Read this extract from 'Whale Adventure' by Willard Price and answer the following questions.
You may find it helpful to print the text. Alternatively, you can look back at this introduction at any point by clicking on the red help button on the screen.
This book was written in 1960, at a time when whaling was seen by many as an acceptable thing to do. We now know that it is not only cruel but also drastically reduced the number of whales left in our oceans. An international agreement was made in 1986 which banned whaling across the world, and brought some degree of protection to these magnificent creatures.
Suddenly the whale changed direction. The boat was yanked round to the right so forcibly that a man who had stood up to bail a bucket of water into the sea went over the side.
Roger was amazed that no one did anything about it.
'Man overboard!' he yelled. Surely they would cut the tow-line, turn the boat about and go back to the rescue. But the mate gave no such order. He stood, gripping the steering-oar, gazing straight ahead at the speeding whale. The other men were equally silent. They kept on scooping out the water. The mate noticed that Roger had stopped work and was staring at him in astonishment.
'Bail, boy, bail!'
'But the man - '
'One of the other boats may pick him up. If not, it's his bad luck.' Seeing the shocked look on Roger's face the mate went on: 'You'll soon learn, boy. Whaling is a serious business. That big bull has a hundred barrels of oil in him. What d'ye think the captain would say if we let him go just to pick a man out of the water?'
Roger went back to bailing. He felt he was in a world of a hundred years ago. The whaling ship Killer stuck to the old traditions. Human life was cheap. What mattered was barrels of oil. Today, men who work are protected by many safety devices. In the old days a man must look out for himself and devil take him if he didn't look sharp. Today, we are quite careful not to kill one man at a time - we only plan to kill a hundred thousand or a million at one blow with a hydrogen bomb. Roger gave up trying to figure which were more cruel, the old days or the new.
Suddenly the line slackened. The whale had again changed direction. It was now coming straight for the boat.
It had not been able to get rid of its enemy by running away. Now it was going to attack. It opened its enormous jaws, revealing a cavern big enough to take boat and all. It was like looking through the door into a room twenty feet long and twelve feet wide.
But it was not a comfortable-looking room. The floor was paved with sharp teeth a foot long and weighing as much as four pounds each. The upper jaw had no teeth, but a row of sockets into which the teeth of the lower jaw would fit when the mouth was closed. It would be too bad for the man or the boat that happened to get ground into one of those sockets like meal in a mortar.
Roger had learned enough about whales to know that the sperm is a man-eater and a boat-eater. It is quite different from the toothless baleen, or whalebone-whale, that has nothing in its mouth but a big sieve to catch the small creatures of the sea that are its food. Such a whale couldn't swallow a man, and wouldn't want to. It could take a thousand crayfish but wouldn't know what to do with a shark.
But the big sperm has no use for the little titbits that can be found on the surface of the sea. His favourite food is the enormous cuttlefish sometimes fifty feet long and equipped with a great savage beak that may kill the whale or wound it so badly that it will carry the scars for the rest of its life.
Such a whale can swallow a man as easily as a man may swallow a pill. Many times whalers have found a shark twelve feet long or longer in the stomach of a sperm-whale.
'Lay to the oars!' yelled the mate.
The men left bailing to row. The boat had not yet lost the momentum of its swift flight over the sea. This, helped by the rowing, carried it forward fast enough, so that when the whale arrived the boat was no longer there. It barely missed the jaws, which closed on the steering-oar, crunching it to bits.
Away went the whale, only to turn and come back again towards the boat. This time it dived, as if planning to come up beneath the boat and toss it into the air.
'Hang on!' shouted the mate.
The men clutched the gunwales and waited for the shock.
Now let's take a look at the questions.