Floating Whale Station, Spitzenbergen, Lapland

Special Collections > Keystone Slides
tiff scanned file from original glass slide
About the island of Spitzenbergen are noted whale fisheries. Whale fishing is an old industry here. The sailors of England caught whales in these waters as long ago as 1598. In those days, and until recently, whales were captured by hand harpooning. A whaling vessel would sail into the waters known to be inhabited by the sea monsters. When one was seen, a crew, consisting usually of four rowers and a man with a harpoon, would quietly steal up behind the animal. When within a few yards, the harpoon was thrown. The whale would immediately start to race through the waters, and would sink. After several hours, it would come to the surface. By this time other crews were standing by, and the battle was soon ended. The whale was towed alongside the ship, inflated with air, and the fishing continued. In 1864 the harpoon gun was invented. This completely changed the method of capturing whales. The gun fires a harpoon which contains a torpedo. This torpedo has a time fuse, and explodes a second after the whale is pierced. The view shows the success of this method of whale catching. The ship here seen is referred to as a whaling station, because it is in the center of the waters in which its group of fisherman hunts. What appears to be great sheets of steel near the ship are the bodies of whales that have been shot by the harpoon gun. These are rorqual whales, a species that live near the shore. The particular variety of rorquals here shown is the humpback, which grows to be 50 feet long. The flippers on it weigh a half ton each. The largest animal in the world is the blue sulphur whale, which sometimes weighs 75 tons. Keystone ID: 15768 Note: All titles, descriptions, and location coordinates are from the original Keystone Slide documentation as supplied by the Keystone View Company. No text has been edited or changed.
Copyright by the Keystone View Company. The original slides are housed in McConnell Library's Special Collections.