Notes on the text
These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Actions and Reactions, as published and frequently reprinted between 1907 and 1950.
The harpooner made a ‘pitchpole’ dart: that is he hurled his weapon into the air where it described a fine curve and fell point downward on the animal’s back just as he was disappearing.Herman Melville also describes pitch-poling in Chapter 84 of Moby Dick. The falling part of the curve is well-described by Kipling at p. 136 line 24:
"Hello! Here’s a fifteen-hundred-foot drop at fifty-five degrees! We must have been standing on our heads then, George"[Page 130 line 30] corposant St. Elmo’s fire (129 line 23 above.)
'Seamen are now agreed that a "knot" is a unit of speed, viz., one nautical mile per hour, and that "knots an hour" is therefore a gross error. This does not seem to have become dogma until about 1890, and for some time after that date "knots an hour" continued to be used by many authorities; in fact, it appears that the Admiralty itself used it in 1897.' [A.W.]Thus in 1905, in this particular matter, Kipling was not abreast of the latest usage.