‘Twas in the Spring of ‘Eighty Two,
The Pelican set sail.
She had a tough and hardy crew,
Let none deprive them of their due,
Their sights were set on whale.
The captain was a surly soul;
McGregor was his name.
No pleasant word would ever roll
From off his tongue. ‘Tis said the whole
Wide ocean knew his fame.
He’d drive them hard through wind and rain,
Across cyclonic seas.
If any man should lie in pain,
He’d lash him ‘til he rose again,
Then fell him to his knees.
The ship was bound for Moreton Bay,
The humpback whale to find.
Then on a wild and freezing day,
‘Mid sky of black and sea of grey,
McGregor lost his mind.
He thought he spied a mighty whale,
Three times the normal size.
He stripped the ship of every sail
And told his crew “Now don’t ye fail,
‘Tis there before your eyes.
A greater whale has ne’er been found
The seven oceans wide.
So bare your arms, stand your ground
And win yourself a pretty pound
To bring yon whale ‘longside.”
The mate ran quickly to obey
But then saw, with a shock,
The empty sea of green and grey.
“There is no whale,” they heard him say,
“Tis just a massive rock”
But every man refused to go
And share his shipmate’s fate.
McGregor lined them in a row
And rained blow after vicious blow.
So angry was his state.
The bo’sun struck his captain then
And bound him to the mast.
He said “If you’ll be with me men,
I’ll bring you safely home again
Before this night has passed.”
And many men rushed to his side
Though cold pierced to their bones.
“Let’s take her mates,” the bo’sun cried
Before this ship becomes a bride
And sleeps with Davy Jones.
The storm, alas, was far from spent.
It tossed the ship around.
The sheets and halyards all were rent,
The moaning wind crooned a lament
As many men were drowned But not a man would dare to tell
McGregor of the news.
He’d seen a whale, he knew it well.
He’d make their lives a living Hell
If any man would choose
To go against the Captain’s word
And so they lowered each boat.
They knew the task was quite absurd.
Though every heart with anger stirred,
Fear rose in every throat.
For now the sea was running high.
The crests were white with foam
And underneath that leaden sky,
They knew that many men would die
And never more reach home.
They tried to reach the distant shore,
Safe from the storm’s advance.
But with each stroke of heavy oar,
The sea would bring them back once more.
They didn’t stand a chance.
For weary hours they fought that night,
Nigh half around the clock,
Until the sea with all it’s might
Picked up each boat with angry spite
And smashed it on the rock.
But mad McGregor laughed and said,
“They’re weak. I knew they’d fail.
They tried to run and now they’re dead,
So I will go myself instead
And bring me back that whale.
He picked a crew of seven tars
To man the captain’s boat
And said “The world will shout hurrahs
When you have caught beneath these stars
The biggest whale afloat.”
The rock rose high in majesty,
That night of ill renown.
The timbers groaned their agony
And in that wild and angry sea,
The Pelican went down.
The cabin boy survived that plight
And lived to tell the tale.
He told about the dreaded night
When hardened sailors lost the fight
And died in search of whale.
And as each lofty ship arrived,
He’d lounge around the dock
And for some paltry sum derived,
Relate how he alone survived
The wreck on whalers’ rock.
Now as the sun dips from the skies
And darkness dims the clock,
A passing sailor, with surprise,
Oft’ hears the agonising cries
Around the whalers’ rock.