Some Observations on Rorquals Off Southern Newfoundland

Glover M. Allen
1904 American Naturalist  
UNTIL very recently it has been the usage, in books on natural history, to picture Cetacea, when in their native element, as floating lightly on the surface of the water and sending forth from the blow-holes great columns of spray which break and fall in showers over the back. In the works of the older writers, as Bonnaterre and Lacepe&Ie, the spouts of whales are representecd as solid columns of water, of nearly uniform diameter throughout, which after reaching their maximum height, curve
more » ... either to the front or to the rear, and, breaking slightly, vanish away. Such representations, however, were recognized as entirely inadequate, being merely the conventional vagaries of the artists. K. E. von Baer ('64) seems to have been among the first to attempt an accurate delineation of the whale's spout. He figures a Finback whale in the act of blowingo" the column being a vertical one, expanding very slightly until the maximum height is reached, when it bushes out and gradually becomes dispersed. Henking (:oi) also represents in a very diagrammatic way his impression of the form of a Finback whale's 6i3 This content downloaded from on February 18, 2018 20:16:34 PM All use subject to University of Chicago Press Terms and Conditions ( 614 THE AJiERIC,4A A-ATURALIST. [VOL. XXXVIII. spoult. The outline he makes retort-shaped, and the whole is directed slightly backward. Both these authors add that their observations were made in calm weather with a smooth sea. Not until I903 have there been published any actual photographs of the larger whales alive and free in the open ocean, The first published photographs of this nature appear in the report on the Cetacea of the Antarctic expedition of the Belgica." These represent the Humpback whale (AIegaptcfa n1odosa) and the Sulphur-bottom (BRatlnoptr1na uzsculus) in the various positions assumed during their appearance at the surface of the ocean, and were taken by Dr. E. G. Racovitza and Dr, F. A. Cook, in i898. Only one view is shown of the spoult, and this is so indistinct as to be rather unsatisfactory. Later in the year I903, Dr. F. NV. True (:o3a) published some very excellent photographs of Finback whales (Ba'lnoiptczl-a p/ysals). taken from the bow of a whaling steamer off the east coast of Newfouncllancl. These views show very well the appearance of this whale in its various postures following the spouting, until its final plunge. No photograph of the spout itself was obtained, however, so that it seems worth while to publish a few views of spouting whales obtained by the present writer a few months ago. Through the courtesy of Mr. Alexander McDougall, manager of the Newfouncllancl Steam Whaling Company, I had the privileg-e of visiting the whaling station at Rose-au-Rue, in Placentia Bay, Newfouncllancl, during the second week of September" I903.
doi:10.1086/278428 fatcat:tpuou5qytra6vizpikn6gx75ni