RGSSA Library Catalogue

Friday 10 February 2012

Monsters of the Deep & Men Who Go Down to the Sea in Ships

Monsters of the Deep and Men Who Go Down to the Sea in Ships
Whaling and Whalers at RGSSA Library

                                       “...with louely dart,
    Dinting his brest, had bred his restlesse paine,
Like as the wounded Whale to shore flies fro the maine.”
   —Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book VI, Canto X

    A little while ago I was watching a marvellous documentary about the history of American whaling on SBS, Into the Deep: Whaling and the World, which inspired me to see what works on whaling the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia Library holds. Turns out we have something of a higgledy-piggledy selection, presumably acquired over the years without any firm collection development policy in mind (serious librarians won’t approve!)—but to a picker up of unconsidered trifles like me, this makes it more interesting.

    Most of the whaling books do, however, sit quite well with our huge collection of works on travel and exploration: never mind the official version of history, it was in fact the whalers who first ventured into large tracts of the oceans hitherto unexplored by Westerners. When I was a kid growing up in New Zealand there was the most cursory mention of “whalers and sealers” when we were being taught basic NZ history. These “whalers and sealers” had had small settlements here and there on the coast, evidently. But they obviously didn’t count. We all just absorbed this intel automatically, like little goldfish in a tank opening their mouths as the manna floats down from above—and I dare say most of us forgot it five minutes later, too! But looking back the attitude strikes as really weird. Was it because the whalers and sealers weren’t Permanent Settlers, come to Open Up New Lands, and didn’t fit in with our perception of ourselves as the descendants of serious, determined, hardworking, and far-sighted people out to hack a better life out of the bush for themselves and their families? Certainly they weren’t Sent by the King to Open Up New Lands, maybe that let them out. And they weren’t Missionaries come with the serious purpose of Converting the Heathen, like “the Reverend Samuel Marsden.”—I got so as I never wanted to hear that name again: it cropped up every year from about age 9 to 15. (The funny thing was, no-one ever told us what denomination he was.)—No, well, the whalers and sealers were just hard-working stiffs, doing a dirty, difficult, at times very boring and at other times very dangerous job. Working-class blokes like all our ancestors, in fact! It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?
    One of the things I really liked about the documentary was the way it examined Herman Melville’s attitude to the men he worked with when he shipped aboard a whaler (or several—he jumped ship a couple of times and was thrown in clink once, too). He was a true egalitarian and found there was real solidarity amongst the men, and in most of them an innate sense of decency. No doubt they were as dirty, ugly and contumacious as the rest of humanity, but Melville’s great virtue for his times was that he saw them as real people.

“The City that Lit The World”*

Historic Buildings of New Bedford

    Whaling is of course an horrific trade, but in the 18th and 19th centuries it was an extremely important aspect of world commerce and, I was fascinated to learn from the aforesaid dokko, a major factor in turning the United States into a global economic power—at one point in the earlier 19th century New Bedford in Massachusetts, which had become a centre for the Nantucket whalers, was the wealthiest city in the world! The Civil War destroyed many ships of the great American whaling fleet, and by that time oil had been discovered in Pennsylvania and the heyday of the whale-oil lamp was over. The whaling industry began to decline, and though it was to continue into the 20th century, killing even greater numbers of whales with the development of the mechanized harpoon, it was no longer a dominant factor in the global economy.
    You can read more about the whalers from New England in:

Verrill, A. Hyatt (Alpheus Hyatt), 1871-1954. The real story of the whaler / by A. Hyatt Verrill. New York: Appleton, 1916. xv, 248 p.

* See the description of New Bedford, in “Localities”, History of Whaling, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_whaling

Spermaceti? Really?
“What spermacetti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned Hosmannus in his work of thirty years, saith plainly, Nescio quid sit.”
—Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646) (or Vulgar Errors), quoted by Hermann Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 135, “Epilogue”.
 I found out why the name “spermaceti”: inside the sperm whale’s head, which is where the poor creature stores the fluid, it is a clear liquid, but on exposure to the air it becomes opaque, resembling sperm! The whales were so huge that, having stripped them of their blubber, peeling off great slabs which could weigh a ton, and hoisted the hacked-off giant heads alongside (as Melville vividly describes, they were often too heavy to haul aboard), the whalers would sometimes actually get inside the head to release the prized oil. It was a double whammy for the poor sperm whales, as they are the ones with ambergris in their gut, still used today by many perfume manufacturers, although there are synthetic alternatives. (Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any regulations about listing this on the bottles, so if you’re thinking of buying an expensive and I must admit delicious French perfume, you might like to think again.) The American Cetacean Society provides a nice Fact Sheet on the sperm whale, which was the species in Melville’s Moby Dick. It’s suitable for teaching purposes and may be downloaded: http://www.acsonline.org/factpack/spermwhl.htm

