Cutting in, cutting diagrams for flensing sperm and bowhead whales
Whales and Whaling pictures

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Whales and whaling

Cutting in the bowhead and sperm whales Drawings by Capt. C. M. Scammon and Capt. W. M. Barnes.

The processing of whales has always been a precise process initially involving the insertion of "toggles" large pieces of wood attached to ropes or chains inserted into holes cut into the whale and attached to winches to lift parts of the whale as they were cut away or turn the whale round. The purpose of the toggle was to spread the load, so that the chain or rope didn't rip through the flesh and come out. There is a good reason for the precision required in this procedure as the pieces of blubber that are removed are very heavy, even up to several tons each. If the removal doesn't go according to plan serious injury to the flensers (the title given to the men who remove the blubber) could occur, or perhaps the blubber piece could be fall in the sea or on the deck where there might be great difficulty in retrieving a large slippery piece of blubber that weighs the same as a car or two.

These cutting diagrams are for the outboard flensing of whales. Note that in the body, after the head, the cuts are made around the whale in a spiral. This allows for continuous removal of the blubber "blanket" as the carcass was turned over in the water, being cut off in convenient pieces for the onboard flensers to further cut the blubber for processing in the try-pots.

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Picture used courtesy NOAA