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J. T. JENKINS, D.Sc., PH.D. 

(Superintendent, Lanes, and Western Sea Fisheries) 









IT is difficult to give within brief compass a detailed 
history of the whale fisheries, and hitherto no 
attempt has been made to do so in the English 
language. Since whaling falls into four or five 
well-defined, and more or less independent, phases 
it is possible to give a brief, and, allowing for the 
disconnection of the periods, consecutive account of 
the main aspects of this important fishery. 

There is no authoritative account of British 
whaling which can be compared with M tiller's 
" Geschiednis der Noordsche Compagnie " for the 
Dutch fishery ; Brinner's " Die deutsche Gronland- 
fahrt " for the German whalers, or Tower's " History 
of the American Whale Fishery " ; each of which 
gives a fairly complete account of special periods of 
whaling. It is to be hoped that further research 
may be directed to certain aspects of whaling which 
have hitherto received inadequate attention. There 
is material for several theses which might reason- 
ably be proposed for research degrees by post- 
graduate students at our Universities. Further 
references to the subject are given under the 
heading " Bibliography " (p. 315). 



Necessarily some of the subject-matter is only of 
interest to the specialist, but whaling is so unique in 
many respects in the romance of the life of the 
whalers, and in the natural history of one of the 
most remarkable groups of living creatures that 
even detailed studies of the subject are not without 

The romance of the whalers' life can only be 
realised by a perusal of the original writings of the 
whalers. In this book the main facts of the 
progress of the whaling trade have been marshalled. 
In many, if not in most cases, these facts speak for 
themselves. If within the next few decades whaling 
is not become entirely extinct, owing to the practical 
disappearance from the seas of the globe of the 
animals whose presence is necessary to its continued 
existence, it is imperative that further steps should be 
taken to regulate the industry by international action. 
Otherwise a most interesting group of marine 
animals will be hunted to the verge of extinction, 
and a great natural asset rendered worthless to 
enrich a small group of speculators and capitalists. 
This book has been written in the hope that, before 
it is too late, steps will be taken to control this 
ruthless destruction. 

J- T. J. 



PREFACE ...... 5 



The migrations of whales The Greenland Right Whale 
The Biscayan Whale or Nordcaper The Californian 
Grey Whale The Humpback The Finners . \ 1 1 

The regulations for the protection of whales . . ... 39 


The Basque whalers The discovery of " Greenland " (Spits- 
bergen) The first British whalers ^The Spitsbergen 
fishery The whales found there The disputes between 
the English and the Dutch Edge's description of the 
fishery * * * * v '. 59 



The methods of the Dutch whalers at Spitsbergen Smeeren- 
burg The French at Spitsbergen The English Mus- 
covy Company Anderson and Gray's description of the 
fishery The German whalers The pre-eminence of the 
Dutch . . ... * . . .119 






The whalers apply for State assistance The South Sea 
Company and the Whale Fisheries Development of the 
British whaling industry as a result of the bounty 
stimulus Description of Arctic whaling voyages . . 177 



The capture of the Sperm Whale Commencement of a 
southern fishery The voyages of Colnett, Beale, and 
Bennett . . . * . ,_ .. ... 207 




Importance of whales to the early colonists Gradual exten- 
sion of the fishery Firmly established in 1775 Set- 
back caused by the Revolution Gradual recovery 
Checked again by the war of 1812 Subsequent rapid 
expansion Mid-nineteenth century American whaling 
fleet the largest ever known Gradual decline of the 
industry, and the reasons for it . f . . 4 . 223 


The introduction of steam The harpoon gun and the capture 
of Rorquals The disappearance of the old right whalers 
The Norwegian whalers Gradual extension of their 
operations The Scottish and Irish whaling stations 
Antarctic whaling 256 



INDEX 333 






FISHERY. I. * 64 


FISHERY. II. * 80 





LAbl KHatll WHAL.C. . * 

* > 


(1875) ... 

* > 













The migrations of whales The Greenland Right Whale The 
Biscayan Whale or Nordcaper The Californian Grey Whale 
The Humpback The Finners. 

" WHALES are in many respects the most interesting 
and wonderful of all creatures; there is much in 
their structure and habits well worthy of study, 
much that is difficult to understand, and much that 
leads to great generalisations and throws light upon 
far-reaching philosophical speculations." 

It is not proposed to enter into the anatomy or 
classification of the order Cetacea; to which whales, 
porpoises and dolphins belong; save in so far as 
such knowledge is required to understand the 
probable effects of whaling on the future existence 
of many species of this order of animals. A brief 
account, suitable for the general reader, may be 
obtained from such a work as " An introduction to 
the study of Mammals " by Flower and Lydekker, 



from which the above quotation is taken. But 
since zoological knowledge is not so generally 
distributed as zoological specialists imagine, it may 
be well, even at the risk of being thought plati- 
tudinous, to recapitulate some of the leading 
characteristics of the order Cetacea. 