 We see in the diagram that a large part of the head is called the “junk”. You won’t find a definition of “junk” in this sense in any online dictionary, and the modern print eds. quoted online make the same omission. Even The Free Dictionary online, which actually includes a reference to Melville’s correct whaling use of the word, does not define it! However, my reliable old Concise Oxford does:

“lump of tissue in sperm whale, containing spermaceti.”

Here is Melville on spermaceti and the anatomy of the sperm whale’s head: he explains both “junk” and “case”:    “Regarding the Sperm whale's head as a solid oblong, you may, on an inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins, whereof the lower is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the upper an unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end forming the expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the middle of the forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and then you have two almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an internal wall of a thick tendinous substance. The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb of oil, formed by the crossing and re-crossing, into ten thousand infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the great Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. ... the tun of the whale contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state. Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part of the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate ice is just forming in water. A large whale's case generally yields about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of securing what you can.” –Moby Dick, Chapter 77, “The Great Heidelburgh Tun”: from: http://melville.thefreelibrary.com/Moby-Dick-LXVIII-CXXXIV/1-10

The Wonderful Whalers From Whitby: William Scoresby x 2
    I thought I was going nuts when I started checking our bibliographic records for William Scoresby (1789-1857), because although the dates were the same, there seemed to be two different men involved: one was a whaler and one was a clergyman! Could the entries on the Libraries Australia database possibly be wrong? Well, in this instance, no. I’ve now found out that there were two whalers called William Scoresby, and they were father and son—but our William, who is the younger, was in fact both a whaler and a clergyman. Extraordinary, isn’t it? He was an extraordinary man, and so was his father.

William Scoresby, Snr., (L.) & Jnr. (R.)
    They came of farming stock near Whitby in Yorkshire, England. (Yep, if you’re thinking of Captain Cook you’re not wrong!) William Scoresby, the father (1760-1829), was the first to break with tradition and go to sea. Maybe the family wasn’t badly off, by the standards of the day, but William didn’t have much formal education: he left school when he was only 9. He was working for another farmer and it was this man’s treatment of him that drove him to run away to sea, round 1779-80. By 1785 he had joined a whaling ship and thereafter whaling became his trade. By 1790, when he was only 30, he had become captain of the ship and in the course of his 30 trips until his retirement in 1822 racked up a score—he was well named, yes—of 533 whales, making him Whitby’s most successful whaling captain.* And a very rich man—whaling captains weren’t in it for fun—or for revenge, à la Melville.
    It sounds as if he was both an energetic and an intelligent man, as well as an adventurous one. Whitby-ites claim him as the man who invented the ship’s “crow’s-nest”. (It seems obvious after the event to stick a railed platform up the mast, but it was one of those things that nobody else had thought of. His design was a wooden-framed box covered with canvas and leather, and it afforded the best possible view of the whales. There was a hatch at its base, so as you didn’t have to risk your life by climbing over its side, and Scoresby put in a telescope and a speaking trumpet—very cluey!)
    He wasn’t a posh Royal Navy captain with an influential family, and he didn’t get a “sir” like the Rosses, uncle and nephew, to name but two of the polar captains with gongs, but his voyage of 1806 sailed to 520 miles from the North Pole (Lat. 81º 30'), which was a record for a ship. The record stood for 21 years, and even then that expedition went part of the way over the ice, not by ship. Incidentally, Scoresby taught himself navigation, determinedly reading up on the topic from the age of 19, while he was waiting out the winter to ship aboard, and carrying on studying as a common seaman, regardless of the jeers of his peers. He was a big man, very strong, and could have clobbered them easily, but held back until the time two of the cowards attacked him together, when he routed both of them, in fact laying one out cold. After that he was not only left only, he was respected. **
    The online newsletter, The Whitby Seagull, describes him as “a forward thinker ... [who] became involved in Whitby public life in 1816.” He was a member of the Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society, a churchgoer, and quite a philanthropist, paying for a public pump to help the poor who were short of water. “Some of his ideas were considered too radical for the day but ironically since 1828 many of his far-sighted schemes have been carried out in modern times just as he had laid down originally. He believed that the unemployed could be paid to deepen the harbour, build quays and construct a new bridge.” *** It’s amazing to think that this was the boy who left school at 9 years of age. Everything he knew he taught himself. No wonder that his son was so proud of him that he wrote a book about him! **

