Whaling harpoon is a fishing tool used for catching relatively huge aquatic mammals such as whales. A harpoon is long with an appearance of a spear that catches the targeted marine animal with its barbs and toggling claws. Use of harpoons can be traced back in the ancient times that whaling activities have been going on in the major water bodies round the world. However, harpoons replaced the prehistoric methods of whaling some of which involved placing small noisy boats between the targeted aquatic animal to frighten it. The animal would move towards the shore and the fishermen would catch them and kill them using other crude weapons. This was a tedious processes and targeted animal would often find its way into deep waters making the success of whaling expenditure low. The introduction of harpoons has made whaling activities easy with high margin of success.
Historical background of whaling harpoon
- Historic literature of harpoons was written between 203 BC and 120 BC by Polybius who was a Greek Historian. In this literature, he provides detailed description of use of harpoon in the hunting of swordfish. During these ancient times harpoons made of copper materials were being used. In addition, during the early times, Indians living in Nicobar and Andaman Islands as well as Mincopie and aboriginal communities in India made use of harpoons with long cords to fish.
- However, use of harpoons in ancient times can be traced in Central Africa especially in Zaire which is Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Centuries ago, people in DRC used spear like harpoons to catch catfishes in the water bodies present in their country. They made use of harpoons such as Semliki and Katanda harpoons.
- In addition, use of harpoons was wide spread in Europe especially during Magdalenian and Solutrean periods that marked the Palaeolithic times. During these times, the spear like harpoons with poles became popular among people engaging in whaling activities. Modification of the harpoons was first made on the two flue harpoon which was the primary tool to be popularly used in many parts of the world for whaling activities. This tool had a weakness as it cut through the blubber once put under tension or stress which was inevitable once the target aquatic animal is hit. The modification made by then was to create a single flue harpoon other than the one with two flues, making the head of the tool to be narrow. This made it easy for the harpoon to penetrate into the flesh of the target animal making whaling expenditure successful. In modern days, harpoons have been modified to suit the modern whaling activities and to meet the market standards required for fishing equipments.
Features of a whaling harpoon
The spear like whaling harpoon has the following features;
- Shaft– The harpoon shaft resembles that of an ordinary spear. The shaft is slender, strong and long acting as the handle when aiming at the target.
- Head– The harpoon has a head formed by a spear head like rugged flue. The flue is sharp with a pointed end designed to easily penetrate into the flesh of the target aquatic animal.
- Rope or chain– A whaling harpoon has a rope or a chain attached to it. The rope or chain is instrumental in pulling the animal once pierced by the harpoon flue.