By Frank Bullen
Published by: Smith, Elder & Co (1902)
The first mate of the US whaleship, Cachalot, Englishmen Frank Bullen, took an extra watch one night as another officer was off sick. His burdensome duty was repaid when he witnessed a fight between two great creatures of the deep on the moonlit sea of the Pacific Ocean.
Breaking the surface, he watched open-mouthed as a sperm whale tried to bite through the tentacles of a giant squid (known, as our readers will appreciate as a Kraken!) wrapped around its head.
I first read this fabulous account of a 19th-century whaling cruise around the world as a teenager and have never forgotten it.
It made a huge impact worldwide when it was published and no less a figure than the Victorian novelist, Rudyard Kipling, had this to say in the first edition:
‘It is immense – there is no other word. I’ve never read anything that equals it in its deep-sea wonder and mystery; nor do I think that any book before has so completely covered the whole business of whale-fishing, and at the same time given such real and new sea pictures. You have thrown away material enough to make five books, and I congratulate you most heartily. It’s a new world that you’ve opened the door to.’