Whales, porpoises and dolphins are mammals or, 
in the popular acceptation of the term, animals and 
not fish, that is to say they belong to that class of the 
animal kingdom which is characterised (among 
other things) by being warm-blooded, by having a 
prolonged organic connection between the mother 
and the unborn young, by the suckling of the young 
after birth, by the possession of hair and by a high 
brain development. 

Among mammals, whales are further distin- 
guished by their fish-like body, the absence of a 
distinct neck, by the reduction of the fore-limbs to 
the form of paddles or flukes, by the absence of 
externally visible hind limbs, by the presence of a 
thick layer of fat (blubber) immediately beneath the 
skin serving to retain the heat of the body, by the 
opening of the nostrils near the vertex of the head 
instead of at the tip of the snout. In nearly all 
Cetacea there is a median dorsal tegumentary fin. 
The eyes are small and there is no external ear. 
The bones are spongy, the cavities filled with 
oil. The brain-case is nearly spherical; teeth are 
generally present, but in one group in the foetal 
condition only. 

The larynx is of peculiar shape, being elongated 


to meet the posterior nares, forming a continuous 
canal down which air passes from nostrils to lungs. 
Cetaceans must rise to the surface to breathe, but 
the expiration occurs at longer intervals than in 
land mammals. 

The water vapour expelled along with the air 
from the lungs condenses into the cloud visible 
when the whale " spouts " or " blows," which is 
nothing more than the ordinary act of respiration. 

The testes are abdominal and there are no 
seminal vesicles. The mammce are two in number, 
the nipples being placed in depressions on each side 
of the vulva. The principal ducts of the mammary 
gland are, during the period of lactation, much 
dilated, forming large reservoirs in which the milk 
collects. From these reservoirs it is ejected by the 
action of a compressor muscle into the mouth of the 
young, and by this means the process of suckling in 
and under water is facilitated. 

Usually one young is born at a time, rarely two 
and never more than two. 

The sexes are easily distinguished. Details of 
the reproductive organs and " pairing " have been 
published for porpoises by Meek. 1 Off the east 
coast of England porpoises pair in July and 
August, and they are frequently taken at this time 
by the salmon net fishermen of Cullercoats. The 
summer inshore migration of these creatures is 
doubtless for the birth of the young and pairing. 

1 " The Reproductive Org-ans of Cetacea," by A. Meek, 
Journal of Anatomy, Vol. lii., p. 186. 


The period of gestation is not known with any 
certainty, but is generally supposed to be from ten 
months to over a year. 

For the common Fin-whale (Balceno-piera 
musculus, L.) it is supposed to be about eleven 
months; for the Blue Whale (B. sibbaldi, Gray) 
from eighteen to twenty months. 

Cetacea are generally gregarious, swimming in 
" schools," formerly many thousands being met 
together. They are timid, inoffensive animals, 
Affectionate in their disposition, especially the 
mother towards the young. 

All are predaceous, living on animal food. One 
form alone, the Killer Whale or Grampus (Orca 
gladiator), eats other warm-blooded forms, such as 
seals. Some feed on fish, such as herring, others 
on the plankton or drifting organisms of the surface 
layers of sea water, such as small Crustacea, while 
still others live on deep-sea cephalopods. In size 
there is great variation, some of the smaller dolphins 
scarcely exceeding four feet in length. The 
question of size has an important bearing on the 
future of the species, since whalers in the waters of 
the British Islands find it does not pay to kill 
Cetacea under forty feet in length. 

Cetacea formerly abounded in all known seas, 
some species being also found in the larger rivers 
of South America and Asia. 

Considerable information as to the species found 
in British seas and their relative abundance has 
recently been obtained from the Annual Reports of 


the whaling stations in Scotland and Ireland and 
from a return of stranded Cetacea published 
annually by the British Museum. 1 

The Cetacea are divided into two sub-orders: the 
Mystacoceti the Whalebone or True Whales; and 
the Odontoceti the Toothed Whales. (We are not 
concerned with extinct forms). 

The Mystacoceti are distinguished by the absence 
of teeth, the presence of baleen or " whalebone," 
the form and size of the mouth, a symmetrical skull, 
a distinctly developed olfactory organ, and other 
pecularities which may be ascertained in any work 
on comparative anatomy. The essential character- 
istic is that the palate carries two longitudinal 
series of transverse horny plates, with their free 
edges frayed out into a hair-like fringe, forming a 
uniform mat-like surface during life. 

Lydekker enumerates five genera and nine 
species of Whalebone Whales, and of these seven 
species are (or were) sufficiently abundant to be the 
objects of commercial exploitation. 

