In the following pages an attempt has been made - it is believed for the first time - to give an account of the cruise of a South Sea whaler from the seaman's standpoint. Two very useful books have been published - both of them over half a century ago - on the same subject; but, being written by the surgeons of whale- ships for scientific purposes, neither of them was interesting to the general reader. ["Narrative of a Whaling Voyage round the Globe," by F Debell Bennett, F.R.C.S. (2 vols). Bentley, London (1840). "The Sperm Whale Fishery," by Thomas Beale, M.R.C.S. London (1835).] They have both been long out of print; but their value to the student of natural history has been, and still is, very great, Dr. Beale's book, in particular, being still the authority on the sperm whale.
This book does not pretend to compete with either of the above valuable works. Its aims is to present to the general reader a simple account of the methods employed, and the dangers met with, in a calling about which the great mass of the public knows absolutely nothing. Pending the advent of some great writer who shall see the wonderful possibilities for literature contained in the world-wide wanderings of the South Sea whale- fishers, the author has endeavoured to summarize his experiences so that they may be read without weariness, and, it is hoped, with profit.
The manifold shortcomings of the work will not, it is trusted, be laid to the account of the subject, than which none more interesting could well be imagined, but to the limitations of the writer, whose long experience of sea life has done little to foster the literary faculty.
One claim may be made with perfect confidence - that if the manner be not all that could be wished, the matter is entirely trustworthy, being compiled from actual observation and experience, and in no case at second-hand. An endeavour has also been made to exclude such matter as is easily obtainable elsewhere - matters of common knowledge and "padding" of any sort - the object not being simply the making of a book, but the record of little-known facts.
Great care has been taken to use no names either of ships or persons, which could, by being identified, give annoyance or pain to any one, as in many cases strong language has been necessary for the expression of opinions.
Finally, the author hopes that, although in no sense exclusively a book for boys, the coming generation may find this volume readable and interesting; and with that desire he offers it confidently, though in all humility, to that great impartial jury, the public.
F.T.B. Dulwich, July, 1897.