    William Scoresby (1789-1857) was equally adventurous and even brighter. The title page of his memoir of his father refers to him as: “The Rev. William Scoresby, D.D., Fellow of the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh; Member of the Institute of France; of the American Institute, Philadelphia, etc. etc.” Well done, William, Jnr.! And let’s not forget that you had an intelligent father who obviously encouraged you to work hard and study hard.

Scoresby, William, 1789-1857. The Arctic whaling journals of William Scoresby the younger / edited by C. Ian Jackson London : Hakluyt Society, 1811-1820. (Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. 3rd ser. ; v. 12, 20, 21)  3 v.

Scoresby, William, 1789-1857. An account of the Arctic regions with a history and description of the northern whale-fishery / by W. Scoresby. Illustrated with twenty-four engravings. Edinburgh : Printed for A. Constable & Co.; [etc.] 1820. 2 v.

The picture shows an episode at Spitsbergen in 1816 when the ship’s hull was stove in by an underwater projection from an iceberg. William’s attempt to turn it upside-down for proper repairs didn’t work, they only got it on its side (you can see the men hauling at it), so he had to stuff the hole instead.

Scoresby, William, 1789-1857. Journal of a voyage to the northern whale-fishery : including researches and discoveries on the eastern coast of west Greenland, made in the summer of 1822, in the ship Baffin of Liverpool / by William Scoresby Junior. London : Hurst, Robinson and Co 1823. xliii, 472 p.

    Young William started off as a bad little boy who stowed away on his dad’s ship at the age of 11. You can imagine the scene! Not to mention what his poor mum must have felt when she found he’d disappeared! They were headed north via the Shetlands and his father tried to leave him there rather than take him on the risky trip to arctic waters, but he found a boatman to take him out to the ship again just as she was leaving. His father gave in and let him come. By 1803 he’d taken young William on as a proper apprentice. They went whaling together, the younger William eventually captaining his own ship,  until the father retired.
    Whalers in the northern hemisphere had to lay off for the winter, and during several of these periods young Scoresby attended classes in natural philosophy and chemistry at Edinburgh University. I wonder how he got on there, amongst the sons of the proper upper-middle class? However difficult it might have been socially, intellectually he was obviously very, very bright. Whaling life consists of long periods of boredom alternated with short bursts of frantic activity—not only chasing and catching the whales but stripping them (“flenching” or flensing”), boiling the blubber, and extracting the spermaceti oil or the whalebone. (Different species. Sperm whales are toothed whales. Baleen whales—blue, grey and right whales—have the whalebone.) William kept up his studies at sea during the slow times. There’s quite a full article on him in Wikipedia**** which tells us that in 1807 he “began the study of the meteorology and natural history of the polar regions. Earlier results included his original observations on snow and crystals; and in 1809 Robert Jameson brought certain Arctic papers of his before the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh, which at once elected him to its membership.” 1809? He’d only have been 20! Imagine how proud and thrilled he and his dad must both have been!
    His studies continued along with his whaling. By the mid-1810’s he was married, captaining a ship, and researching the temperature of the polar ocean: he was the first to establish that it’s warmer at a great depth than on the surface. If you’ve read anything about the search for the Northwest Passage you’ll know that it loomed large in the naval and scientific minds of the time, but you may not know that it was William Scoresby who gave the whole thing its initial impetus by pointing out to Sir Joseph Banks, with whom he was now corresponding, that as ice levels in the Greenland region were relatively low in 1817, now would be the time. Sir John Barrow’s sending out the first of the Royal Naval Northwest Passage expeditions in 1818 was in direct response to Banks’s intel.
    William’s book of 1820, An account of the Arctic regions with a history and description of the northern whale-fishery, includes not only descriptions of his adventures during his voyages, but a lot of scientific detail on ice forms and arctic zoology. He provides pictures of narwhals, polar bears and the beluga whale or white whale, a smaller toothed whale found in arctic waters.

