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who is as good a naturalist, as he is a learned hellenist; and M. M. de Lacepede and Fleurieu * have given very accurate information as to the whale and cachalot fishery in the two hemispheres. I shall here communicate the most recent knowledge which I could collect during my residence on the shores of the South Sea.
Were it not for the cachalot fishery and the trade in furs of sea otters, at Noutka, the great ocean would almost never be frequented by the Anglo-Americans and Europeans. Notwithstanding the extreme economy, practised in these fishing expeditions, those beyond Cape Horn are too expensive to admit of the black whale being the object of them. The cost of these distant navigations can only be compensated by the high price which necessity or luxury fixes on their returns. Now of all the oily liquids which enter into trade, there are few so dear as the spermaceti, or the particular substance contained in the enormous caverns of the snout of the cachalot. A single individual of these cetaceous giants, yields as much as 125 English barrels † (of 324 gallons each ) of
* Voyage de Marchand, t. ii. p. 600, 641.
+ A barrel contains 1.48 hectolitres, or nearly 1783 pints of Paris (Recherches sur la Richesse des Nations par
Adam Smith, traduction de M. Garnier, t. v. p. 451.)
| This is supposed to be 314. Trans.
spermaceti. A tun, containing eight of these barrels, or 1024 pints of Paris, used to sell in London before the peace of Amiens, at €70 or £80, and during the war at £95 and £100 sterling
It was not the third expedition of Cook to the north-west coast of the New Continent, but the voyage of James Collnet to the Gallapagos islands, which made known to the Europeans and Anglo-Americans the abundance of cachalots in the great ocean to the north of the equator. Till 1788, the whale fishers only frequented the coasts of Chili and Peru. Only 12 or 15 vessels then doubled Cape Horn annually for the cachalot fishery, while at the period when I was in the South Sea, there were more than 60 under the English flag alone.
The physeter macrocephalus not only frequents the arctic seas, between the coast of Greenland and Davis Straits, it is not only found in the Atlantic Ocean between the banks of Newfoundland and the Azore Islands, where the Anglo-Americans sometimes carry on a fishery, but it is also to be found to the south of the equator, on the coasts of Brazil and Guinea. It would appear that in its periodical voyages it approaches more to the continent of Africa than to that of America; for in the environs of Rio Janeiro and la Bahia, whales only are caught. However, the cachalot fishery has been much
diminished on the Guinea coast, since navigators have become less afraid of doubling Cape Horn, and since more attention has been paid to the cetaceous fish abounding in the great ocean. Physeters are found in very considerable bands in the channel of Mosambique, and to the south of the Cape of Good Hope ; but the animal there is generally small, and the sea rough and agitated, and unfavourable to the operations of the harpooners.
The great ocean unites all the circumstances that render the cachalot fishery both easy and lucrative. It is richer in molluscus, fish, porpoises, tortoises, and sea calves of every species, and offers more nourishment to cetaceous animals than the Atlantic Ocean. Hence, these last are there in greater numbers, as well as fatter and larger. The calm which prevails during so great a part of the year in the equinoctial region of the South Sea, facilitates very much the pursuit of cachalots and whales. The former keep generally near the coasts of Chili, Peru, and Mexico, because the shores are steep (acantiladas) and washed by a sea of great depth. It is a general rule, that the cachalot avoids shallows, whereas they are sought after by the whale. For this reason the whale is very frequent on the low coast of Brazil, while the other abounds near the coast of Guinea, which is higher, and every where accessible to large
vessels. Such is in general the geological constitution of the two continents, that the western coast of America and Africa resemble one another, while the eastern and western coasts of the New Continent exhibit the most remarkable contrast in relation to their elevation above the level of the neighbouring seas.
The greatest number of English and AngloAmerican vessels which enter the great ocean have the double object in view of carrying on the cachalot fishery, and an illicit commerce with the Spanish colonies. They double Cape Horn after attempting to leave contraband goods at the mouth of the river Plata, or at the presidio of the Malouin Islands. They begin the cachalot fishing near the small desert islands of Mocha and Sante Maria, to the south of the Conception of Chili. At Mocha there are wild horses introduced by the inhabitants of the neighbouring coast, which sometimes serve for provisions to navigators. The island of Santa Maria has very fine and very abundant springs. They contain wild hogs, and a species of
very large and very nutritive turnips, believed to be peculiar to those climates. After remaining in these latitudes for a month, and carrying on a contraband trade with the island of Chiloe, the fishing vessels (balleneros) generally coast Chili and Peru to Cape Blanc, situated in 4° 18' of south latitude. The cachalot is
every where common in these latitudes, to 15 or 20 leagues distance from the continent. Before the expedition of Captain Collnet, the fishery terminated at Cape Blanc, or near the equator; but within the last 15 or 20 years, the balleneros continue it northwards to be. yond Cabo Corientes, on the Mexican coast of the intendancy of Guadalaxara. Near the Archipelago of the Galapagos, where it is extremely dangerous to land, on account of the strong currents, and round the islands de las tres Marias, the fish is most frequently to be found, and of a gigantic size. In spring, the environs of the Galapagos are the rendezvous of all the macrocephalous cachalots of the coasts of Mexico, Peru, and the gulf of Panama, which come there to couple. During that period M. Collnet saw young individuals of 2 metres in length.
Farther to the north of the Marias islands, in the gulf of California, no more physeters are to be found, but many whales.
The whale fishers can easily distinguish, at a distance, the cachalots from the whales, by the manner in which the former spout up the brine through their spiracles. The cachalots can remain longer under water than the true whale. When they come to the surface, their respiration is more frequently in
6 feet. Trans.