On some occasions the whaleboat was towed so far beyond the sight of the whale ship that it would get lost, leaving the crewmen stranded in the open sea. If they were lucky, they would be discovered and picked up by other ships, but sometimes were left stranded in their boats to suffer or die from thirst, starvation and exposure.
An injured and furious whale did not always race away. There are many accounts of whaleboats being stove in or capsized by a whale. When this happened there was the potential of very serious injury as lances, hatchets, oars and other equipment were thrown about among the struggling men.
When the chase was ended, the whaleboat had to be brought close to the wounded whale in order to kill it. Usually this meant coming right up alongside the whale, although some crews used a very risky maneuver called "bringing wood to black skin" which meant beaching the whaleboat right on top of the whale's slippery back. Once close enough, it was the mate's job to kill it with his long lance. This was another dangerous moment for the men on the whaleboat. Once the whale was mortally wounded by the lance, it went into a flurry. The thrashing and rolling of the dying whale could easily smash or capsize the boat.
Martha's Vineyard Museum