   By the time the book came out William had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was contributing a paper to the Royal Society: On the Anomaly in the Variation of the Magnetic Needle—an interest which was to continue for some time.
    His whaling trip to Greenland in 1822 was to be his last. Like Captain Cook (they had a lot more than Whitby in common) he was an excellent cartographer: the charts he made during this trip were the first accurate ones of the eastern coast of Greenland. It’s this trip which is described in his second whaling book, also held by the RGSSA Library: Journal of a voyage to the northern whale-fishery : including researches and discoveries on the eastern coast of west Greenland, made in the summer of 1822, in the ship Baffin of Liverpool.
    When he got back he found that his wife (his first wife) had died. Presumably this was an influence which prompted him to take Holy Orders. He was, in any case, a religious man, and his biography of his father stresses throughout the influence of a benevolent Providence.
    William had posts as a vicar in various parts of England, eventually settling in Torquay with his third wife. He kept up his scientific studies and his religious ones, gaining his D.D. in 1839. He had been a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1824, and in 1827 became an honorary corresponding member of the Académie des sciences. He was an active member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (founded in 1831). He  had a wide-ranging mind, and researched the topic of optics as well as keeping up his interest in terrestrial magnetism, producing many papers on it.
   Although his days as a whaler were over, he was still interested in arctic exploration. One of the big topics of the period was the fate of Sir John Franklin’s arctic expedition, an incredible number of other expeditions being despatched in search of its remains, and in 1850 William published a work urging that the search be continued, with his conclusions about  arctic navigation from his own experience. His days at sea weren’t over, either: he went to America in 1844 and 1848. Being William Scoresby, he didn’t just sit back aboard, but made scientific observations on the height of the Atlantic waves. In 1856 the terrestrial magnetism thing still beckoned and he sailed to Australia in quest of more data. (The visit is commemorated by the name of the Melbourne suburb, Scoresby.) His scientific report was published posthumously; RGSSA Library also holds this work:

Scoresby, William, 1789-1857. Journal of a voyage to Australia and round the world, for magnetical research / by the Rev. W. Scoresby ; edited by Archibald Smith. London : Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1859. xlviii, 96, 315, 24 p.

    William took after his father in taking an active interest in social problems. He must have been one of those people with relentless energy. His picture certainly looks as if he was: a wiry, keen, yet thoughtful man. He published on religious topics as well as all his other interests, so if you look him up in a very big catalogue you may well find such works as Zoistic Magnetism and Jehovah Glorified in His Works listed together with the whaling books under Scoresby, William, 1789-1857!

* Some of the information about the senior William Scoresby  is from The Scoresby Page, which also gives the family’s genealogy and mentions a link, curiously enough, to South Australia: http://www.users.on.net/~rdblair/scoresby.htm
** This story is recounted by William Jnr. in Memorials of the Sea : My Father : Being Records of the Adventurous Life of the Late William Scoresby, Esq. of Whitby / by his son. London : Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1851. The other references quoted take most of their material from this biography. It is available to download free from Gutenberg Books: http://www.gutenberg.org/3/5/1/8/35183
**** William Scoresby, Wikipedia

    Here are some more of the RGSSA’s interesting titles in the order in which, more or less, they were written (not necessarily the date of publication, as you’ll see).

The Very Early Days

17th Century
Edge, Thomas, d. 1624. A brief discouerie of the northerne discoueries of seas, coasts, and counties, deliuered in order as they were hopefully begunne, and haue euer since happily beene continued by the singular industrie and charge of the worshipfull society of Muscouia merchants of London, with the ten seuerall voyages of Captaine Thomas Edge the author. In: Purchas, Samuel, 1577?-1626. Purchas his Pilgrimes. London : Printed by William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone, 1625, vol.. 3, book 3, p. 462-473.
The work by Purchas is variously known as “Purchas his Pilgrimes” or more often “Purchas his Pilgrimage.” RGSSA holds several editions with variations of the title. Edge’s description of whaling, quoted by Melville in the Epilogue, gives an idea of the size of the whale’s head:

“While the whale is floating at the stern of the ship, they cut off his head, and tow it with a boat as near the shore as it will come; but it will be aground in twelve or thirteen feet [of] water.”

