San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionHistory of the Museum

Trip to Trinidad Whaling Station, July-August 1926

A Finback Gets Away
July 28

We put to sea short-handed at 7 a.m. taking a southwesterly course from the whistling buoy. Towards noon the west wind came up causing a very rough sea. At two-thirty a lone whale was located & we set off in pursuit going very slowly. The animal was about two miles from the ship when first sighted and by its actions was identified as Finback. This conclusion was made because the beast did not “fluke” or show his tail above water when “sounding” or diving deep. We followed it for over two and a half hours not getting closer than 500 feet. Capt. Lane carefully timed the beast every time it sounded & I was surprised at the accuracy with which he could call the next “blow”. Capt. later told me that Finbacks that were normally diving deep as this animal was, would stay down from 8 to 11 minutes and this one proved no exception for 4 straight dives I timed were 9:40-10:05; 9:08-10:20.

The animal on becoming aware of our presence ceased coursing or going in a straight line & started “backing”, going off to one side or the other. Ths would throw off our course, sometimes a mile or more & by the time we caught up the whale had had a good blow & was ready for another deep dive in another direction. This made pursuit almost impossible and the chance of capture a matter of remote luck.

Capt. Lane followed this whale until he was sure that the beast was up to such pranks & then he abandoned the chase.

It was getting towards sunset & we were about 40 miles off shore so it was decided to turn back. Just about sunset I was looking at a distant ship thru the field glasses & saw two spouts about two miles to the northward. The ship was headed that way & we were soon on two very tame Finbacks.

The large beasts came within 15 feet of the ship when the exhaust of their breaths sounded like scraping straw & the intake like that of a heavy snore.

Finback Blowing
Huey photo - finback blowing

All was excitement on board the ship while we jockeyed for a position to shoot. We were not long in this attempt for the beasts rose not twenty feet in front of the ship’s bow. Imagine the chagrin when the primer in the gun failed with a sharp click. Three times we had an excellent chance when darkness prohibited further pursuit and when the ship was headed for port it was carrying a very disgruntled crew, for every one down to the cook “rated” in the kill. We arrived at Trinidad about midnight & I didn’t get off the ship.