be be easily removed once on deck.
This claw was large enough and strong enough (weighing
several tons itself) to be able to "grab" hold of the tail of the whale
at the narrowest part or the "small" fairly easily and haul it onto
the flensing deck. It could also be relatively easily taken off again
once the whale was in place, ready for the next one. No man had to enter
the dangerous zone of the slip way and ropes need not be handled to
haul the whale except from a distance.
The size of the grab can be seen by comparison with
the man in the last picture. Operating this contraption was in itself
a skilled job with the ship and whale moving with the swell and waves
and the grab itself suspended above the whale and might be swinging
in a rhythm of its own. At the crucial point, the grab fully opened
would be dropped onto the whale and with a crash that could be heard
throughout the whole ship would grab the whale's tail, the winch attached
to the rear end would pull and the jaws would close together to bring
the whale aboard.
Note in these pictures how the end parts of the flukes
of the whale have been removed, this was done by the catcher boats immediately
after the capture of the whale. It is sometimes said that it was done
superstitiously to prevent a dead whale that had been inflated and buoyed
and left for some time before transport to the factory ship from somehow
finning itself many miles away. It probably also had a more practical
use in that whales were towed backwards to the factory ship by a rope
placed around the small, and intact flukes would act as a brake so slowing
this passage down. The flukes were not always cut in this manner.