Thomas Edge (1587 or 88 - 1624) was an English whaler and sealer working for the London-based Muscovy Company in the earlier 17th century (which at that period claimed Spitsbergen for Britain.) His work published in Purchas’s collection of early voyages and discoveries recounts several of his whaling expeditions in the decade 1610-1620. He was a leading captain, being in command of more than one ship and from 1613 commander or co-commander of the English fleet: by that time, therefore, he must already have been a successful and experienced sailor and trader. During the voyages his ships encountered all the hazards of arctic waters, including unstable ice, groundings, a boat’s getting separated from the fleet, a ship’s capsizing, and unfriendly encounters with rival Danish and Dutch ships. They hunted walrus as well as whales. Edge did extremely well out of his adventures and was able to buy two properties and to retire comfortably. As a measure of his success, he reports that on his 1611 trip their first catch of a Bowhead whale, “yielded twelve Tuns of oil, being the first Oil that ever was made in Greenland.”* He is remembered by the naming of Edgeøya or Edge Island, which the English whalers rediscovered in 1616.

Gerritsz, Hessel, 1581?-1632 and Brugge, Jacob Segersz van der, fl. 1634. Early Dutch and English voyages to Spitsbergen in the seventeenth century / edited with introduction and notes by Sir W. Martin Conway. London : Printed for the Hakluyt Society 1904. (Works issued by the Hakluyt Society ; no. 11)  xvi, 191 p.
Contents: Histoire du Pays nommé Spitsberghe / Hessel Gerritszoon van Assum ; translated into English by Basil H. Soulsby -- Journael of Dach-register gehouden by seben Matroosen in haer Overwinteren op Spitsbergen in Maurits-Bay / Jacob Segersz. van der Brugge ; translated into English by J.A.J. de Villiers.

Spitsbergen, which is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, now belonging to Norway, borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea. It was a great whaling base for centuries: the picture shown under Scoresby’s An account of the Arctic regions with a history and description of the northern whale-fishery is a scene there. Edge’s whaling ventures were based there.

Here Be Whales: The Growth of an Industry,
18th-early 19th centuries

Personal Accounts:
Beale, Thomas, 1807-1849. The natural history of the sperm whale : its anatomy and physiology, food, spermaceti, ambergris, rise and progress of the fishery, chase and capture, “cutting in” and “trying out”, description of the ships, boats, men, and instruments used in the attack; with an account of its favourite places of resort, to which is added a Sketch of a South-Sea whaling voyage, embracing a description of the extent, as well as the adventures and accidents that occurred during the voyage, in which the author was personally engaged / by Thomas Beale. [2nd ed.] London : John van Voorst 1839. [12], 393 p. 

Beale’s illustration “Boats attacking whales”: it reappears in different forms in the literature

This second, very much enlarged edition of Beale’s book was immensely popular with the reading public, and provided Melville with some of his background for Moby Dick. Beale was not a scientist but a medical man; nevertheless his scientific data was a valuable contribution to the knowledge of the time.
    The graphic story below of one of the whaling boats being attacked by a sperm whale is typical of the exciting content of the less scientific sections of the work. It also describes exactly how a whale is first harpooned, then chased, then lanced. Because the lance is aimed at the lungs, the poor thing in effect chokes to death on its own blood. It is horrific, yes. What the whalers call its “flurry” is in fact its death throes.
     “On the morning of the 18th June, 1832, while we were still fishing in the ‘off-shore ground’ of Japan, we fell in with an immense sperm whale, which happened to be just the sort of one we required to complete our cargo. Three boats were immediately lowered to give him chase; but the whale, from some cause or other, appeared wild in its actions long before it had seen any of our boats, although it might have been chased the day before by some other ship. It was greatly different in its actions to most other large whales, because it never went steadily upon one course. If he ‘peaked his flukes,’ or went down going to the southward, we expected he would continue that course under water, but when he again rose perhaps he was two or three miles away from the boats to the northward; in this sort of manner he dodged us about until near four P.M., at which time the men were dreadfully exhausted from their exertions in the chase, which had been conducted under a broiling sun ... About half-past four, however, Captain Swain contrived, by the most subtle management and great physical exertions, to get near to the monster, when he immediately struck him with the harpoon with his own hands; and, before he had time to recover from the blow, he managed with his usual dexterity to give him two fatal wounds with the lance, which caused the blood to flow from the blow-hole in abundance. The whale, after the last lance, immediately descended below the surface, and the captain felt certain that he was going to ‘sound,’ but in this he was much mistaken, for a few minutes after his descent he again rose to the surface with great velocity, and striking the boat with the front part of his head threw it high into the air with the men and everything contained therein, fracturing it to atoms and scattering its crew widely about. While the men were endeavouring to save themselves from drowning by clinging to their oars and pieces of the wreck of the boat, the enormous animal was seen swimming round and round them, appearing as if meditating an attack with his flukes, ... but this was not attempted. They had now nothing to hope for but the arrival of the other boats to relieve them from their dangerous situation, rendered more so by the appearance of several large sharks, attracted by the blood which flowed from the whale ... After they had remained in the water about three quarters of an hour, assisting themselves by clinging to pieces of the wreck, one of the other boats arrived and took them in.... But although these brave whale fishermen had been so defeated, they were not subdued: the moment they entered the boat which took them from the ocean, their immediate determination was for another attack upon the immense creature, which remained close by ...

