First Blood

A true story by Einar Kolbeinsson, Husavik, Iceland

It was a sunny morning late summer in 1976. The clock was around seven and everything was ready for my first whaling adventure.

We were three on board and this journey had been planned as an opportunity for big money. It was just about nine o'clock that morning that I heard a shout. Whale, Whale! the Captain screamed in frenzy. I was sent up to the barrel in the mast, the Captain ran to the front of the boat to the 50mm gun and the cook took the steering wheel. At that time I was getting very excited. The Captain shouted to me to look for anyting in the sea that might be a shadow of the whale or the white spot on the whales back that I ought to see very clearly when the whale was near the boat.

Suddenly I saw something big to the right of the boat and gave the signal to the Captain. Just seconds later the whale surfaced and sent a stroke of air and sea up in the sky with a lot of noise. At that same moment the Captain fired the gun and I saw the spear hit the whale. It went in rather low and straight through. I could see from the barrel that this whale was big, very big. It was nearly as long as the boat that I think was around 12 meters long.

The whale was not dead as I thougt at first because the line hooked to the spear suddenly took a spin and ran overboard and it was just pure luck that the big airballoons at the end of the line did not hit the Captain. The whale swam with great speed straight from the boat and soon there was little to see. The Captain had taken the wheel and drove the engine as much as he could in the same direction as we saw the whale swim. An hour later or so we noticed the airballoons, still travelling with great speed. We followed the whale for a while and soon the whale got tired and we could catch up.

The whale tried as he could to stay away from the boat but the Captain outsmarted him and shot another spear through him. Still, the whale did not die. He took another dive and disappeared in the deep with the line and balloons. The Captain sailed the boat in a circle and then another one, and another one. Hours went by. The time now was around three in the afternoon, six hours since the first spear hit the whale.

Then suddenly a shout from the barrel. The cook had seen the balloons in the binoculars up to a mile away. The Captain gave the engine all he had and the boat soon caught up with the balloons. It was a big surprise to see that the whale was still alive and swam in circles around the balloons. The Captain sent the third and his last spear through the whale to kill him. But it was just as bad as before.

The whale did not die from that shot but now the sea around us was red in blood. The Captain and the cook who both counted as experienced whalers hardly knew what to do next. Then the Captain got the idea of reeling in the line and tie a better snare around the tale of the whale and tie him to the side of the boat. It was done but it was not easy. Even though the whale had lost all this blood he was quite alive and kicking. The next thing was to try to kill the whale with all means possible.

The Captain got his rifle, an old 8mm Mauser from the last war and shot 3 bullets to a spot in the whales head were the Captain thought the brain was. None of the bullets hit the brain and it seemed to me that the whale did not feel a thing. The only weapon left on board was the shotgun that was used for bird hunting. 12 shots of 12 gauge birdshots down into the nostrils of the whale did not kill him. It only made the bloodstream bigger and the red color of the sea brighter. Then the last attempt was made. All ties of the whale were loosened but the snare around the tail. The Captain drove the boat with as much speed as he could and this stopped the whale from getting its head up to the surface for air. After a while the whale was dead. It had been drowned.

The time was seven in the evening. Ten hours of agony and pain for the whale. That summer I was involved in four more killings of whales where the spear killed them instantly. But the memory of this first kill tells me only the fact that if we kill four whales with sudden death and one in ten hours then there are many whales that have to live through the same long hours with spears and lines attached to them.

That summer I was just a young man and saw whaling through a haze of adventure and thrill. Later I felt a shame for doing what I had done. Today I have only one thing to say.

"Stop The Killing" - Einar Kolbeinsson.

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