Pique la Baleine (Strike the Whale)

This is one of very few rowing songs to have survived. The song is from France, where the rowing of galleys lasted into the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was used by the French South Seas sperm-whalermen when, after having sighted their hunt, the boats were lowered and the oarsmen coordinated their efforts to approach the whale ("wood and black skin").

If the harpooner's struck with a secure hold, oars were tossed aside and the whale line was pulled taut, the whale racing at twenty knots, giving the rowers a "Nantucket sleigh ride", according to Stan Hugill. When the whale finally weakened, the boats would again approach and a lance was stove into the poor beast's heart, causing it to burst and his "chimney to go afire" with blood spouting out his blowhole.