"Luff! Luff!" cries the steersman, hoarse with excitement. The rowers bend to their task, muscles straining, oars biting deep into the glassy Arctic Sea. He guides them towards the glistening back of the big fish that has finished sounding, now cleaving the surface. The harpooner leans out over the whaleboat’s prow, hefting his weapon with the sureness of purpose. Closer. The whale blows hot breath high into the air like a water fountain as it lazily swims. His eyes narrow with concentration. Nearly . . . Now. NOW! The harpoon flies. It strikes fast and true, barbs biting into rich flesh. The oarsmen pull frantically away from danger as the startled whale’s twenty foot tail flukes lift high then smash down with enough force to splinter the puny whaleboat. Harpoon line smokes out from the care-
fully prepared drums, whip lashing taut across the water
as the frenzied fish strains for freedom. It hauls
the boat like a toy, churning up a bow
wave. The steersman grins.
"She’s fast! Ship oars, lads! She’s ours!"
And the chase begins…
An arch of whale jawbones on West Cliff, given by the Sister cities of Anchorage, Alaska in 2002 as a memorial to Whitby's great days in the 'Northern Fishery'. Previously there had been a whalebone arch presented by the Norwegian Government.