But I will not tire your highness with an account of all that I saw, and which occurred during my stay on that island. If I were to enter into the excellence of their government, which consisted of a Great Harpooner, and two councils of first and second Harpoons, or of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, ceremonies at births, and marriages, and deaths—of their amusements, and their ingenious supply of all their wants, it would afford materials for at least two volumes quarto, without margin. I shall therefore confine myself to stating, that after a sojourn of six months, I became so impatient to quit the island, that I determined to encounter any risk, rather than not accomplish it.
My host, and all the principal inhabitants, finding that no persuasions could induce me to stay, consented at last to furnish me with the means which I had hit upon to make my escape.
I omitted to mention to your highness, the whales had been rendered so docile, that they not only were used for draught on the lake, but even for carrying on their backs. I never could be persuaded to mount one, I had such a horror of being seated on a fish’s back, after my travelling on the shark; but I had often crossed the lake in one of the great whale boats towed by one or two of the animals fastened to it by loops over their tails. This conveyance suggested to me the idea of my escape, which I proposed to make by means of one of these large whale boats, covered completely in, and to be towed out of the mouth of the lake by one of the draught whales.
At my request, a boat was prepared, and covered in, with whalebone windows to admit light; a stock of provisions were supplied me sufficient for a long voyage; and the whale being put to, I departed amidst the tears and lamentations of the friendly islanders, who looked upon me as a man bent upon my own destruction. But I was aware that the fishery would soon commence, and had great hopes of being picked up by one of the vessels. I was soon clear of the lake; and the lad who was on the back of the draught whale, having towed me out in pursuance of his orders, until the island appeared like a cloud on the horizon, cast me loose and hastened back, that he might return home before dark.
For three weeks I remained in the inside of this enormous boat, or rather I may say fish tossed upon the waves, but without injury, from its extreme buoyancy. One morning I was awakened from a sound sleep by a sudden blow on the outside of my vessel. I imagined that I had come in contact with an iceberg, but the sound of voices convinced me, that at last I had fallen in with my fellow-creatures. A harpoon was now driven in, which I narrowly escaped, and a volley of execrations followed, by which I knew immediately that the people were English.