Whale Oil

Whale Oil -

Is obtained principally from two species of whale - the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale. The former, or Cacholot, known also as the Spermaceti whale, inhabits nearly all seas and has a wide geographical range. It varies from sixty to seventy feet in length and will yield from six thousand to seven thousand gallons of oil. The finest is that taken from the great reservoir in the head and is distinguished by the specific title of "Sperm Oil."

The Right, or Greenland, Whale, yields the largest proportion of common whale oil, usually designated as "train oil," a term supposed to be a corruption of "drain," from the oil being drained out of the blubber. "Blubber" is the thick layer of fat immediately under the skin.

After the whale has been harpooned, lanced and killed, it is towed by boats to the ship and made fast to the ship's chains. The process of "flensing," or stripping off, the blubber is then undertaken by some of the crew who, provided with iron spikes in their boots to prevent slipping, descend upon the carcass, remove the blanket of skin in broad strips about thirty feet long and then, with "Blubber Spades," cut the fat into huge cubical pieces of half a ton or a ton weight. These are hoisted to the deck as cut, the process being continued until the entire mass, amounting to twenty or thirty tons, has been secured. In the meanwhile, others of the crew have explored the whale's mouth and secured the baleen or whalebone. The remainder of the carcass is then flung adrift.

The blubber is next cut into small pieces and the tissue is separated from it by heating in a large pot and then straining, the scraps from one pot and the whaleskin serving as fuel for another, the product being finally stored in casks to be brought home and boiled for oil. A ton of blubber will give about two hundred gallons of oil. A whale will often yield four thousand dollars' worth of blubber and whalebone.

Whale fishing no longer holds the important commercial position of former days. One reason is found in the scarcity of the big fish. Another, and the most important, is the large commercial use of substitutes for whalebone and whale-oil. The whale firms of New Bedford, Mass., are still the most prominent in the industry, but their fleets have shrunk in size and they now use San Francisco and Hawaii as refitting ports, shipping the bulk of their catch by rail across the continent.

Imported whale oil comes principally from Newfoundland, Labrador and Canada, supplemented by considerable quantities from Norway and Japan.

Arround Whale Oil in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

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