Compendium of Seashells by R. Tucker Abbott, S. Peter Dance

By R. Tucker Abbott, S. Peter Dance

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Woven by the coastal Nootka, now known as the Nuu-chah-nulth, of Vancouver Island, the hats were made of spruce root, surf grass and fur. The caps confirmed the status of the whaling chief, keeping him dry while helping to establish contact with the animal world. A few decades later, when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark travelled along the Columbia River, they were impressed by these same bulb-topped hats, worn by local chiefs, with ‘faint representations of the whales, the Canoes, and the harpooners Strikeing them’.

Because of its visits to bays and shoreline, the 9-metre minke, the smallest baleen whale, has been caught for food since antiquity. Villagers trapped minkes with herring nets suspended across the narrow fjords of Norway, then shot them with arrows attached to wooden floats. The tip of the dödspiler, or death arrow, was covered with bacillus – preferably from the inflamed sore of a dead whale or some other rotten meat – causing septicaemia in the small whale. Within 36 hours, the bacteria would weaken the whale enough to permit an easy kill with a harpoon.

20 They learned to kill the whale as efficiently as possible, for the more time spent in the whaleboat, the longer the cruise and the 56 greater the risk of being iced in. And a whale that was not quickly dispatched could be lost among the pack ice. After the harpoon was set, Martin wrote, the whalers launce the whales near their privy-parts . . for if they are run in there, it doth pain them very much . . 21 57 A whale hunt amid icebergs, by the French marine painter Ambroise Louis Garneray, c.

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