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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

Life was more than just different a 100 years ago

Entertaining seafaring listening

Whaling adventure filtered through the try pots for younger audiences, with many endearing passages. "The cutting up of the huge carcass covered the decks with oil and blood, making them so slippery that they had to be covered with sand to enable the men to walk about. Then the smoke of the great fi

4 stars & 4/10 hearts. I have always been a big fan of whaling stories. Okay, correction. Reading an adapted/abridged version of "Moby-Dick" as a kid set me off on a new obsession. Besides Moby-Dick, (which I have yet to read in full), I haven't found many whaling stories, so this one was a gem!! I

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

A simple narrative about life aboard a whaler from the perspective of a new recruit. Though Ballantyne mostly wrote about experiences outside of his own sphere, you can tell that the details were meticulously gathered from source material. What I loved about this and Coral Island is the sense of won