The Nantucket Sleigh Ride
Whales and whaling pictures

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Whales and whaling

As whales are so large, the basic job of killing the whale has always been something of a problem. The favoured way by most early (pre explosive harpoon) whalers was to harpoon the whale with a rope attached, let the rope out somewhat, then hold it tight to the whaling boat. The whale would then be swimming rapidly away from the boat but fastened to it via harpoon and rope. The aim was to tire the whale out, the boat being fastened to the whale meant it couldn't get away from the whalers.

This very harrowing and dangerous time while the whale sped away was called the "Nantucket Sleigh Ride"

In the picture, the man standing is the mate of the boat having changed positions with the harpooner who has now taken the role of boat steerer. The mate is seen holding the next tool in the process called a lance which will be used to kill the whale once it has tired enough to be approached.

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Picture used courtesy NOAA