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Mountain. Nantucket Sleighride

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Uploaded on Feb 27, 2008

The cold hard steel of the harpoon's point
Struck deep into its side.
We played out line and backed the oars
And took the cruel sleighride.

The term "Nantucket Sleighride" was coined by the whalers to explain what happened after they harpooned a whale. (Nantucket Island was considered the whaling capital of the world during the 19th century.) The first strike of the harpoon was not intended to kill the whale but only to attach it to the whale boat. The whale would take off pulling the whale boat along at speeds of up to 23 mph (37 kmh). The whale would eventually tire itself out, the leading officer in the boat would then use a penetrating lance to kill the whale.

Nantucket Sleighride is Dedicated to Owen Coffin who was cabin boy aboard the whaler Essex, which was destroyed by a sperm whale in 1819. Owen ended up in the lifeboat with Captain Pollard, his uncle. Two other lifeboats also put out. During the next 3 - 4 months, the lifeboats separated. One was never seen again, but some of those on the remaining two boats were eventually rescued.
During those long months at sea (and on desert islands), many of the men died. The remainder eventually had to resort to cannibalism to survive. After the dead of natural causes were consumed, the men determined to draw lots to see who would sacrifice his life for the others. Owen Coffin ``won'' the lottery. The Captain tried to take Owen's place, but the youth insisted on his ``right''. The executioner was also drawn by lot. That ``winner'', another young man named Charles Ramsdell, also tried vainly to swap places with Owen. Again he refused. Owen's body kept the others alive for ten days (Captain Pollard refused to eat his nephew). Another man died, and his body kept Pollard and Ramsdell alive a few more days until they were rescued.




Lyrics
Goodbye, little Robin-Marie
Don't try following me
Don't cry, little Robin-Marie
'Cause you know I'm coming home soon
My ships' leaving on a three-year tour
The next tide will take us from shore
Windlaced, gather in sail and spray
On a search for the mighty sperm whale
Fly your willow branches
Wrap your body round my soul
Lay down your reeds and drums on my soft sheets
There are years behind us reaching
To the place where hearts are beating
And I know you're the last true love I'll ever meet
Starbuck's sharpening his harpoon
The black man's playing his tune
An old salt's sleeping his watch away
He'll be drunk again before noon
Three years sailing on bended knee
We found no whales in the sea
Don't cry, little Robin-Marie
'Cause we'll be in sight of land soon

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