Of this whale little is precisely known to the Nantucketer
, and nothing at all to the professed naturalist.
But this is a harmless little foible in the English whale-hunters, which the Nantucketer
does not take much to heart; probably, because he knows that he has a few foibles himself.
Before showing that picture to any Nantucketer
, you had best provide for your summary retreat from Nantucket.
Now some Nantucketers
rather distrust this historical story of Jonah and the whale.
In this Afric Temple of the Whale I leave you, reader, and if you be a Nantucketer, and a whaleman, you will silently worship there.
Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were the first among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm Whale; and that for half a century they were the only people of the whole globe who so harpooned him.
And as the mighty iron Leviathan of the modern railway is so familiarly known in its every pace, that, with watches in their hands, men time his rate as doctors that of a baby's pulse; and lightly say of it, the up train or the down train will reach such or such a spot, at such or such an hour; even so, almost, there are occasions when these Nantucketers
time that other Leviathan of the deep, according to the observed humor of his speed; and say to themselves, so many hours hence this whale will have gone two hundred miles, will have about reached this or that degree of latitude or longitude.
By late November, 1820, they reached a likely spot, further out in the Pacific than Nantucketers
had ever gone.
Twenty-four such permits were secured the following year (Rotch, 1916:27), and permits for 35 whaling vessels were granted by the Continental Congress to Nantucketers
shortly before the treaty of peace was signed in 1783 (Rotch, 1916:34).
James Newbegin brought his three daughters to the shearing each year to glean as Ruth did in the Bible story,--only the Nantucketers
called it "Tag-locking"--gathering the little locks of wool on the ground, or caught on the bushes and fences, or thrown away as not worth saving, except to those who had time and patience to clean and comb them into yarn.
Men from the mainland and the Vineyard--blacks, Indians, and Yankees--thus came to fulfill most of the labor demands of an industry in which captaincies and mateships were the "exclusive preserve" of white Nantucketers.
Outfitting ships in the early nineteenth century, island merchants such as the Macys could only survive with a steady supply of veteran Native whalers such as the brothers Nathan and Elijah Pocknett who were proprietors; with indentures, Nantucketers also contracted Indians from Mashpee who did not fall under the protection of the Massachusetts guardianship system.