Bailing the case, sperm whale
Whales and Whaling pictures

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Whales and whaling

"Bailing in the case " of a sperm whale Drawing by H. W. Elliott from a French lithograph designed by B. Russell.

The first whalers must have hardly believed their luck when they at first discovered beached sperm whales and later on caught sperm whales at sea. The spermaceti obtained from sperm whales required no processing from the blubber as from other whales and it was present in such quantities that the whalers could stand knee deep or more in it and bail it out with buckets. The part of the head that contained the best oil was called the "case" and the process of getting the oil out as "bailing the case".

This was initially done outboard as in this illustration by a man with a bucket on the end of a rope, later on the sperm whale's head was brought on board intact and the baling happened onboard which was safer for the men involved and also meant less loss of the oil.

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Picture used courtesy NOAA