“Lancing the whale” – another picture which was reprinted many times
    “Captain Swain, with twelve men in one boat, therefore made another attack upon the whale with the lance which caused it to throw up blood from the blow-hole in increased quantities. ... Soon after the arrival of the third boat, the whale went into its flurry and soon died, when, to the dismay of the boats’ crews, who had endured so much danger and hardship in its capture, it sunk, and never rose again...”

Bennett, Frederick Debell. Narrative of a whaling voyage round the globe, from the year 1833-1836 : comprising sketches of Polynesia, California, the Indian Archipelago, etc. with an account of southern whales, the sperm whale fishery, and the natural history of the climates visited. London : Richard Bentley, 1840. 2 v.
Bennett was another source used by Melville in Moby Dick. Here is the quotation he gives in his “Epilogue” (Chapter 135): “The Cachalot (Sperm Whale) is not only better armed than the True Whale (Greenland or Right Whale) in possessing a formidable weapon at either extremity of its body, but also more frequently displays a disposition to employ these weapons offensively and in manner at once so artful, bold, and mischievous, as to lead to its being regarded as the most dangerous to attack of all the known species of the whale tribe.” –The interpolations in brackets are Melville’s.

Historical Study of the Period:
McNab, Robert, 1864-1917. The old whaling days : a history of Southern New Zealand from 1830 to 1840. Christchurch, N.Z. : Whitcombe and Tombs, 1913. 508 p.
Good for McNab! At least someone recognised that there were Europeans in NZ before those famous “Early Settlers”! Pity no-one took much notice of the fact.

Floreat Physeter: The Whaling Industry as a Global Powerhouse, mid-19th century
Science and Economics:
Enderby, Charles, 1798?-1876. The Auckland Islands : a short account of their climate, soil, & productions : and the advantages of establishing there a settlement at Port Ross for carrying on the southern whale fisheries / by Charles Enderby. London : Pelham Richardson, 1849.  iv, [vi] 57 p.

Wall, William S. (William Sheridan). History and description of the skeleton of a new sperm whale  lately set up in the Australian Museum ; together with some account of a new genus of sperm whale called Euphysetes. Sydney : W.R. Piddington, 1851. 66 p.

Personal Accounts:
There was a great fashion in the 19th century for writing the “journal” or “diary” of one’s adventures. Not all of these got published at the time, true, as we can see from the examples below. However, in the later part of the century true-life accounts of whaling adventures, non-fiction or fictionalized, remained as popular as they had been when Melville’s novels Typee (1846), Omoo (1847), and Mardi (1849) first came out. The romanticized aura of such stories of derring-do in the South Seas had great appeal. But Melville’s Moby Dick, a much more serious and wide-ranging book, which includes a lot of references to the non-fiction works he consulted in his research, was panned by the critics of the day and sank like a stone. It was not to be until the anniversary of his birth in 1919 that the book would be rediscovered and its author recognised as one of America’s greatest writers.

Hempleman, George, d. 1880, and Anson, F. A. (Frederick Arthur). The Piraki log (e Pirangi ahau koe), or, Diary of Captain Hempleman : with introduction, glossary, illustrations and map / by the present owner. London : H. Frowde, Oxford University Press, [1910?]

Markham, Albert Hastings, Sir, 1841-1918. A whaling cruise to Baffin’s Bay and the Gulf of Boothia, and an account of the rescue of the crew of the Polaris. London : S. Low, Marston, Low and Searle, 1874. xxiv, 319 p.

