Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 Santa 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 beyond 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 gulph 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 frequet ly interrupted; they do not allow so much water to remain in the membranous bags placed below their nostrils; and the spouts are more frequent, more in a forward direction, and more elevated than those of the other whales The female of the cachalot is four or five times smaller than the male; and its head does not yield more than 25 English barrels of adipocire, while the head of the male, yields from 100 to 125. A great number of females (conv whales) go generally together led by two or there males (bull-whales) which are perpetually describing circles round their flock. The very young females which yield from 12 to 16 barrels of adipocire matter

* 64 feet. Trans.

called by the English fishermen school-whales

swim so close to one another that they frequently get more than half out of water. It is almost superfluous here to observe that the adipocire, which is not a part of the brain of the animal, is not only to be found in all the known species of cachalot (catadontes lac.) but also in all the physales and physeters. The spermaceti extracted from the cavities of the snout of the cachalot, and we must not confound these cavities with that of the cranium, is only the third part of the thick and adipocirous oil, which is furnished by the rest of the body. The spermaceti of the head is the best, and

w

is employed in the making of candles; and that of the body and tail is only used in England, to give a gloss to cloth. This fishery, to be profitable, must be

conducted on the most economical principles. Wessels from 180 to 300 tons are employed in it, and the crew consists only of 16 or 24 individuals, including the captain and master, who are themselves obliged to throw the harpoon, like common sailors. The expences of equipment of a vessel of .180 tons, lined with copper, and provisioned for a voyage of two years, is estimated in London, at 7000l. sterling. Each South-Sea fishing vessel is provided with two canoes. The fitting of each canoe, requires 4 sailors and a boy, a steersman, a cable of 130 fathoms in length, 3 lances, 5 harpoons, an axe, and a lantern to make themselves seen at a distance during the night. The fitter out, gives the sailors only their food and a very small sum of money under the name of advance. Their pay depends on the produce of the fishery; for as the whole crew contribute to it, every individual has a right to the profit. The captain receives a sixteenth, the master a twenty-fifth, the second master a thirty-fifth, the mate a sixtieth, and the sailor an eighty-fifth of the whole produce. The season is reckoned good if a vessel of 200 tons, returns to port, laden

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »