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e.k. chatterton : whalers and whaling, 1925 

E. Kebel Chatterton : Whalers and Whaling, 1925.

Extracts from
Chatterton, E. Keble: Whalers and Whaling
 The story of the Whaling Ships up to the Present Day.
Fisher Unwin, London, 1925.

Edward Keble Chatterton (10 September 1878 – 31 December 1944) was a prolific writer who published around a hundred books, pamphlets and magazine series, mainly on maritime and naval themes.

The illustrations are only attributed in the preface as "courteously reproduced" from the collections of several companies and individual collectors.

Chapter I : Introduction
Page 18

Modern whaling is just sixty years old, for its period is carefully marked by the introduction of the harpoon-gun which was made successfully in the year 1865.
The effect of this was to revolutionise the industry which has had a most varied and a most romantic life.
Originally the harpoon, as used for capturing whales and large fish, was just a flat piece of iron, triangular in shape, with sharp barbs.
This was attached to a wooden handle, and to the latter was made fast the long rope.
But the toggle-iron came as an improvement with its pointed shaft and pivoted crosspiece, so that after the shaft had pierced well into the fibrous tissue below the blubber, the crosspiece, at the pulling of the rope, instead of lying up and down the shaft was set at right angles and thus prevented the shaft from being withdrawn.

The harpoon-gun, whether fired from the shoulder, or from a swivel-gun mounted on a pivot, enabled the harpoon or toggle-iron with line attached, to be aimed with accuracy and to strike with such force that the rorquals or finbacks, which had previously been left untouched, could now be hunted.
For in that order of mammals which we call cetacea, the larger members of the family are the whale, and these are subdivided into the whalebone whales and the toothed whales.
The whalebone whales, again, are further divided into the right whales, the finbacks or rorquals, the humpback, the grey whale of the Pacific, and that rare pigmy whale whose whalebone is so valuable.
The right whale has no dorsal fin, and its cervical vertebrae are fused into a solid mass.
The Greenland right whale, with its great head and arched mouth, made itself well known in the Arctic, being about 50 ft. long.
A smaller species, known

Page 19

as the southern right whale, became known in the waters of the southern seas.

The toothed whale class have no whalebone but they have teeth, whereas the whalebone genus has not.
Now in the toothed whale class are included such species as the cachalot, the bottlenose, the grampus and the nar­whal.
The cachalot, or sperm whale, with its great head Itself measuring about one-third of its total length, is some­times as much as 60 ft. long, and has over a score of teeth on its lower jaw.
It is a characteristic of this cachalot that he can remain under water for twenty minutes at a time.
The sperm whale goes about in schools, does not frequent either Polar region, but is commonest in tropical and sub-tropical seas.
And just because it was hunted with great zest during the earlier part of the nineteenth century it naturally became scarce.
The late Frank T. Bullen in his sea classic The Cruise of the Cachalot has left for us a most enter­taining description of the methods employed during the old sailing-ship days for hunting this mammal.
The impelling motive which sent those old-time whalers to sea after the cachalot was the great commercial reward ; for the sperm oil from the blubber, and the spermaceti contained in a cavity of the great head, are valuable as mi ingredient of ointments and in the making of candles.
The use of gas and electric lighting, however, during the nineteenth century somewhat modified this use.
Sperm oil, none the less, is a well-known lubricant in great demand.
Ambergris was yet a third of the important entities found in the cachalot, and this, after extraction from the whale's intestine, was found of great value as a basis for the manu­facture of perfumery.
The teeth, too, make valuable ivoy.
Thus, in a word, the hunting of the cachalot was a most important industry.

At the beginning of the twentieth century whaling

Page 20

seemed to be drawing to its close by reason of the cacha­lot's scarcity.
But in the year 1904 the discovery of a new whaling ground in sub-Antarctic seas gave such a fresh impetus that the industry reached a success hitherto unprecedented.
The rorquals have declined alarmingly in numbers, and it was because of this that at the present time the industry in those waters depends almost exclusively on the blue whale, which is the largest animal known, measuring up to 100 ft.
There are still a certain number of sperm whales being caught off the South African coasts.

It is, however, to be noted that the zeal with which the industry was carried on in the north led to the reduc­tion in the number of whales, so that no other animals of this class returned to the areas which had once been so plentiful.
The Greenland whaling, for instance, has for that reason long since become extinct, yet at one time it was very famous. Spitzbergen, where the whale was once found in great numbers, has been similarly deserted.
But at the date of writing it is quite possible that the ancient whaling occupation, which has trained some of the finest of the world's seamen under sail, may receive a still further development: for by an arrangement between the British Colonial Office and the Government of the Falkland Islands an expedition has been organised for a most detailed study of the whaling problem, and that historic ship Discovery, which Scott used for polar work, was specially selected, and then in the spring of 1925 fitted out at Portsmouth.
The results of this new expedition, with a mass of scientific facts, may quite conceivably give an entirely new life to whaling hitherto undreamed of.

Certainly English ships had been engaged in this im­portant occupation of whale-hunting ever since the end of the sixteenth century. 
The port of Hull was especially

Page 21

noted for this trade right away down till about 1868 when, owing to the scarcity of the mammals, the industry died a natural death. The very last whaling voyage from that port was made by the Truelove, which had been built in Philadelphia 104 years previously. This vessel was one of the most remarkable craft that ever sailed the seas, and it would be difficult to find many ships in all maritime history which so ably justified the builders.
Seventy-two was the number of whaling voyages which the Truelove made, and 500 were the whales which she captured.
And besides all this activity she put in a good deal of time in such voyages as the Oporto wine trade, and even as a "Letter of Marque."
During the American War of Independence she was captured by the British and that was how she came to be owned in Hull, and in 1784 began her career from the Humber as a whaler.
It was in 1806 that at the age of forty-two ihe made her first trip to the Davis Straits, and went olT there again in 1831.
Her last voyage as a whaler was in 1868, but five years later she visited Philadelphia where she was given a hearty welcome and returned across the Atlantic to be broken up.

In these days of steam it is a little difficult to realise how important was this whaling industry when those old ships with their somewhat heavy lines went lumbering along to the northern waters.
Whitby, Scarborough and London used to send whalers to the Arctic, and in the year 1821 no fewer than sixty-one whalers sailed out of Hull, thirty-two for that area between Greenland and Spitzbergen, and twenty-nine for the Davis Straits.
But It was the English colonists in America who first got the whaling fishery on a systematic basis, when they began the sperm whaling about the end of the seventeenth century owing to the proximity of Greenland and other prolific breeding grounds.

Facing page 26

Dutch Whalers in the Arctic Seas.

Facing page 34

Eighteenth Century British Whaling
At the right the boiling operation is shown.
Accompanying text:
To the Hon. Directors of the South Sea Company.
This piece being a representation of the fishery of
Great Britain in the three different branches viz.
Cod, Herring and Whale, is most humbly dedicated.
Peace now fecur'd by Arts let Britian reign.
Your Woollen and Fishing trades regain.
Into your hands Heav'n has the Produce thrown,
Raise these Machines and all the Worlds yo'own.

Chapter XIV : Whaling Enterprise
Page 39

The Greenland whalers usually left their home port so as to make a departure from the Shetland Isles about the first week in April and arrive within the Polar Seas before the end of that month.

Scoresby's Land is still shown marked in modern maps of Greenland, and it was customary at one time for the whalers to spend a few weeks along this coast in what was known by the crews as the Seal-fishers' Bight.
They would go farther north among the icefields a little later.
But in the early nineteenth century it was the practice to sail straight away north without delay. Let us follow with them and see their methods, which are so different from modern whaling but resembled the custom of the South Seamen already noted.

Having once reached the Greenland icy seas, the seven boats were kept ready for immediate launching, and aloft a constant watch was kept for ice and whales.
These boats, whose design can be traced right back to those early Viking craft, and is largely copied in the oared " whalers " of the Navy to-day, were 25 to 28 ft. long, and about 5 1/2 ft. in beam.
Sometimes in rowing off to the unsuspecting whale a circuitous route was taken, and strict silence was maintained to prevent the mammal becoming alarmed.
We mentioned on a previous page the importance of the harpoon-gun which was made in the year 1865.
But even by 1830 a gun of sorts was in use though not generally employed.
When the first boat had got the harpoon fastened into the whale and the line was about to be run off entirely, the boat would

Page 40

signal to one of the other boats by holding up one, two or three oars to indicate the need of more line.

The handling of the line once fast was the work of an expert, like the playing of a fish by a skilled angler.
It had to be veered in such a manner that the bows of the boat were not pulled below the level of the water.
And the turns round that bollard had to be done smartly without any bungling.
The way the line went whirling round the bollard was likely to surprise a novice, and the friction was so severe that water had constantly to be poured over it to prevent it catching fire.
So, also, the boat that was signalled to come along for his line to be bent had to be equally smart: for if it was not in time, then the first boat having come to the end, might be compelled to cut, and thus lose not merely the whale but harpoon and lines too.

The activity with which the city fireman to-day tumbles out and rushes to his fire-engine on the ringing of the bell was rivalled only in the old whaler days when the look-out from aloft had sighted a whale.
The watch on deck would rouse those below by stamping with their feet and shouting " A fall ! A fall! "
This word was taken from the Dutch " val" meaning a whale.
And out the men would tumble in their sleeping garments, with no time to dress, in spite of the atmosphere being well below zero. To a fresh hand this first experience was alarming, and he imagined that the ship was foun­dering.

These early nineteenth-century British whalers were self-contained without a shore station; and having caught the whale, his tail was pierced after death with two holes through which ropes were passed, and then the mammal was towed to the ship.
He was secured alongside and then the flensing began.
There is a Dutch word " spek," which means blubber or fat.
And the

Page 41

leading hands in this flensing operation were known as "spek koning " or blubber kings.
Another important personage was the " speksioneer" who directed the cutting.
To each seaman the captain would go round with a dram of grog, giving a double allowance to the blubber kings and speksioneers.
Under the direction of the last named the harpooners set to work with their blubber spades and great knives to make long parallel cuts, and the two kings on deck stowed the pieces in the hold, the carcase being turned round as convenient by blocks and the windlass.
Of course as long as the station at Spitzbergen lasted all the oil was extracted ashore : but when the whale migrated to Greenland it was customary to take the blubber back to the home port.

The dangers to the Greenland whalers were increased by the fact that the cetaceans were mostly found on the very borders of the ice-barrier, and in the heyday of prosperity the wonderful sight of a hundred vessels has been seen along this ice-margin. Multiply this by the number of the boats, and you can picture what a sight it was in those latitudes with several hundred craft strung in a continuous line, making it almost impossible for any whale to escape: for he was hemmed in from diving below the ice and he was surrounded by boats as soon as he showed himself in the clear water.
The height of the sport was when the ice was not solid but broken up into numerous small islands: for then the men would have to leap on to the frozen surface, run along with harpoon and lance, and attack in the opening wherever the whale came up to breathe.
In such chases anything might happen before the whale was killed, possibly with the loss of a man or two.
And then would come the difficult and arduous task of cutting the creatu
re up small enough to be dragged across the ice to the ship.

Page 42

But besides the Greenland whaling there was also the region of the Davis Straits which began to be hunted by the Dutch at the beginning of the eighteenth century and by the British ships somewhat later.
The Davis Straits whaling was found very remunerative, but it was found also very dangerous, for many fine vessels got wrecked. In the year
1814 the British whaler Royalist was here lost with all hands, and three years later a similar disaster overtook the London.
Icebergs, of course, were the great peril here.

Possibly no section of the Mercantile Marine ever ran so many continuous hazards as the whalers of the North.
Quite apart from the usual perils of the sea were the special risks arising from boat-work, and the dangers to the ship itself in uncharted seas with bergs and ice of all kinds.
Add to this the incessant bad weather with bitter cold, and you can appreciate that only tough, hard-case seamen were likely to make a second voyage.
But those who persisted, after the manner of Scoresby, amassed such Arctic knowledge as would have filled a whole shelf full of books.
Perhaps these men could hardly realise it at the time, but they were building up a national seamanhood whose descendants were to form the backbone of our steamship companies and trawler fleets.
As to the value of these to a country we can wish for no better evidence than those long eventful years of the Great War when troops and material were moved all over the seven seas, when thousands of mines were swept up and enemy submarines chased and sunk.
It takes generations to build up a race of seafarers, but when once the tradition has been set going, when once it has become the thing for the son to follow in his father's steps aboard a vessel, you have one of the most valuable national possessions imaginable.
And in those ports there grows up a number of yards, with slips and docks

Page 43

building better and better types of ships as the years go by.
The whaling industry was certainly responsible for a great deal of good to Britain, quite apart from the amount of money obtained from the whale produce.
And on the Atlantic coast of America, is it not true that the home ports of the whalers have always been those of the finest seamen in the country?
Certainly it was in the English colonists and their zeal for the Greenland fisheries which were responsible in that country at the first.

Chapter IV : Fluctuating Fortunes
Page 50

We know from Hakluyt that already by the ninth century the Norwegians were hunting this animal off their coast.
In the twelfth century whaling was being carried on in the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland, for Malcolm IV granted to Dunfermline Abbey one-tenth of all the whales and " marine monsters " which might be taken in the Firths of Forth and Tay: and in the following century Alexander II allowed half the blubber of these whales for providing the altar candles in that abbey.
We know, too, that as early as
1575 the Basques used to hunt whales in the Bay of Biscay, and afterwards went north even to Iceland, Greenland and Newfound­land, so that within twenty-five years it was no strange sight to find fifty or sixty Biscayan and Icelandish whalers at work in northern waters.

From 1598 Hull sent regularly for some years whalers to Iceland and the North Cape, and, after Hudson had rediscovered it, to Spitzbergen in the seventeenth cen­tury.
It was from 1610 that the English syndicate known eventually as the " Russia Company" began.
Two discovery ships, the
Marie Margaret of 160 tons, and the Elizabeth of 60 tons, were both lost, but a Hull ship managed to bring home the cargo.
At that time, you see, whaling was like finding a gold mine.
It was untapped wealth ; the mammals had not been scared, and the rewards were immense.
So, also, in 1594 an English whaling expedition had been sent from the west country to Cape Breton.
There are references among the Pepysian manuscripts during the seventeenth century, too, in regard to English whalers proceeding for this purpose to Greenland seas.

But we see vessels being sent out from Bayonne,

Page 51

St. Jean de Luz, St. Sebastian, Bremen, Hamburgh and Amsterdam—in the latter case, of course, by way of the Zuyder Zee and the Texel.
The importance of whaling to Holland rivalled that of the herring, especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and many people have failed to realise how for generations this helped to build up that country's wealth.
If ever a nation raised itself by the sea it was the Low Countries, and the three main sources were- the herring fishery off their very coasts, the whale in northern waters, and the spice trade in the Dutch East Indies.
Let us con­sider the whaling.
In 1671 they sent no fewer than 155 vessels to Greenland which brought to Holland 630 whales' produce.
During the years of 1672-4, until the signing of the Peace of London, they were so busy with naval operations that the whaling men could not be spared from the fighting fleet: but in 1675 there were 148 Dutch whalers at work, and that brief rest to the whale was rewarded by the ships bringing back the produce of 881 mammals.
In some seasons they killed as many as 1,600 and even 2,000.

Now, unfortunately, the English had in the meantime allowed their rivals to go on helping themselves to these riches, and practically retired from the industry.
This is just one of those intermissions which have characterised the occupation throughout its history.
We alluded in a previous chapter to the sudden interest in the first

Page 52

Elking felt very deeply on the matter and submitted his opinions to the Company plainly and with restraint.

"It will be found upon Examination," he wrote, "a very great Mistake, that the English cannot manage this Trade, which the Hollanders, Hamburgers, Bremers, French and Spaniards, all carry on to Advantage, and by which means they are made rich, even out of our Pockets, who sit still and buy those Goods of them for OUT ready money."
Elking worked up the feelings of jealousy that all this wealth should be passing to our late enemies and sea-rivals.
He contended, even, that whaling was more advantageous to the Dutch than were their East Indies, seeing that whaling took no money out of the country to purchase imports in the East, but brought home wealth without paying.
It was the Dutch, let us remember, who had as recently as 1719 been the first to send whalers into the Davis Straits, and only two years later there were 355 foreign ships at work on these plentiful grounds.
Why should the Eng­lish be so despondent and unenterprising when the Dutch and other seamen were enriching themselves?

Elking made out a strong case, claiming that English-built ships if more costly were stronger and lasted longer. In Holland living and labour were cheaper than with us, and so vessels could be built more inexpensively.
But, on the other hand, the Dutch whalers had to import many of their skippers, harpooners, steersmen for the boats, and even seamen from such localities as Jutland, Holstein, Scotland, Norway, Bremen and Friesland.
These were taken on for the season and then returned to their homes.
Numbers of Englishmen had also served in these Dutch whalers, and were quite as expert as their employers.
This lull which had been going on in English whaling enterprise since the last quarter of the seventeenth century was most unfortunate for England.

Page 53

What was the kind of craft to employ?
Elking con­sidered that the most suitable whalers were flyboats, cats or hagboats; "and should be very strong built, and doubled at the Bow, to resist the Shocks of the Ice."
The size varied from
200 to 500 tons, the former carrying four boats and twenty men and boys, while the latter had seven boats with a crew of fifty men and boys.
The complement of a
300-ton whaler at that time with six "shallops" as they used to call the boats, consisted of one chief harpooner who was the whaling expert in command of the whole expedition; one master of the ship, five other harpooners, six boat-steersmen, six "managers of the Lines," one surgeon, one boatswain, one carpenter, two coopers, sixteen "common sailors" and two or three boys: total, forty-two or forty-three to the ship.

These ships were worked in three watches, except that when a whale was sighted all hands were called.
When the ship reached the ice-barrier she was anchored to the ice by a great "nose-hook."
The word "cachalot" was introduced by the French fishermen, the English whalers employing the word " pot-fish " or spermaceti fish.
But though there was some sort of whaling in­dustry off the east coast of Scotland in the early seven­teenth century, and a hundred years later it extended north from the Orkneys, yet it had become unprosperous and languished as in England.
But the revival of British whaling dates from
1725 when the South Sea Company, convinced by Elking's arguments, sent their dozen ships which they had caused to be built specially on the Thames for this northern trade.
They were each
of about 300 tons, and at Deptford a wet dock was reserved for them, where also the boiling houses were erected for extracting the oil.

The unhappy result of this South Sea Company's

Page 54

northern whaling adventure we have already observed.
But the fact remains that the Dutch and foreign monopoly was from now seriously contested.
Threre were periods of depression and despondency again, the bounty offered by the Government saved the industy from dying a natural death.
Thus if we take the year 1788 we find that, in spite of everything, British whaling had been so resuscitated that 255 vessels of under 300 tons were now sailing north from London, Hull, Liverpool, Whitby, Newcastle, Yarmouth, Sunderland, Lynn, Leith, Ipswich, Dunbar, Aberdeen, Bo'ness, Glasgow, Montrose, Dundee, Whitehaven, Stockton, Greenock, Scarborough, Grangemouth, Queensferry, and even from Exeter.

A great recovery had been made and this list of ports shows how universal was the interest now taken.
The founding of the Dundee Whale Fishing Company at the time was to give that town a special importance which was to last for several generations.
For it was the introduction of steam into the Dundee whalers during the year 1858 which was to alter the whole future of whaling. At the close of the eighteenth century tho manufacture of jute had been introduced to British industrialists, though it was a long time before it became popular.
About the year 1850, after being introduced to Dundee for less than twenty years, jute manufacturing in that town became extensive, and it was the large consumption of whale oil required in the jute fabrication which gave to Dundee the leading position in that trade.
Thus it was that the building of whaling ships so long survived at this Scotch port.

Chapter XIV : In the Southern Seas.
Page 152

Firstly, the whalers had been built in suck a way that they could carry not more than 115 tuns oi oil, whereas they ought to have been able to contain 185 tuns.
Secondly, the company had paid £8,200 each for ships which could have been built and equipped in America for £5,000 each.
But thirdly, the whole sue of the whaling enterprise depended on the personnel.
By 1847 there were practically no men in England expert in hunting the "common" whale, since this occupation had been long abandoned.

But in North America plenty of these men would have been available, and have made all the difference between success and failure; for a bad "headsman" in a boat would always spoil the morale of fresh, green hands, and in the end ruin all prospects of the voyage.
The directors of the company, Enderby complained, had sent out only four of these experts, who were not enough for the boat of one vessel, let alone eight.
The chief ability of a whaling-master- his supreme recommendation- should be his capacity for killing whales.
This duty demanded both courage and activity, and such endowments were to be found usually only in men of the age of twenty to twenty-eight.
These men could always obtain high wages, and a good young captain with a reputation had never any difficulty in picking the best officers and crew: consequently, where every whaling voyage was a separate adventure, it paid to obtain only the finest whaling masters.
And it was just because these did not at that time exist in Britain that the Company should have gone to America for them where they could have been found in abundance without the slightest difficulty.
There was another matter that caused trouble in this Auckland settlement.
Drink, that curse of so many otherwise happy ships, became one of the problems with which Enderby had to wrestle until he was compelled to destroy all spirits except those kept for medicinal purposes.
American whalers, with a few exceptions, were run on temperance principles.

Thus this Auckland [Islands} whaling venture turned out hope-lessy, and its failure was due chiefly to the plain fact of the British lack of expert leaders in this highly specialised work.
There was this in common between the northern and the southern whaling : the amount of physical risk though different in kind was similar in degree.
The true whales in the north were not usually combative, but there was always the great risk of ice and heavy weather.
The sperm whaling in the southern seas was bereft of ice danger until right down in the approach to the Antarctic: but the cachalot is a bolder, more mischievous, fighting animal, threatening that destruction to boats and ships which we have already noticed.
In the attempts to make whaling flourish, British effort in the warmer seas, such as the Pacific for example, has never rivalled all those generations of effort which were made in the Arctic areas.
But to-day whatever future whaling may seem to possess rests on that Antarctic part of the world which we shall discuss in due place.

It is characteristic of some sperm whales that they prefer to use their dangerous jaws, when attacked, rather than employ their tail.
The mammal turns on his back, keeping its jaw suspended ominously over the boat.
Sometimes this used to put such fear into a boat's crew that they would all take a leap into the water and remain there till the danger passed.
In 1836 an American whaler in the South Seas had one of her boats in this manner nipped right in two, but fortunately none of the crew on
this occasion was injured.
Incidentally it may be mentioned that during the early part of the nineteenth century there had come a change in the building of the carvel whaling boats, the wood being sawn out of straight-

Page 154

grained oak, and then bent by steam or boiling water, being thus rendered more elastic than when sawn.
At, the same time they were stronger and lighter.
This practice had been for a long time employed for the clinker built boats, but not for the carvel, and its introduction was made by Thomas Brodrick, a Whitby shipbuilder.

The whalers in the Greenland Sea or Baffin's Bay well realised that their greatest enemy was not the whale but the ice.
In the warm southern seas every boat-launch ing might lead to a fatal risk.
Thus, for example, in I he year 1835 the whaler Pusie Hall's boats, four in number, were out after a whale which chased them back to the ship, killed one of the boat's hands, bit one of the officers, and for quite a time resisted all the lances hurled at it from the bows of the ship.
One particularly notorious fighting whale was an individual who used to cruise off the New Zealand coast, and was easily recognised by his white hump.
He was well known to the crews and went by the name of ''New Zealand Tom.''
Another celebrated fighter used to inhabit the Straits of Timor, and he was at last killed only after he had nipped off with his jaws a boat's bows.

During the year 1836 the South Sea whaler Arabella was cruising off the Society Islands when the whale, after being harpooned, turned suddenly round, hit the boat with his head, broke it in two and then swam through it.
In such circumstances as these the experience, the coolness and skill of the man in charge of the boat meant all that Enderby insisted.
One nipped boat, one incident of raw hands being left to swim about looking up at those threatening jaws were quite enough to make the crew nervous for the rest of the ship's voyage.
But a good man with knowledge and courage, vigorous and determined, could make light of these incidents and inspire his men to further efforts.

In the throwing of the harpoon lay the great skill, but if through nervousness or lack of experience the line became entangled, the boat might be drawn below the water almost instantaneously : and there are instances on record where boats mysteriously and rapidly dis­appeared from what was surmised to be this cause. A smart man of course was on the look-out for such an occurrence, and some officers always used to have an axe ready in the hand while the line was running out: for a quick, sharp blow and the immediate severance of the line were the only things which could save lives and boat.

Yes: a novice in charge was too dangerous.
Perhaps the ideal was a man of about twenty-six years of age, who had been brought up in whalers since he was a lad.
He had been out in boats under experts, he had learned all the tricks which an angry whale could play, but this man was young enough to enjoy fighting yet old enough to know how.
We all understand how dangerous in a small sailing craft is a raw landsman, who has not yet learned the importance of ropes running clear through blocks and fairleads: most accidents come through that neglect.
It was the same with the harpoon line.
The third mate of the whaler Melantho lost his life through the harpoon line suddenly getting out of the fairlead and carrying him right out of the boat; and notwithstanding that the line was forthwith cut, allowing the whale to escape, before the mate could be picked up he had been grabbed by a shark and had disappeared,

Or, again, take the case of the whaler Seringapatam in the Straits of Timor.
A whale had been fastened, but the creature came so
close that one of his flukes actually grazed on the chest the boy who was pulling the after oar.
Owing to the collision against the
whale some coils of harpoon line were thrown over the shoulders also of the man at the tub-oar, and whilst the whale hurried on, the

Page 156

unfortunate fellow was pulled overboard.
His body was at length rescued, but found to be lifeless entangled in the line.
His shipmates could do nothing for him.

Accidents such as these were the risks which might happen to any boat, on any occasion: and they tended to ruin the enterprise for the whole three years that remained.
This, in turn, meant a loss of dividends, and a reluctance on the part of the owners to finance any more whaling cruises.
Thus, the prizes went to the survivals of the fittest and most experienced young men who had been able to avoid such dispiriting disasters.

Chapter XV : War and the Whalers
Page 158

And then you would be able to watch those busy men on the whale's back working away with their spades and cutting another piece.
That was before the days of steam affected these vessels.
But even those Arctic whalers of about
1870 were still fully rigged, their engines were of very small horse-power, and just useful for getting the ship out of some awkward surrounding ice.
Otherwise they were sailing ships and practically did all their passages under canvas.
They went out with coal in their oil tanks, which were cleaned out on reaching the grounds and then filled with the whale produce. But their fuel consumption was very small.

As one examines the lines of such a vessel, one notices that this three-master has not a straight stem, but a moderately rounded forefoot with a straight keel and a very short counter.
Her sides were about as solid as one of Nelson's wooden walls, and her bows were pro­tected with sheets of iron to resist the ice. The total complement was about fifty, the men being berthed forward and the officers aft.
The single funnel was immediately abaft the mainmast, and as you walked along the raised poop deck you would have noted the engine-room skylight, sometimes a light flying bridge, then the companion-way to the saloon and the officers' cabins leading out of it.
The steering wheel was right aft, there was a pump wheel just behind the mainmast; while forward there were the capstan and fo'c'sle hatch, and then came the big hold for the whale produce.
In lieu of a figure-head you have noticed that she carried a carved harpoon.

The Norwegian whalers of this period were small and built of their native fir with a few sheets of iron sheathing, hoping to avoid being seriously caught in the ice.
The Norwegian steam-whalers were both ancient and slow ; but there were also some ketch-rigged craft of about
40 tons with a crew

Page 159

which varied from nine to seventeen.
This smaller type sometimes used her squaresail for driving the ship astern, if she got caught in the ice and saw an opening clear astern.

But during the American Civil War there came an additional peril to those whalers which used to sail from the western coast through the Bering Straits into the Arctic.
And the destruction of whaling ships by those Confederate cruisers
Shenandoah, Alabama and Florida was one of the biggest shocks that ever came to the industry.
"The whaling industry of New England," says Mr. Arthur C. Watson, "saw the handwriting on the wall during the Civil War. Petroleum had been dis­covered, and the ship merchants and captains knew what the consequences were to be.
They realised that the decline in their business was permanent, and that, as the years came on, more and more of their craft would be forced out of the running.
It was merely a coincidence that the war and the mineral oil discovery should be contemporary events, but the war had a part of its own to play in the decay of the industry- a dramatic part, in fact, which made the port of New Bedford shudder for its future far more than did the news about petroleum."

When the Shenandoah in June 1865 came up the Bering Straits she was rewarded for her trouble by cap­turing and burning five whaling vessels.
But on the next day she captured at anchor quite a fleet of whalers, with the exception of the
Favorite, commanded by Captain Young, who resisted the Confederate's officer coming on board not merely with words, but with a display of guns and fire-arms. But the Favorite's crew got frightened and deserted, so that after removing the ship's ammunition they took to the boats and left Captain Young by himself.
The latter, when the
Shenandoah's next boat came off, had no alternative but to surrender ...

Chapter XV : The Thirty-Two Ships
Facing page 176

Abandoning the Whaling Ships of Cape Belcher, September 1871.

The Whaleboats Reach the "Daniel Webster."

Chapter XVII : Finding the New Whaling Grounds
Page 187

Historically, the first cetacean which the old sailing ships pursued was the right whale, which has no dorsal fin.
In the Atlantic there was the Greenland whale, the nordkaper and the southern right whale.
These were remarkable for the size of their whalebone, and at a time when whales were hunted chiefly for the sake of their bone, these became known as the "right" or "true" whale.
Moreover, in those days, their harpooning methods prevented  the  men  from attacking the
"tinners" or rorquals.
But then the Industry of capturing the sperm whale came in and the chase after right whales became less important.
So also, there came a change in the second part of the nineteenth century arising through Svend Foyn's invention of the explosive harpoon fired from a ship's gun.
He began this new form operating off the north of Norway, but it enabled the fin whale, so long neglected, now to be hunted.
Thus it was that Norway inaugurated an entirely new era in whaling, since, broadly speaking, the "tinners" are the only cetaceans found in that country's waters.

What was more, it opened up an entirely new avenue to knowledge; for, until then, no mammal was scientifically so little understood as the great family of the whale.
And the reason for this deficiency was quite simple.
Without specimens to study, how could the research student set to work?
Whaling ships brought home the produce: not the mammal itself.
And only

Page 188
on remote occasions have whales stranded around our coasts.
But the Svend Foyn method revolutionised all this: or, rather, part of his plan was a return to that old practice which we have seen existed at Spitzbergen in the early days.
The reader will remember that factories were established ashore, the whales towed to the beach and hauled up to be flensed.

Well, this was to be the new Norwegian way in the 'sixties.
Land factories were instituted, the "tinner" killed by the explosive harpoon was hauled up and dealt with from the land and not the ship.
Thus it was, then, that an opportunity was afforded both to whalers and scientists to examine the shape of the body, the contents of the stomach: in other words, there followed from this a large amount of biological knowledge concerning the cetacean.
We know now that the "tinner " whether in northern or southern waters is practically the same in form.
To the invention of that gun, then, was due the starting of the Norwegian fin-whaling industry: and owing to the inauguration of the latter was it possible to get a greater understanding of whales generally

Chapter XIX : Problems and Practice
Page 204
But in the meantime we have to bear in remembrance that it was owing to those British pioneers, mentioned elsewhere, that these localities are ours.
Already in the season of 1908-9, when Charcot was down there and three whaling companies were working on Deception Island with floating steamers as factories, and the smaller specially built steamers going out to catch the whales, there were two hundred Norwegian inhabitants of that island.
The season lasts from the end of November to the end of February, when the companies separate; some to hunt off the Chilian coast, others in the Magellan Straits, others in the waters of the Cape of Good Hope.
In regard to the South-West African whaling where the humpback, fin and blue whales are captured annually, Saldanha Bay is largely used, as well as Durban, for eastern whaling.
In the year 1912 only 131 whales were caught off that part of Africa, but they have since been captured in much greater numbers; and even in 1916 the figures were considerably over eight hundred.

The numbers of right whales and sperm whales caught in the waters of the Dependencies are so few compared with the thousands of the blue, fin and humpback, that we can neglect them.
The humpback may be in danger of extermination, but it is of little commercial value, and the other two are plentiful.
The practical method by which the men can recognise the different kinds at a distance is as follows.
These three belong to the rorqual class, the humpback being known by the protuberance on his back and by the fact that he spouts very low.
The fin-whale is of medium value, has a very large dorsal

Page 205

fin, and spouts very high with a single, straight jet.
The blue whale, on the other hand, which is more valuable than the other two, has a moderate-sized dorsal fin and spouts with a double jet ending in a plume.

For the sake of clarity and continuity we have concentrated on one particular branch of development.
Let us now go back a little way.
The whole possibility of this modern Dependencies' whaling has been based on those new methods inaugurated in the eighteen-sixties by that Norwegian expert Svend Foyn, who had been impressed, whilst voyaging to the Arctic for seals, by the large numbers of tinners.
Why not hunt this species?
After three years he got over the difficulties and introduced his special explosive harpoon, and by doing away with the old method of using the boat, eliminated the risk to crews.
It was now the year 1865, the time when the gallant old sailing ship in the clippers and others was making her last flutter: for steam was beginning to conquer navigation.

Svend Foyn, substituting the steamer for the sailing ship's rowed boat, made it possible for the harpoon-gun to be brought quite close to the finner.
(It is true that way back in 1731 a portable harpoon-gun had been invented, but this was found very dangerous, although others followed.)
Moreover, since a dead finner sinks and its weight is much greater than the buoyancy of the rowed whaleboat, it was no good thinking of hunting this species unless the size of the craft were increased.
Thus, in a sentence, the conditions demanded that a steamer with a harpoon-gun in the bows be employed.
With many improvements this method is that of modern whaling.
When the animal is hit, the two shanks of the harpoon open out and explode a small bomb.
The body of the dead whale is then hauled back by means of the ship's steam windlass, inflated to prevent its sinking,

 Page 206
and then towed to the floating factory or shore, the steam whaler, or " catcher" as the modern term is, sometimes being seen with as many as half a dozen dead cetaceans.

