Whale, the Common, or Ba-laena mysticetus, L. is the largest inhabitant of the ocean, frequenting the north seas, where it is from 70 to 00 feet, and in those of the Torrid Zone, to 160 feet in length. Its head is uncommonly large, so that it is equal to one-third of its length : in the middle are two orifices, through which it spouts water to a considerable height; and towards the back, there are two small eyes, protected by eye-lashes, like those in quadrupeds. The tail has the form of a crescent ; and the colour of the whole body is various, the backs of some being red, and the belly perfectly white. The female produces one, or not ex-ing two young whales, after a gestation of nine or ten months, which are suckled in the manner of other mam miliary animals.
The whale is a very useful fish : its flesh, however, is rank and unfit to be eaten; but the small laminae, known under the name of whale-bone, which are taken from the upper jaw, furnish a lucrative article in commerce. The tongue consists of a soft, spongy, fat substance ; which, when boiled down, often yields five or six barrels of oil 5 though the most valuable part is the Blueber, or fat, found beneath the skin, to the depth of from eight to twelve inches, and which is convened into train-oil.
Whales are chiefly caught in the vicinity of Greenland ; though a fishery has lately been success-, fully commenced in the South Sea: As their fat is of essential utility in domestic life, the maritime powers of the north annually send numerous vessels on this pursuit. Each ship is provided with six boats, which are respectively furnished with harpoons, appended to ropes from 200 to 300 fathoms in length. When a whale is perceived floating on the surface of the ocean, and spouting up torrents of water, the boats approach, and a harpoon is discharged. The wounded fish plunges into the deep ; and, if the rope belonging to one boat be runout, that of another is speedily fastened to it, to prevent the little bark front being carried down with the whale. As soon as the unwieldy creature re-appears, another, and, if necessary, a third harpoon, is discharged, till it rises to the surface, and at length expires. The whale-bone is then taken out, the blubber cut to pieces, and stowed in hogsheads.
The proper season for the whale-fishery, is from May to July; and so great are the advantages derived from it, not only as an object of commerce, but also as a nursery for British seamen, that the 26 Geo. III. c. 50, and 32 Geo. III. c. 22, §.4, permit the fins, blubber, etc. of whales caught by British mariners, to be imported duty free ; provided they fulfil the conditions required by those acts, but which our limits will not permit us to specify. - A bounty of 20 s. is also allowed for every ton of blubber, obtained by such fishery.