HARPOON GUNNER by Bryce Walton


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Whaling in the Antarctic with Norwegian Erik Nordahl, a kid with guts and grey matter. From stowaway to blubberboy to apprentice, his initiation into the gunner fraternity involves swallowing pride rather than goldfish, and ultimately makes him understand why his (recently deceased) father kept him in school until this, his sixteenth year. For years he read and heard about the tricks--and rules--of the trade but once at sea he watches from a new perspective under the wing of gunner king Bornak. Erik deciphers his father's logbook which locates a hidden sea of big blues; profits from that bounty, Bornak assures him, should give them enough for years. Tiburon, Bornak's go-between, is Erik's first contact, and it is to him that he turns when, unable to shoot a giant nursing mother (against Commission laws), he sees Bornak harpoon her without qualms. Together Erik and Tiburon discover Bornak's self-serving version of the older Nordahl's death--the gunner was a self-appointed partner, and the father had doubts that the recluse community of whales should be disturbed. It would have been more satisfying and sophisticated if the book had ended with the boy's disillusionment with whaling and his strong and strongly developed decision to try another trade, but the author turns a seasonal emergency into expediency and Bornak dies after helping the boy to safety. Despite the tacky ending, this is, like Cave of Danger (1967) compelling and lacks the social stereotypes of the earlier book.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1968
Publisher: Crowell