1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Whale-oil

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WHALE-OIL, the oil obtained from the blubber of various species of the genus Balaena, as B. mysticetus, Greenland or " right” whale (northern whale-oil), B. australis (southern whale-oil), Balaenoptera longimana, Balaenoptera borealis (Finback oil, Finner whale-oil, Humpback oil). The “orca” or “killer” whale, and the “beluga” or white whale, also yield “whale-oils.” “Train-oil” proper is the northern whale-oil, but this term has been applied to all blubber oils, and in Germany, to all marine animal oils—fish-oils, liver oils, and blubber oils. The most important whale-oil is sperm or spermaceti oil, yielded by the sperm-whales.

Whale-oil varies in colour from a bright honey yellow to a dark brown, according to the condition of the blubber from which it has been extracted. At best it has a rank fishy odour, and the darker the colour the more disagreeable the smell. With lowering of the temperature stearin, accompanied with a small proportion of spermaceti, separates from the oil, and a little under the freezing point nearly the whole of these constituents may be crystallized out. When separated and pressed, this deposit is known as whale tallow, and the oil from which it is removed is distinguished as pressed whale-oil; this, owing to its limpidity, is sometimes passed as sperm-oil. Whale-oil is principally used in oiling wools for combing, in batching flax and other vegetable fibres, in currying and chamois leather-making, and as a lubricant for machinery. Sperm-oil is obtained from the cavity in the head of the sperm-whale, and from several smaller receptacles throughout the body of the animal During the life of the whale the contents of these cavities are in a fluid condition, but no sooner is the "head matter" removed than the solid wax spermaceti separates in white crystalline flakes, leaving the oil a clear yellow fluid having a fishy odour. Refined sperm-oil is a most valuable lubricant for small and delicate machinery (see Oils).