Ere the English ship fades from sight be it set down here, that she haile_rom London, and was named after the late Samuel Enderby, merchant of tha_ity, the original of the famous whaling house of enderby and sons; a hous_hich in my poor whaleman’s opinion, comes not far behind the united roya_ouses of the Tudors and Bourbons, in point of real historical interest. Ho_ong, prior to the year of our Lord 1775, this great whaling house was i_xistence, my numerous fish-documents do not make plain; but in that year
(1775) it fitted out the first English ships that ever regularly hunted th_perm Whale; though for some score of years previous (ever since 1726) ou_aliant Coffins and Maceys of Nantucket and the Vineyard had in large fleet_ursued the Leviathan, but only in the North and South Atlantic: no_lsewhere. Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were th_irst among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm Whale; an_hat for half a century they were the only people of the whole globe who s_arpooned him.
In 1778, a fine ship, the Amelia, fitted out for the express purpose, and a_he sole charge of the vigorous Enderbys, boldly rounded Cape Horn, and wa_he first among the nations to lower a whale-boat of any sort in the grea_outh Sea. The voyage was a skilful and lucky one; and returning to her bert_ith her hold full of the precious sperm, the Amelia’s example was soo_ollowed by other ships, English and American, and thus the vast Sperm Whal_rounds of the Pacific were thrown open. But not content with this good deed,
the indefatigable house again bestirred itself: Samuel and all his Sons—ho_any, their mother only knows—and under their immediate auspices, and partly,
I think, at their expense, the British government was induced to send th_loop-of-war Rattler on a whaling voyage of discovery into the South Sea.
Commanded by a naval Post-Captain, the Rattler made a rattling voyage of it,
and did some service; how much does not appear. But this is not all. In 1819,
the same house fitted out a discovery whale ship of their own, to go on _asting cruise to the remote waters of Japan. That ship— well called the
“Syren”—made a noble experimental cruise; and it was thus that the grea_apanese Whaling Ground first became generally known. The Syren in this famou_oyage was commanded by a Captain Coffin, a Nantucketer.
All honor to the Enderbies, therefore, whose house, I think, exists to th_resent day; though doubtless the original Samuel must long ago have slippe_is cable for the great South Sea of the other world.
The ship named after him was worthy of the honor, being a very fast sailer an_ noble craft every way. I boarded her once at midnight somewhere off th_atagonian coast, and drank good flip down in the forecastle. It was a fin_am we had, and they were all trumps—every soul on board. A short life t_hem, and a jolly death. And that fine gam I had— long, very long after ol_hab touched her planks with his ivory heel— it minds me of the noble, solid,
Saxon hospitality of that ship; and may my parson forget me, and the devi_emember me, if I ever lose sight of it. Flip? Did I say we had flip? Yes, an_e flipped it at the rate of ten gallons the hour; and when the squall came
(for it’s squally off there by Patagonia), and all hands— visitors an_ll—were called to reef topsails, we were so top-heavy that we had to swin_ach other aloft in bowlines; and we ignorantly furled the skirts of ou_ackets into the sails, so that we hung there, reefed fast in the howlin_ale, a warning example to all drunken tars. However, the masts did not g_verboard; and by and by we scrambled down, so sober, that we had to pass th_lip again, though the savage salt spray bursting down the forecastle scuttle,
rather too much diluted and pickled it for my taste.
The beef was fine—tough, but with body in it. They said it was bullbeef;
others, that it was dromedary beef; but I do not know, for certain, how tha_as. They had dumplings too; small, but substantial, symmetrically globular,
and indestructible dumplings. I fancied that you could feel them, and rol_hem about in you after they were swallowed. If you stooped over too fa_orward, you risked their pitching out of you like billiard-balls. The bread—
but that couldn’t be helped; besides, it was an anti-scorbutic, in short, th_read contained the only fresh fare they had. But the forecastle was not ver_ight, and it was very easy to step over into a dark corner when you ate it.
But all in all, taking her from truck to helm, considering the dimensions o_he cook’s boilers, including his own live parchment boilers; fore and aft, _ay, the Samuel Enderby was a jolly ship; of good fare and plenty; fine fli_nd strong; crack fellows all, and capital from boot heels to hat-band.
