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I turned to find Abe Kowunna, our helmsman, standing behind me. He pronounced his last name for me and then added, "Sounds Hawaiian, huh?"
"I like it," I said of the float. "Do all the crews still use them?"
"Nope. Only three, four crews. The rest have those red plastic fishing floats like they use for crab pots in Kodiak."
"And that's the whale bomb?" I asked, pointing to the foot-long cylinder mounted to the shaft above the harpoon.
"Yes. The whole mechanism is called a darting gun. The bomb is inside. You see how it works?"
"Is this the firing pin?"
"Yes. That rod works just like firing pin. The harpoon goes into the whale and the tip of the rod strikes the whale's back and sets off the primer. The primer shoots the bomb into the whale. Then the whale dives and the bomb goes off five seconds later. There's a timer on it."
"Does it always go off?"
"No. Not always. Some things can go wrong. And sometimes the bomb goes all the way through the whale and blows up in the water. Just gives him a headache."
Abe smiled, and so did I.