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at the hands of the commander and superior officers.
From Onehow we sailed direct for the northwest coast of the Okotsk Sea. Nothing of special interest occured on our passage, which we made in about two months; arriving at the Bays on the 29th of May, 1857. Not finding any whales, however, we continued our course to Jonas Island, where our progress was considerably impeded by an unusual quantity of floating ice.
We cruised in this locality for ten days, and during this time the cry of "whale!" was frequently raised; but in consequence of the ice, all pursuit and effort to capture them proved fruitless, resulting only in disappointment and
Meanwhile the ice continued to collect and increase in quantity, until, becoming discouraged with our prospects in that vicinity, we stood in for the port of Ayan,-running under short sail, in consequence of the dangerous navigation.
After making land, we stood along the coast for the "South-west Bay." We arrived at the mouth of this bay on the 5th of June, but were unable to enter it on account of floating ice,
and were compelled to stand off and on until a change of wind should clear away the ice, and render the passage practicable.
On the 7th of June, whales were seen spouting at a short distance to windward, and the captain's boat immediately went in pursuit of them. After a short chase, the captain succeeded in fastening to the largest of the whales, by means of a bomb gun, with which his boat had been provided.
To the surprise and delight of all who witnessed the chase, the whale was soon observed to spout blood. The mate's boat had by this time arrived at the scene of action, and was immediately made fast to the huge mass of inanimate blubber. A third boat was now dispatched from the ship, to assist in towing the whale alongside: and, in less than two hours after the first cry of" There she blows!" had been given, we had the satisfaction or making the carcase fast to the hull of the Condor.
It is needless to say, that the best of humor now prevailed on board. We had been absent from home ten months to a day, and this was the first whale that we had succeeded in capturing. This circumstance was hailed as a
favorable omen; and with light hearts, we commenced the operation of "cutting in."
All was now bustle and activity on board; a tackle was immediately attached to the starboard main-yard arm, by means of which the huge "blanket pieces" of blubber were hoisted on board, as fast as they could be cut from the carcase of the whale.
These pieces were rapidly "minced" with long knives and thrust into the "try-pots," beneath which the fires had already been kindled. As soon as the operation of "trying out" had fairly commenced, these fires were fed with the "scraps" or refuse part of the blubber.
By the time the work of reducing the dead body of the whale to oil, was in full blast, the ship had become enveloped in the dense black smoke from the try-works; the greasy faces of the crew reflected the glow of the flames, until they looked like so many devils engaged in some diabolical pastime; and, altogether, a scene was presented which utterly baffles my feeble powers of description, and must be left to the imagination of the reader.
The labor of" cutting in " and " trying out' occupied a whole day; and when the oil had
all been coopered, it was this, our first prize, had produced above thirty barrels. These were stowed away in the hold before nightfall; after which we held an improptu celebration in the forecastle, in honor of the occasion, of which singing, dancing and other noisy demonstrations of joy formed a prominent part.
At daybreak on the following morning, it was discovered that the ice had so completely surrounded the ship during the night, as to render our position one of considerable danger. The captain being informed of our situation, immediately commanded that sail should be made without delay, for the purpose of working the ship into clear water if possible.
During the night we had been lying to for the greater part of the time, with the close reefed main top-sail to the mast and the ship's head in shore,―occasionally filling away, however, for a sufficient length of time to keep our offing good. In obedience to the captain's orders, the reefs were now shaken out of the topsails and the yards promptly mast-headed; the top-gallant sails, courses and main royal were set, and the helm being put up, we stood out toward the open sea, in the hope of finding
some channel through which to escape the floes and bergs which, apparently hemmed us in, upon every side.
We were compelled to steer the ship with the utmost caution, to avoid collision with the ice; and all hands were kept at the braces, in readiness to trim the sails promptly at the word of command. After six hours of this difficult and dangerous navigation, during which time we had more than once escaped destruction by a hair's breadth, - as it were we found ourselves, as we supposed, in clear water, — for no ice was now visible as far as the eye could reach.
As we had reached a place of comparative safety, the ship ought now to have been hove to under reefed top-sails; this was not done, however, but with all sail set, we continued upon our course at the rate of nine or ten knots an hour. While running in this manner, with no ice visible around us, a severe and sudden shock was felt, which completely checked the ship's headway and threw the sails aback, while every t her of the hull groaned and creaked from theet of the concussion; and those of us whod been standing on deck, were prostrated as instantly as if by a thunderbolt from the clouds.