Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dad Killed Whales (...And He Swam With Sharks, Too!)


Carlos the Whaler
Originally uploaded by wonderbread74.
As a boy, when it came to bragging about their dad, I always had the trump card. My Dad was a whaler. He was born in the Azores Islands, which are a set of nine small islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

During his teenage years before he emigrated to the United States, my father served on whaling expeditions that would usually yield a couple gray whales a week. Growing up in poverty, the seas were the only place that could feed a family of nine. My grandfather surveyed the seas for signs of whales in a lighthouse on a hill. My father claimed that my grandfather really didn't do anything but use the binoculars to peep on women working in the fields below.

Hunting for whales might seem like an exotic adventure filled with danger, but it really wasn't. Only once in those four years did any problems arise and that was the story that piqued the interests of my friends:
One summer morning, my grandfather spotted the ocean spray of some gray whales in the distance and loudly rang the huge copper bell in the lighthouse. A motley crew of skinny young boys quickly assembled, running for their small, ramshackle houses near the docks. The long, thin boats were manned by nine men. On the high seas I always romanticized the idea that my Dad was the guy who stood over the whale menacingly holding the long, sharp harpoon and violently pierceing it into the whale's blubber and forcing the huge leviathan to moan in pain.

My Dad had the mundane job of holding the rope that was fastened to the harpoon. His duty was to make certain that the rope was wet or it would burn when the whale tried to flee.
On this day, the captain of the boat made of huge mistake. He wasn't well thought of by the crew because of his lack of attention to detail and a quick temper. The common procedure was for the whaling boat to pull up near the front of the whale. This was done because the pain of the harpoon would provoke a sharp reaction from the tail of the whale.

The whale was making it difficult for them to reach their desired target, so the captain instructed the harpoon man to stab the whale near the tail. He followed his commands and stuck the whale. The whale's montrous tail rose from the water and swatted the wooden boat into pieces. The whole crew was in the water for the next hour while another boat came to the rescue. They all knew what was going to happen next. The whale was bleeding and the blood naturally attracted sharks in the area.
One of the older crewmember named Manuel, first saw the ominous shark fins circling in the distance. Manuel was one of the few crewmembers who had a wife and family. He began sobbing, crying out their names.

"Maria! Jose!, Rui! Manuela!"

In the end, the sharks never came close to the wreckage and Manuel was reunited with his beloved family and my Dad was stocked with a whale of a story.
My Dad has always maintained a reverence for the majestic beasts that he once hunted. My Dad battled and slayed the monsters of the sea. What did yours do?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a whale of a tale.

My dad is a multi-million dollar plastic surgeon. In Arkansas. Go figure.


-Lizette

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a whale of a tale.

My dad is a multi-million dollar plastic surgeon. In Arkansas. Go figure.


-Lizette

MrYosemite said...

Whale hunting is for pussies. My dad used to hunt wild snipe. Imagine yourself out in the woods in the middle of the night, nothing but a flashlight and a gunny sack - hunting a small animal that doesn't exist. THAT is what I call bravery.

RicTresa said...

My dad could make a 6 pack of beer disappear..

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