As the result of his new methods, Svend Foyn of Tonsberg died a very wealthy man, and the acknowledged expert of all the Norwegian whalers.
But it was only through his plucky perseverance and originality that the problem of killing the supposedly invulnerable finner had been made practicable.
What was more, it was thus through him that a new industry was to arise in Norway.
Now, then, let us watch the sequence of events.
In June 1893 those four Dundee whalers, after their unsuccessful voyage, had arrived back in Dundee.
There happened to be living a Mr. H. H. Bull, who was also inspired by the Antarctic whaling proposition, but had failed to interest Australian capitalists in the scheme.
Bull therefore left Melbourne, travelled to Norway and got in touch with Foyn, then over eighty years old.
The latter listened and approved, and even placed at Bull's disposal a whaler, built at Drammen as far back as the year 1871.   This vessel was similar to the Dundee Balcena, and now, changing her name from Cap Nor to Antarctic, under the command of Captain L. Kristensen, with Mr. Bull on board, set off in September 1893, reached Melbourne the following January, left the latter in the following September, got within the Antarctic Circle, sighted Cape Adare for the first time it had been seen since Ross's voyage, visited Possession Island, but after being as far south as lat. 74°, it was decided to return.
For commercially this voyage had been a failure, and not a "right " whale had been seen.

And so the intimate relationship between whaling and discovery, between the genuine whaling ships and the

Page 207

exploration vessels built on the lines of whalers, went on.
The whaling expert was indebted to the explorer, and the explorer to the whaler.

Chapter XV : The Present Whaling Industry

Page 228

Thus the number of whales killed in the waters of Greenland and the Davis Straits by British ships during the years 1814 to 1823 was 12,907 : from 1824 to 1833 it dropped to 9,532, and in 1834 to 1843 it fell remarkably to 1,221.
There follows now a serious slump: for whereas in 1857 Peterhead still sent out thirty-four whalers, she possessed not one in the year 1893, the pride of place having passed entirely to Dundee.
In the year 1882 there went to the Davis Straits for whales nine Dundee ships, which came back with seventy-eight whales, whose oil and bones yielded a sum of £58,876, oil being at that time £33 a ton, but the value of the whalebone was as much as £1,150 a ton, so rare had it become.
The position by 1883 was this: both the Greenland whaling and the Greenland sealing were getting worse and worse, though off Newfoundland it was good.
It was bad also in the Davis Straits, and only six vessels went there from Dundee, whilst one from Peterhead got up to the Cumberland Gulf.
One of these seven vessels was the whaler Thetis, and she came home with the loss of both her carpenter and bo'sun; for whilst they were fast to a whale the boat was carried under by the fouling of the line.
In this same year only seven vessels went to Greenland waters and they came back with only nineteen right whales.
But whalebone was scarcer than even in the year previous, and had now gone up to £2,000 a ton.
And it was just this rise which encouraged the ships and made it worth their while to keep on trying for a time, especially as already the bottlenose, which had been overfished, was beginning to get wary and scarce.

Two new Peterhead whalers were actually added to the fleet in 1883, and in the following year several steamers were added to the fleet of Dundee, so that by 1885 the latter had the largest collection of sixteen whaling ships,

Page 229

but there was a big fleet working out of Norway chasing the bottlenose whales.
However, the down-grade was still continuing, and if we take the period of 1893 to 1902 British ships caught only 172 whales off Greenland and in the Davis Straits.
In the year 1903 Dundee's fleet had diminished to five whalers, of which one got wrecked.
Thus it was that Arctic whaling had now come down to four vessels and they were only partially successful, and in 1905, although there were six whalers at work up the Davis Straits, which were now the only possible resort, yet this season was so notorious that only a couple of medium-sized whales and one small one were killed up there.
The Eclipse, one of the most lucky of whalers, came home "clean" ; that historic Diana, winch had once been to the Antarctic, came home "clean "; the Windward, another famous ship, came home "clean ; the Balaina, which had also once been to the Antarctic, came home now from the Arctic with one whale; and the Morning arrived with one whale.
In each of these cases only fifteen cwt. of bone were obtained, and the Active, that other ship which had once been in that Dundee Antarctic whaling squadron, now came home from the north with one small whale that yielded but three cwt. of bone.
The Morning, by the way, was another historic vessel.
Up till the year 1902 she was a Norwegian whaler and known as the Morgen, but she was purchased by the Royal Geographical Society and sent out to the Antarctic, where she discovered a new island, reached Scott's ship Discovery and came home in the year 1904, and went back to her career as a whaler.

Chapter XXII : Colonial Control
Page 244

During the war there was an increased demand for oil, but all over the world, except off South Georgia, the whale was being hunted far less.
It therefore became advisable to allow the temporary employment of a greater number of catchers down here.
Legislation wisely limits the extent to which whaling may take place, and minimises the amount of waste.
Under the former decision we have the restriction of the number of licences, but there is no direct regulating of the number of whales to be caught.
One may mention in passing the financial side of these Dependencies, which is not without interest.
If we take the latest figures- that is for the year 1923- we find that the Government revenue derived from them in that period amounted to £160,221, the local expenditure being only £7,436.
But at the end of that year there was a surplus of £315,795 assets over liabilities, of which £300,302 became earmarked for the Research Fund.
It is thus that the research vessel Discovery was able to set forth from Portsmouth in the summer of 1925 on those investigations about which so much is expected in the future.

Formerly the catch consisted chiefly of humpback whales, though latterly it is the blue, and also the fin-whale, which have predominated.
But a greater incentive has been offered towards capturing the two last; for the bonus to the gunner, additional to his monthly pay, works out in the following number of kroner :- for that somewhat rare right whale, 200; for the less rare sperm whale, 100; for the blue whale, 80; for the fin-whale, 50; for the humpback, 30 kroner.
The reason for this becomes obvious when we state that a blue whale usually yields from 70 to 80 barrels of oil, a right whale 60 to 70, a sperm whale 60, a fin-whale from 35 to 50, but a humpback from 25 to 35 only.
We spoke some time back of New Island, one of the Falkland

Page 245

Here in the year 1908 the British firm of Meant, Salvesen & Co. of Leith established a whaling factory which continued until 1916 when it was dismantled and removed to South Georgia, which is now the only one of the Dependencies where whaling can be carried on in both summer and winter.

