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Fighting the Whales

R. M. Ballantyne

Book Overview: 

A fatherless boy joins the crew of a whaling ship in order to earn a living for himself and his mother. Beyond being a fascinating depiction of a now-alien time, occupation, and culture, it’s also a rousing adventure story. One is left with the impression that hunting and catching a whale in a sailing ship was akin to you or me being stalked, ambushed, and killed by a shoebox full of mice.

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Book Excerpt: 
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"Aye; many parts of the sea are full of creatures so small and so thin and colourless, that you can hardly see them even in a clear glass tumbler. Many of them are larger than others, but the most of them are very small."

"But how do they shine like that, sir?" I asked.

"That I do not know, boy. God has given them the power to shine, just as he has given us the power to walk or speak; and they do shine brightly, as you see; but how they do it is more than I can tell. I think, myself, it must be anger that makes them shine, for they generally do it when they are stirred up or knocked about by oars, or ships' keels, or tumbling waves. But I am not sure that that's the reason either, because, you know, we often sail through them without seeing the light, though of course they must be there."

"P'r'aps, sir," said Tom Lokins; "p'r'aps, sir, they're sleepy sometimes, an' can't be bothered gettin' angry."

"Pe. . . Read More

Community Reviews

An ok audio read in the background while working on something else. It is plain to see this is one of those stories that would be much more interesting if you were not familiar with the topic, since the writing itself that has nothing to offer.

Life was more than just different a 100 years ago

Excellent resource uncovers the world-building details of whaleships.

This is a good book of the early days of seafaring. It is easy reading and really makes the adventure of sailing in early days come alive. It is about a kid who goes to sea for the first time on a whaler.

This has elements of Moby Dick in it, being an exploration of a whaling journey. It is a single thread of Moby Dick written for a young audience. There's fairly in depth description of catching and rendering down a whale.

Overall an enjoyable read and wonderful reflection of how far we've come in ou

I love a good sailing story. Any book that can transform my day by moving me to the South Sea in a whaling ship is never going to get less than 3 stars from me automatically. I liked this book. It was a fun adventure. I must say that I am not an advocate of whaling but I understand the old necessity