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“ And one of them I saw myselfe sunke downright with the abundance of water that this monstrous fish spouted, and filled it withall."-HOLLAND.
atmosphere; so that these animals are obliged to come occasionally to the surface to breathe. Thus the function of respiration is conducted on a plan entirely different in these two groups.
Again, the heart of the fish has only two cavities, and the blood does not return to it after passing through the gills, but is immediately distributed to the body; whilst the heart of the whale has four cavities, and the blood returns to it after passing through the lungs. Hence, the plan of circulation also is entirely different in the two classes-being single in the one and double in the other.
Again, the blood of the fishes is cold, and that of the whale is warm ; another character of great importance, in regard to the relative activity of the vital operations in general, in these two classes respectively.
Further, fishes are oviparous, propagating by eggs, from which the young come forth in time, with little or no attention on the part of the parent; whilst whales are vivaporous, producing their young alive, and nourishing them afterwards by suckling, precisely as other mammalia.
581. By what means is the whale enabled to eject water in the form of a spout ?
The apparatus by which this is accomplished, consists of two pouches or reservoirs, situated beneath the nostrils, and communicating with the back of the mouth by the usual nasal passage, which is furnished with a valve.
When the animal wishes to eject water contained in its mouth, it moves its tongue and jaws as if about to swallow the fluid ; but by closing the pharynx, it compels the water to ascend through the nasal passage, the valve of which it forces open, and also distends the reservoirs. There it may be retained until the animal wishes to eject it; and this is effected by a forcible compression of the pouches, which compels the water to escape by the nostrils ; its return to the mouth being prevented by the valve just mentioned.
582. What provision have whales for the retention of their internal heat ?
The whale tribes have smooth and polished skins, which do not readily throw off the heat; underneath these, there is a large deposition of oily fat, which is a very bad conductor of caloric.
“ And as he pranced before, still seeking for a snake,
583. Why is the enormous size of its head no impediment to rapid locomotion ?
Because, being very light in proportion to the rest of the body, it serves rather to buoy up the animal, and to act in the nature of a balloon upon the vast mass with which it is connected.
584. In the spermaceti whale the great part of this bulk is made up of a large, thin membranous case, containing during life a thin oil, of much less specific gravity than water, below which, again, is the substance called the "junk,” which, although heavier than the spermaceti, is still lighter than the elementin which the whale moveth. Consequently, the head, taken as a whole, is lighter specifically than any other part of the body, and will always have a tendency to rise, at least so far above as to elevate the nostril, or “blow-hole,” sufficiently for all purposes of respiration; and, more than this, a very slight effort on the part of the fish only would be necessary to raise the whole of the anterior flat surface of the nose out of the water. In case the animal should wish to increase its speed to the utmost, the narrow inferior surface of the head, which bears a strong resemblance to the cutwater of a ship, and answers the same purpose to the whale, would be the only part exposed to the pressure of the water in front. Thus, he would be able to pass with the greatest celerity and ease through the boundless tracks of his wide domain.
585. What is whalebone ?
The substance known under this name, sometimes called baleen, is found in the monstrous mouth of the Balvena mysticetus, or whalebone whale, where it forms the substitute for teeth, of which otherwise the animal is destitute.
586. The whalebone depends vertically, or nearly so, from the palate like a portcullis ; is rather elastic; and its lower points are received by the tongue and lower gums. Its function is to act like a sieve or strainer, or perhaps in the nature of a mill, reducing the food which flows into the open mouth of the whale to a state proper for digestion. It consists of an immense number of fibres slightly soldered together, and covered with an epidermis (cuticle or skin). The maxillary (jaw) and palatial (palate) bones of the whalebone whales form on their interior surface two inclined planes, which are concave, but resemble slightly the roof of a house inverted. It is to these bones that the blades or plates of whalebone are attached. They are widest at a point of the mouth which is nearer to the bottom of the gape than to the snout; and they diminish in size as they approach both extremities. They are attached to the bone by an elastic cartilaginous substance. The plates of the whalebone move upon these elastic hinges. When the mouth is shut, these blades lie one over the other like the folds of a fan, or the leaves in & flower-bud.
“Pampered with meats full, spermacetic, and fat.”—DRAYTON.
Whalebone forms one of the objects of the Greenland whale fishery, but it is not the chief. The principal reward arising from the perilous employment of so many men and ships is to be found in the large quantities of oil which are obtained from the thick cutaneous layer of fat, or blubber, as it is usually termed. A whale sixty feet in length will frequently yield more than twenty tons of pure oil; and some of the pieces of baleen are twelve feet long. It is for these prizes that men willingly expose themselves to the rigour of an arctic winter, the chance of falling victims to the united effects of cold and hunger, or shipwreck in its most horrid form, occasioned by the irresistible crush of icebergs; and should the hardy mariner escape from dangers such as these, the harpooner not unfrequently perishes from the upsetting of the boat, owing to the violent plunges which the wounded animal makes in the water, or the whirlpool produced by his rapidly rushing down into the deep.*
587. What is spermaceti ?
It is a substance which concretes and crystallizes spontaneously out of the oil of the spermaceti whale. It forms a very pure oil for lamps, and is used in various ways in the arts and medicine.
