A long pole with a large, sharp barb on the end, which is tied to a long length of rope. Once harpoons were used by sailors to attack whales, which pulled all the rope out of the longboat and then dragged the boat behind them until they got shagged out. Sometimes they rocked the boat and sailors drowned. Later harpoons were fired from cannons aboard the sailing ship, a technological development welcomed by the sailor's union. See Moby Dick; poon.

A modern U.S.-designed antiship missile, similar to the more (in)famous Exocet designed by the French. It is an air-breathing sea-skimming missile - it flies using a small turbojet engine just above the surface of the water, in order to avoid detection and interdiction.

A harpoon is a big mean anti-ship missile that can be launched from a B-52, a surface ship such as a guided missile destroyer or even a submerged submarine such as the 688 class attack boat. The Harpoon is designed to fly at wave-top altitude to avoid radar detection. The cool thing about this missile is that it is designed to strike the hull of the target ship just below the water line to cause maximum flooding and increasing the possibility of the target sinking or being disabled. The other possible attack profile of the Harpoon is to "pop-up" just before impact. The missile arches over and comes screaming down on the target from directly above. This is very handy when trying to disable an enemy aircraft carrier because it totally destroyes the flight deck. Other possible out comes are fires (very dangrous at sea) or even the penetration of the upper deck and detonation in the hangar or magazine.

Har*poon" (?), n. [F. harpon, LL. harpo, perh. of Ger. origin, fr. the harp; cf. F. harper to take and grasp strongly, harpe a dog's claw, harpin boathook (the sense of hook coming from the shape of the harp); but cf. also Gr. the kite, sickle, and E. harpy. Cf. Harp.]

A spear or javelin used to strike and kill large fish, as whales; a harping iron. It consists of a long shank, with a broad, fiat, triangular head, sharpened at both edges, and is thrown by hand, or discharged from a gun.

Harpoon fork, a kind of hayfork, consisting of bar with hinged barbs at one end a loop for a rope at the other end, used for lifting hay from the load by horse power. -- Harpoon gun, a gun used in the whale fishery for shooting the harpoon into a whale.


© Webster 1913.

Har*poon", v. t. [imp. & p. p. Harpooned (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Harpooning.]

To strike, catch, or kill with a harpoon.


© Webster 1913.

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