In the old sailing-ship days one of the customs was to attack a whale calf, well knowing that the mother whale would not desert its young; and thus the elder and more valuable whale would fall to the hunter.
his cruel and wasteful method is in the Dependencies strictly forbidden.
Neither a calf nor a female whale accompanied by a calf may be killed.
Apart from sentimental reasons this is sound policy unless it be desired to endeavour to exterminate the species.
And as further illustrative of the broad, sensible lines of the whaling legislature in these parts it is worth noting that the lessees are required to keep an accurate record of meteorological observations and to maintain a stock of coal and provisions which are to be supplied at cost price to any ship requiring them.
We know that both Shackleton and Charcot availed themselves of this privilege.

In reckoning the amount of oil we count six barrels to the ton, and it is worth while to consider now the relation which the whale to-day bears to commerce.
Before the war whale oil was used for burning, for lubrication, for soap-making and currying leather.
It then found itself in great demand in the manufacture of glycerine for munition-making, and also for the different fabrication of margarine.
Sperm oil is used for such delicate machinery as sewing-machines and watches.
The demand for whalebone is not what it once was, but in the thirteenth century it was used among other purposes for the plumes on helmets.
From the meat

Page 246

and bones are obtained whale-meat meal, largely used in feeding cattle; whale guano, which is rich in phosphates; and there is produced from the bones alone what is called bone meal, also rich in these phosphates.
But the entire carcase may be turned into guano after extracting the blubber for oil.
Ambergris is used in order to make perfumes more lasting.

During the war whale oil to the British Government was so invaluable that one of the greatest authorities has remarked that without it we should have been able to produce the required amount of neither food nor munitions.
It seems strange to think that a number of whales cruising innocently in the neighbourhood of tho Antarctic can have the slightest effect on a war being fought many thousand miles away in Europe: but it shows the inter-relation of affairs and mutual dependence in our modern civilisation.
Glycerine we all remember to have been difficult to obtain during the latter stages of the war even by medical men.
Before hostilities it was just a by-product in the manufacture of soap: but after the demand for explosives became so tremendous soap-making became a by-product of the glycerine industry.
The British Government during the war made special arrangements with three English firms for utilising the whole of the whale oil imported.

Modern sub-Antarctic whaling is very different from the old Greenland industry, quite apart from the change from sail to steam.
It is different, too, from that fine, romantic period when American whaling ships under sail used to hunt the cetacean in every tropical sea of the world.
The latter vessels were of lighter build and greater speed than those which had to be so strong and heavy in order to resist the ice pressure.
Those American ships were not intended for ice work, and their working costs were not great.
They could build cheaply along

Page 247

the New England coast where there was plenty of timber near to the sea.
But about the year 1846 American whaling with its fleet of 735 ships reached its high-water mark, and the ebb set in with such certainty that from 1877-86 an average of only 159 such craft were annually employed.
So also by the year 1886 the best type of Norwegian whaler was a vessel of only eighty tons and of thirty horse-power.
Fitted with the Svend Foyn harpoon-gun these comparatively cheap vessels had been able to kill for their oil and bone most of a thousand blue whales, humpbacks and other rorquals, and then tow them into the fjords of Finmark.

But in the Antarctic the conditions are all so serious that no one can embark on this undertaking except in a big way.
Everything seems multiplied in comparison with the circumstances of the nineteenth century.
Thus, before the whaler can reach his cruising ground a far longer distance must be covered, with a greater cost in fuel.
The vessels need fewer hands but they cost more to build and to run.
Moreover the value of the individual Antarctic whale is inferior to the Greenland species.
Greater activity, at a greater distance, more detailed organisation but far more initial capital are the conditions which have in this twentieth century become essential.
Not for a century have the Greenland whales been hunted in those Arctic waters between East Greenland, Spitzbergen and Jan Mayen Islands, where the cetacean was once numerous and in convenient proximity to the fleets of the north.
And alongside our optimism in regard to the Antarctic we must place the plain observed fact that when a species of whale has by over-fishing been wiped out of any area, he does not go back to that region even long years after the fleets have given up using those waters.
Of this we may quote two historical instances.
For centuries the whale was hunted in the

Page 248

Bay of Biscay, right up till the sixteenth century, when it was about to be exterminated, had not the Greenland whaling grounds been discovered.
To this day the Biscayan whale has never recovered its former numerical preponderance.
Similarly the Finmark rorqual was hunted to extermination so that the industry came to a full stop after a few intensive years.
If, then, the whales should be exterminated for a period in the waters of the Falklands Dependencies, it is improbable that even after a respite they would return.
Thus the whole commercial value of these distant parts would vanish as soon as the whaling stations ceased to have any financial reason for existence.
Indeed there are those who believe that by the time the twentieth century has run out, there will be no more whales to hunt: they will become as past and banished as the prehistoric animals are to us to-day.

This is the extreme pessimistic view, but it has to be borne in mind so long as our scientific knowledge is incomplete, and especially in regard to the whale's migrations.
This of course arouses the question of protective measures to control the hunting: and that, again, is capable of crippling the industry as a dividend-earner.
For instance, it might be found theoretically advisable to prohibit occasionally all whaling for several years in order to allow the stock of cetaceans to increase.
But what company could afford to let its plant and shipping remain in harbour idle and deteriorating during those years?
How would it be possible to keep together those skilled gunners and flensers until such time as their services were again required ?

These are some of the problems which have to be faced sooner or later, and we cannot possibly ignore them too long.

Chatterton, E. Keble: Whalers and Whaling
 Fisher Unwin, London, 1925.
Second edition 1925.
 Ph. Allan & Co. Ltd., London, Nautilus Library No.16, 1930.
P. Allan, London, The Deep Sea Library, 1930.
W.F. Payson, New York, [1931].

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Geoff Cater (2015) : E. Kebel Chatterton : Whalers and Whaling, 1925.