National Geographic : 1899 Apr
136 HOW LONG A WHALE MAY CARRY A HARPOON two-and Mount Hooker on the south. Between them lay a small tarn, 20 feet in diameter-the Committee's Punch-bowl. The peaks to the south, among which the party wandered last August, were therefore new, and they probably constituted the highest point of the Canadian Rocky Mountain system. HOW LONG A WHALE MAY CARRY A HARPOON In a lecture before the National Geographic Society on Feb ruary 21, 1895, the Hon. George C. Perkins, U. S . Senator from California, mentioned the fact that a "toggle" harpoon head which he exhibited, and afterward generously donated to the Society, had been obtained from a whale in Bering sea. The harpoon bears the following inscription: MoNTooooo The first four letters are the mark of the American whaler Montezuma, which was engaged in whaling in Bering sea and the North Pacific about 1850-'54. The five circles represent the number of the boat to which this particular iron was assigned. Taking the latest date (1854) as the date when the whale was struck, it appears that the whale must have carried it thirty-six years. The following abstract of Senator Perkins' remarks gives some of the circumstances: "The harpoon was perfect, as you see it, and in a splendid state of preservation, but the shank had been eaten away close up to the skin of the animal by the action of the salt water. A little rubbing revealed the name. "During the war of the rebellion, in 1861, Charleston was blockaded by the federal fleet. The blockade-runners again and again successfully eluded the fleet and carried supplies to the beleaguered city. To stop this the federal government bought a number of old whalers that were lying in the harbor of New Bedford, patched them up and sent them to Charleston filled with stones, and sank them across the entrance to the harbor. The vessels have been known ever since as the 'stone fleet,' and the Montezuma was one of them. This was thirty years ago, and the Montezuma was built sixty years prior to that. She was at one time a British man-of-war, and was bought by New Bedford people and turned into a whaler. It will thus be seen that it is safe to say that the harpoon head found by the Beluga had been carried by the whale fully thirty-six years. Ever since whaling became an industry it has been the custom for each whaling firm to have the name of the vessel stamped on each harpoon. This is done in case two or more boats from different vessels should be surrounding one of the animals, in order to show which of the vessels has struck it, if the animal gets away and is afterward found dead."