Smith, Charles Edward, 1838-1879. From the deep of the sea : being the diary of the late Charles Edward Smith, M.R.C.S., surgeon of the whale-ship Diana, of Hull / edited by his son, Charles Edward Smith Harris. London : A. & C. Black, 1922. xi, 288 p.


Sperm whale (foreground) and bottle-nosed whale
Serious Stuff: 20th-Century Science
Waite, Edgar R. (Edgar Ravenswood), 1866-1928. Guide to the whales and dolphins of New Zealand : with special reference to the skeletons of the Okarito Whale and the cast of the Allandale Whale in the Canterbury Museum. Christchurch, N.Z. : Canterbury College (University of  New Zealand), 1912. 21 p.

Lawrence, Susan and Staniforth, Mark, 1957- (eds.) The archaeology of whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand. Gundaroo, N.S.W. : Brolga Press for the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology and the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, 1998. (Special publication (Australian Institute for  Maritime Archaeology) ; no. 10). 115 p.

Personal Accounts:
Gottgens, Tommy. Dad's diary : the chronicle of an  insurance salesman who went whaling. Claremont, South Africa : Pretext 1998.  99 p.

One of the most unusual items in the collection. It is held only in South Australia and I couldn't find it listed online elsewhere, not even by the National Library of South Africa. The author is the “Dad” of the title, Tommy Gottgens. He was a Dutchman who settled in South Africa. In 1939 the South African economy was at a low ebb and he took a job on board a Danish whaling ship so as to support his family. The diary simply recounts the day-to-day details of his whaling life—with quite an emphasis on the meals, which were clearly the highlights of each day! The food was surprisingly good and would doubtless have astounded the whalers of the 19th century. Tommy was obviously a very bright man: he’d travelled quite widely and spoke 7 languages including several Asian languages. And he was very capable and conscientious: they had a wait before leaving South Africa and he stayed aboard and put in some hard yacker, so the captain made him a foreman. This meant he didn’t get some of the dirtier jobs once they started whaling, like cleaning out the barrels, which were so smelly that they made several of the men feel faint. Tommy doesn’t complain but he mentions his aching muscles: the works seems to have been as hard and dirty as it was 100 years before. The Danish ship was designed in Germany and as World War II had broken out, in order to protect her the captain had her decked out as a German warship—extraordinary!. It must have worked, though. The diary wasn’t published until 1998 because Tommy wouldn’t let the family read it, although it had been written with them in mind. But it recounts nothing shocking—perhaps, as he was a modest man, he just felt shy about letting the kids reads his literary effort. It’s an easy read—very different from Melville’s overblown style!

Telling the Tale: Stories for Big & Little People:
Bootes, Henry H. (Henry Hedger) Deep-sea bubbles, or, The cruise of the Anna Lombard. London : Ernest Benn, 1928. 261 p.
A fictitious account of a voyage in a 19th-century whaling-ship.

Nesdale, Iris. The bay whalers / Ira Nesdale ; illustrated by Joan Saint. Kenthurst, [N.S.W.] : Kangaroo Press, 1985. 112 p.
An exciting story for children of whaling in small boats off the South Australian coast in the mid-19th century.

History of Whaling At Home & Abroad:
Hawes, Charles Boardman, 1889-1923. Whaling. London : Heinemann, 1924. 358 p.

Cook, John Atkins. Pursuing the whale : a quarter century of whaling in the Arctic. London : Murray, 1926. 344 p.

Colwell, Max. Whaling around Australia. Adelaide : Rigby [1969]  168, [10] p.

Kerr, Margaret and  Kerr, Colin, 1912-1982. Australia's early whalemen. Adelaide : Rigby 1980. (Pageant of Australia)  64 p.

Looking Back: Local History, South Australia
Borrow, K. T. (Keith Travers). Whaling at Encounter Bay. Adelaide : Pioneers' Association of S.A, [1947] [16] p.

Parsons, Ronald, 1923-  Port Lincoln shipping : whalers, disasters, and the sea  link with Adelaide. Magill [S. Aust.] : R.H. Parsons 1981. iii, 73 p.

Whale Watching in South Australia:
Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. To the whales and back, 12 to 18 September, 1999. [Adelaide] : Royal Geographical Society of South Australia Inc., [1999]
41 leaves.
Notes to accompany a coach tour to Eyre Peninsula and the head of the Great Australian Bight to watch whales.

Have I bored on too long about the whalers and their books? Mm. Call me Ishmael.

This post was researched and created by Kathy Boyes 

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