But why was it, think ye, that the Samuel Enderby, and some other Englis_halers I know of—not all though—were such famous, hospitable ships; tha_assed round the beef, and the bread, and the can, and the joke; and were no_oon weary of eating, and drinking, and laughing? I will tell you. Th_bounding good cheer of these English whalers is matter for historica_esearch. Nor have I been at all sparing of historical whale research, when i_as seemed needed.
The English were preceded in the whale fishery by the Hollanders, Zealanders,
and Danes; from whom they derived many terms still extant in the fishery; an_hat is yet more, their fat old fashions, touching plenty to eat and drink.
For, as a general thing, the English merchant-ship scrimps her crew; but no_o the English whaler. Hence, in the English, this thing of whaling good chee_s not normal and natural, but incidental and particular; and, therefore, mus_ave some special origin, which is here pointed out, and will be still furthe_lucidated.
During my researches in the Leviathanic histories, I stumbled upon an ancien_utch volume, which, by the musty whaling smell of it, I knew must be abou_halers. The title was, “Dan Coopman,” wherefore I concluded that this must b_he invaluable memoirs of some Amsterdam cooper in the fishery, as every whal_hip must carry its cooper. I was reinforced in this opinion by seeing that i_as the production of one “Fitz Swackhammer.” But my friend Dr. Snodhead, _ery learned man, professor of Low Dutch and High German in the college o_anta Claus and St. Potts, to whom I handed the work for translation, givin_im a box of sperm candles for his trouble—this same Dr. Snodhead, so soon a_e spied the book, assured me that “Dan Coopman” did not mean “The Cooper,”
but “The Merchant.” In short, this ancient and learned Low Dutch book treate_f the commerce of Holland; and, among other subjects, contained a ver_nteresting account of its whale fishery. And in this chapter it was, headed,
“Smeer,” or “Fat,” that I found a long detailed list of the outfits for th_arders and cellars of 180 sail of Dutch whalemen; from which list, a_ranslated by Dr. Snodhead, I transcribe the following:
0084400,000 lbs. of beef.
60,000 lbs. Friesland pork.
150,000 lbs. of stock fish.
550,000 lbs. of biscuit.
72,000 lbs. of soft bread.
2,800 firkins of butter.
20,000 lbs. of Texel and Leyden cheese.
144,000 lbs. cheese (probably an inferior article).
550 ankers of Geneva.
10,800 barrels of beer.
Most statistical tables are parchingly dry in the reading; not so in th_resent case, however, where the reader is flooded with whole pipes, barrels,
quarts, and gills of good gin and good cheer.
At the time, I devoted three days to the studious digesting of all this beer,
beef, and bread, during which many profound thoughts were incidentall_uggested to me, capable of a transcendental and Platonic application; and,
furthermore, I compiled supplementary tables of my own, touching the probabl_uantity of stock-fish, &c., consumed by every Low Dutch harpooneer in tha_ncient Greenland and Spitzbergen whale fishery. In the first place, th_mount of butter, and Texel and Leyden cheese consumed, seems amazing. _mpute it, though, to their naturally unctuous natures, being rendered stil_ore unctuous by the nature of their vocation, and especially by thei_ursuing their game in those frigid Polar Seas, on the very coasts of tha_squimaux country where the convivial natives pledge each other in bumpers o_rain oil.
The quantity of the beer, too, is very large, 10,800 barrels. Now, as thos_olar fisheries could only be prosecuted in the short summer of that climate,
so that the whole cruise of one of these Dutch whalemen, including the shor_oyage to and from the Spitzbergen sea, did not much exceed three months, say,
and reckoning 30 men to each of their fleet of 180 sail, we have 5,400 Lo_utch seamen in all; therefore, I say, we have precisely two barrels of bee_er man, for a twelve weeks’ allowance, exclusive of his fair proportion o_hat 550 ankers of gin. Now, whether these gin and beer harpooneers, s_uddled as one might fancy them to have been, were the right sort of men t_tand up in a boat’s head, and take good aim at flying whales; this would see_omewhat improbable. Yet they did aim at them, and hit them too. But this wa_ery far North, be it remembered, where beer agrees well with th_onstitution; upon the Equator, in our southern fishery, beer would be apt t_ake the harpooneer sleepy at the mast-head and boozy in his boat; an_rievous loss might ensue to Nantucket and New Bedford.
But no more; enough has been said to show that the old Dutch whalers of two o_hree centuries ago were high livers; and that the English whalers have no_eglected so excellent an example. For, say they, when cruising in an empt_hip, if you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out o_t, at least. And this empties the decanter.