588. In the right side of the nose and head of the cachalot or spermaceti whale, is a large, almost triangular-shaped cavity, called by whalers the “case,” which is lined with a beautifully glistening membrane, and covered by a thick layer of muscular fibres and small tendons running in various directions, and, finally, by the common integuments. This cavity is for the purpose of secreting and containing the spermaceti. The size of the case may be estimated, when it is stated that in a large whale it not unfrequently contains upwards of a ton, or more than ten large barrels of oil.
The pursuit of the sperm whale is accompanied with great danger. “ In calm weather, great difficulty is sometimes experienced in approaching the whale, on account of the quickness of his sight and hearing. Under these circumstances the fishers have recourse to paddles instead of oars, and by this means can quietly get near enough to make use of the harpoon. When first struck, the whale generally 'sounds,' or descends perpendicularly to an amazing depth, taking out, perhaps, the lines belonging to four boats, 800 fathoms ! Afterwards, when weakened with loss of blood and fatigue, he becomes unable to sound, but passes rapidly along the surface, towing after him perhaps three or four boats. If he does not turn, the men in the boats draw in the line by which they are attached to the whale, and thus easily come up with him, even when going with great velocity; he is then lanced, and soon killed."
“ An Antony it was,
589. Why has the shape of the dolphin been frequently and fancifully misrepresented ?
From two probable causes. 1. The principal action of cetaceous animals is the vertical plane, or upwards and downwards, while that of the true fishes is in the horizontal. The dolphin is also a very sportive animal, sometimes leaping entirely out of the water.
2. The spouting of dolphins, in common with other cetacea, lent itself naturally to the artistic mind in the construction and adornment of ornamental fountains ; and once in the hands of the sculptor, the true form of the animal was soon lost.
590. The eye of a casual observer is, however, apt to be deceived in witnessing these leaps, and the spectator imagines the back of a dolphin to be greatly curved, while it is almost straight. The cause of this deception is in the eye following the general curve in which the average mass of the body is carried during the leap ; and, as the real shape is not very well seen while the animal is in motion, it is readily, and indeed necessarily, associated with this curve.*
591. Why does the dolphin utter a sound somewhat resembling the human voice?
Because it has lungs, and an air-tube leading to them. The dolphin cannot exist long in the water without coming frequently to the surface to exhale and inhale air ; and it is in the performance of this act that the sound is occasioned.
592. No animal but man has the faculty of articulate speech; which consists of vowels pronounced by means of the larynx, and of consonants formed by the tongue and the lips. The dolphin having no lips, and with a tongue not readily moveable, cannot therefere articulate.
593. Why is the porpoise said to "roll” ?
Because its mode of progression, in common with the other cetacea, when near the surface of the water, consists of a series of leaps, its body appearing and disappearing at intervals with a wheel, or barrel-like motion.
• Partington's “ Cyclopædia."
“ With such accoutrements, with such a form,
Much like a porpoise, just before a storm.”--CHURCHILL.
594. This is the mode of swimming in all the whale tribe; and it is easy to see, from the formation of the tail, the most powerful organ of motion they possess, this must be the case. Their action, like that of land mammalia, is vertical, as distinguished from the horizontal one of fishes. Their tails strike upward and downward, and those of fishes laterally. The resistance to the stroke upwards is less than the stroke downwards, because the pressure of the water increases with its depth : and thus, when cetaceous animals make great exertions in swimming, they always have a tendency to "roll.”
595. Why is the porpoise (or porcpesse) so named ?
The name, signifying sea-hog, was given to this animal from a fancied resemblance to the hog in the character of its head, and in its habits of rooting for food.
596. Why is its appearance at sea in numerous packs thought by mariners to forewarn a storm ?
Because it has been frequently found that previous to rough weather, when few sea animals can procure food, an instinct has led porpoises to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the calm, and so to provide for a period of deprivation.
597. Why have whales, dolphins, &c., the flat surface of their tails placed horizontally, instead of vertically?
This difference to the ordinary fishes is to favour the important function of respiration ; for these inhabitants of the sea must rise to the surface to breathe the air, and their tails are thus directed to enable them to elevate their heads above water.
598. Why is the omnivorous character of man beneficial to the lower terrestrial creation ?
Because, by his appetite for various kinds of flesh, he is incited to subdue and utilize every kind of animal substance. This tends