The Greenland Whale from Whales by Robert Hamilton (1843)

What Mr. Hamilton had to say:

Bulky as the whale is, and clumsy as it appears to be, it might be imagined that all its motions must be sluggish, and its greatest exertions productive of no great celerity. The fact, however, is the reverse. A whale extended motionless at the surface of the sea, can sink, in the space of five or six seconds, beyond the reach of its human enemies. Its velocity along the surface, and in other directions, is the same. I have observed, says Scorseby, a whale descending, after I had harpooned it, to the depth of about one-fourth of a mile, with the average velocity of seven or eight miles an hour. The usual rate, however, at which these whales swim, when on their passage from one situation to another, seldom exceeds four miles an hour. They are capable, however, for the space of a few minutes, of darting through the water with the velocity of the fastest ship under sail; and of ascending with such rapidity, as to leap entirely out of the water. This feat they sometimes perform apparently as an amusement, to the high admiration of the distant spectator; but to the no small terror of the inexperienced fisher. Sometimes the whales throw themselves into a perpendicular position, with their heads downwards, and moving their tremendous tails on high in the air, beat the water with awful violence, which, cracking like a whip, resounds to the distance of two or three miles; the sea is thrown into foam, and the air filled with vapours. This performance is denominated “lob-tailing.” (p83-84)