Removing a blubber blanket from a whale
Cuts would be made at strategic points and hole cut
for the insertion of "toggles" these are large pieces of wood, maybe
two feet long attached via their middle to a line and an overhead derrick
(crane). When the cuts had been made and the toggle attached, the flenser
would signal to the winch operator to haul away the sheet of blubber.
In a fraction of the time that it would have taken by previous outboard
flensing methods, great "blankets" of blubber could be neatly removed
from a whale for processing.
In the first picture a wire rope can be seen hauling
to the right of the picture and pulling off the blubber blanket as the
flensers cut it free from the remaining connective tissue. The second
picture shows a huge "blubber blanket" removed from a large blue whale
with a man for size comparison. This had been taken after the outboard
flensing of a whale, so allowing the whale to be turned over as the
blanket was cut away. During inboard flensing the blanket would be cut
off in two or more pieces as it was more difficult to turn the whale
on the deck than in the water.
Such blubber blankets weighed many tonnes and it was
not unknown for the toggle to give way and the whole thing to fall onto
the deck - and onto an unfortunate crewman who wasn't constantly watching out
around him for such dangers.
There were two main reasons that the Antarctic was
considered the prime whaling location, the first was that whales would
gather there in great abundance due to the amount of food there that
grew as a result of great algal blooms during the summer months. The
second was that as a result of all this feeding and processing of food,
whales in Antarctica laid down great amounts of blubber. In Antarctica
whales were at their peak and the fattest they would grow. Whales
that were hunted in other parts of the world at other times of the year,
even those from the same populations, would yield far lower amounts
of fat as the whales had already spent some considerable time burning
up their considerable resources. Many whales in fact would not feed
properly again for several months after leaving Antarctica, months during
which they lived off their reserves which would grow thinner. Only in
Antarctica therefore, was the larder fully stocked.