The Whale Cure by Louis Becke
I once heard a man who for nearly six years had been a martyr to rheumatism say he would give a thousand pounds to have a cure effected.
"I wish, then, that we were in Australia or New Zealand during the shore whaling season," remarked a friend of the writer; "I should feel pretty certain of annexing that thousand pounds." And then he described the whale cure.
The "cure" is not fiction. It is a fact, so the whalemen assert, and there are many people at the township of Eden, Twofold Bay, New South Wales, who, it is vouched, can tell of several cases of chronic rheumatism that have been absolutely perfectly cured by the treatment herewith briefly described. How it came to be discovered I do not know, but it has been known to American whalemen for years.
When a whale is killed and towed ashore (it does not matter whether it is a "right," humpback, finback, or sperm whale) and while the interior of the carcase still retains a little warmth, a hole is out through one side of the body sufficiently large to admit the patient, the lower part of whose body from the feet to the waist should sink in the whale's intestines, leaving the head, of course, outside the aperture. The latter is closed up as closely as possible, otherwise the patient would not be able to breathe through the volume of ammoniacal gases which would escape from every opening left uncovered. It is these gases, which are of an overpowering and atrocious odour, that bring about the cure, so the whalemen say. Sometimes the patient cannot stand this horrible bath for more than an hour, and has to be lifted out in a fainting condition, to undergo a second, third, or perhaps fourth course on that or the following day. Twenty or thirty hours, it is said, will effect a radical cure in the most severe cases, provided there is no malformation or distortion of the joints, and even in such cases the treatment causes very great relief. One man who was put in up to his neck in the carcass of a small "humpback" stood it for sixteen hours, being taken out at two-hour intervals. He went off declaring himself to be cured. À year later he had a return of the complaint and underwent the treatment a second time.
All the "shore" whalemen whom the writer has met thoroughly believe in the efficacy of the remedy, and by way of practical proof assert that no man who works at cutting-in and trying out a whale ever suffers from rheumatism. Furthermore, however, some of them maintain that the "deader" the whale is, the better the remedy. "More gas in him," they say. And any one who has been within a mile of a week-dead whale will believe that.
Anyway, if there is any person, rheumatic or otherwise, who wants to emulate Jonah's adventure in a safe manner (with a dead whale), let him write to the Davidson Brothers, Ben Boyd Point, Twofold Bay, N.S.W., or to the Messrs. Christian, Norfolk Island, and I am sure those valorous whalemen would help him to achieve his desire.