The shell or exploding harpoon, 2
Whales and Whaling pictures

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Diagrams of a whaling harpoon and harpoons awaiting attachment of the head and explosive charge.

The diagrams on the left 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 that can hinge in all directions.

The photograph on the right 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.

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