Journeys Through Bookland — Volume 5 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 468 pages of information about Journeys Through Bookland — Volume 5.

VII

I embarked at Portsmouth, in a first-rate English man-of-war, of one hundred guns, and fourteen hundred men, for North America.  Nothing worth relating happened till we arrived within three hundred leagues of the river Saint Lawrence when the ship struck with amazing force against (as we supposed) a rock; however, upon heaving the lead, we could find no bottom, even with three hundred fathom.  What made this circumstance the more wonderful, and indeed beyond all comprehension, was, that the violence of the shock was such that we lost our rudder, broke our bow-sprit in the middle, and split all our masts from top to bottom, two of which went by the board; a poor fellow, who was aloft, furling the main-sheet, was flung at least three leagues from the ship; but he fortunately saved his life by laying hold of the tail of a large sea-gull, who brought him back, and lodged him on the very spot from whence he was thrown.  Another proof of the violence of the shock was the force with which the people between decks were driven against the floors above them; my head particularly was pressed into my stomach, where it continued some months before it recovered its natural situation.  Whilst we were all in a state of astonishment at the general and unaccountable confusion in which we were involved, the whole was suddenly explained by the appearance of a large whale, who had been basking, asleep, within sixteen feet of the surface of the water.  This animal was so much displeased with the disturbance which our ship had given him, for in our passage we had with our rudder scratched his nose, that he beat in all the gallery and part of the quarter deck with his tail, and almost at the same instant took the main-sheet anchor, which was suspended, as it usually is, from the head, between his teeth, and ran away with the ship, at least sixty leagues, at the rate of twelve leagues an hour, when fortunately the cable broke, and we lost both the whale and the anchor.  However, upon our return to Europe, some months after, we found the same whale within a few leagues of the same spot, floating dead upon the water; it measured above half a mile in length.  As we could take but a small quantity of such a monstrous animal on board, we got our boats out, and with much difficulty cut off his head, where, to our great joy, we found the anchor, and above forty fathom of the cable concealed on the left side of his mouth, just under his tongue. (Perhaps this was the cause of his death, as that side of his tongue was much swelled, with a great degree of inflammation.) This was the only extraordinary circumstance of this voyage.

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Journeys Through Bookland — Volume 5 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.