Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The form of whalers' harpoon now in general use, having a movable blade instead of fixed barbs; the instrument used in first striking a whale (when explosives are not employed), for fastening it to the whale-boat by means of a tow-line, so that the boat may be hauled up to the whale, and the latter be killed by hand-lancing at close quarters, or by bomb-lancing at longer range. It consists of a harpoon-shank and socket without any stationary barbed flukes; upon the extreme end of the shank is a blade, working upon the principle of a toggle. This blade has a cutting edge for penetrating the blubber, and a dull back which prevents it from cutting its way out when the line is hauled upon. Also called simply the iron.
“American whalemen never said harpoon, but toggle-iron, never 'There she blows' — because how can you tell a whale's sex from a spout on the horizon? — but 'there blows' or just 'Blo-o-ows.”
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