National Geographic : 1899 Apr
HOW LONG A WHALE MAY CARRY A HARPOON 137 The following note from Captain Knowles, of the Pacific Steam Whaling Company, was attached to the harpoon when presented to Senator Perkins: " Harpoon head found in a whale taken in Bering sea in August, 1890, by steam whaling bark Beluga, Captain R. D. Wicks, of the Pacific Steam Whaling Company's fleet. This iron was from the whaling bark Monte zuma, as you will see by the mark. The Montezuma was sunk in Charles ton harbor during the war of the rebellion. She was in Bering sea some ten years previous to being sold to the government, so this iron must have been in the whale forty years. J. N. KNOWLES." I was discussing the matter recently with Capt. E. P. Heren deen, of the U. S. National Museum, and mentioning cases re ported where whales struck in Greenland waters had got away and afterward been taken in Bering strait with the first iron in them, or vice versa, when Captain Herendeen observed: " In regard to the whale iron or harpoon found in a whale with the name of a ship on it which had never been in the Greenland fisheries and had always been employed in this in dustry in the region of Bering strait, I can only say that while it is most likely that the whale does make the passage from the vicinity of Point Barrow to the waters around Greenland and Hudson bay, still I do not think the evidence of the irons con clusive, for the following reasons: Ships were often changing ownership and being withdrawn from the service and their in ventory of whaling implements sold and put on board other ships, and while it is true that the ship receiving such weapons would erase the marks of the former ship if put in use, there re mains the possibility of such irons being given or traded to the Eskimo, and such a whale may have been struck by an Eskimo in the vicinity of its final capture with a second-hand iron from which the name had not been erased. " We know that the ships of the Franklin search expedition approached very near each other to the east of Banks land, and we know the whale is able to make long journeys beneath the summer ice floes, for they easily see any places where the light shows through the ice, which denotes a possible breathing place. " I have often heard whales blowing among the ice when I could not see any sign of water anywhere." These notes appear to have a certain interest on account of the stories current from time to time of whales supposed to have made the northwest or northeast passage, and also throw light on the possible age which may be attained by these animals. WM. H. DALL.