For practical purposes Neobalczna marginata, a 
small whale of Australian and New Zealand 
waters, and Rhachianectes glaucus, the Grey 
Whale of the North Pacific, may be ignored, the 
former from its small size (under twenty feet), the 
latter from its rarity. 2 

1 British Museum (Natural History), " Report on Cetacea 
stranded on the British Coasts," by S. F. Harmer. Seven parts 
issued up to ig2i, i.e., for years ig 14-20. 

2 But see " Present Condition of the Californian Grey Whale 
Fishery," by C. H. Townsend, U.S. Fish. Comm. Bull . Vol vi 
for 1836-87. (See aflso p. 253.) 


The three remaining genera, the Right Whales 
(Balcznd), the Humpback Whales (Megaptera) and 
the Rorquals or Finners (Baltznoptera) are all 
pursued by commercial whalers. Some representa- 
tives of all three genera are found in waters 
surrounding the British Isles, the Finners or 
Rorquals being the commonest. 

Lydekker recognises two species of Right Whale, 
the Greenland or Arctic Right Whale (Balcena 
mysticetus) and the Southern Right Whale (Balcena 
australis}. The Southern Right Whale is sub- 
divided into so-called species or varieties according 
to their geographical distribution, e.g., the B. bis- 
cayensis of the North Atlantic, B. japonica of the 
North Pacific, B. australis of the South Atlantic, 
and B. antipodarum and B. novce-zealandice of the 
South Pacific. 

The variety known to the whalers as the Nord- 
caper (B. biscayensis) is the only Right Whale 
taken in the seas off the British Islands. It is by 
no means uncommon off the Hebrides, twenty being 
taken there in 1908, twenty-one in 1909, and five 
in 1910. In this year the Nordcaper was taken for 
the first time on the Shetland grounds, four 
specimens being captured. In 1911 there were no 
Right Whales taken anywhere in Scottish waters, 
eleven in 1912, one in 1913, and five in 1914. 
There was no whaling in the five following years on 
account of the war. 

The species of Balaena or Right Whale are most 
readily distinguished from the other whales by their 


smooth throat and the absence of a dorsal fin. In 
the Humpback and Finners or Rorquals the skin of 
the throat is plicated. The Right Whales were 
probably the first to be the subject of chase by 
man, and the Atlantic Right Whale (B. biscayensis) 
was pursued by Basque fishermen from the earliest 
times of which we have any record o f whaling 
(from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries). 

The Greenland or Arctic Right Whale is 
probably the same species as the " Bowhead " of 
the Okhotsk Sea and Behring Strait, and is there- 
fore circumpolar in range. It attains a length of 
from forty-five to fifty feet, and although a truly ice 
whale, has for centuries been the object of an 
extensive fishery. It has never been reported in the 
waters off the British Islands. 

The Southern Right Whale, which is distin- 
guished from the former species by possessing a 
smaller head in proportion to its body, had also been 
extensively hunted by whalemen. If we admit, 
with Lydekker, that all the varieties are really only 
one species, then it is seen that this whale is very 
widely distributed in the temperate seas of both 
northern and southern hemispheres. 

The Humpback (Megaptera hoops), which grows 
to about fifty feet, resembles the Rorquals in 
having throat-grooves and a dorsal fin, but differs 
in its very long flipper (pectoral fins), from ten to 
fourteen feet in length, having the outer surface 
white and the front edge scalloped. The whalebone 
is black. 



This species is relatively abundant in British seas, 
fifty-nine being captured in Scottish waters in the 
eleven years 1904-14. In 1863 a young female 
humpbacked whale was stranded on a sandbank 
in the Mersey opposite Speke (not in the Dee, as 
stated by Lydekker). This species probably derives 
its name from the low hump-like character of the 
dorsal fin. 

The Rorquals, Fin-whales, Fin-backs, Finners 
or Razorbacks are species of the genus Balsenoptera. 
They form the mainstay of the whale fisheries in 
British waters, where four species occur. 

Rorquals are of extremely wide distribution, 
being found in all seas except in extreme Arctic and 
Antarctic regions. The name Rorqual is derived 
from the Norse Rorq-val, signifying a whale with 
pleats or folds in the skin. Compared with the 
Humpback, the Rorquals are long and slender, the 
furrows of the throat are more numerous and closer 
set, the pectoral fin is comparatively small, and the 
tail much compressed before it is expanded into 

Owing to their great activity these whales were 
not much pursued until the introduction of the small 
modern steam whalers with gun and explosive 

Of the four British species the smaller or lesser 
Fin-whale or Rorqual (Balcenoptera rostrata) rarely 
exceeds thirty feet, and is exempt on that account 
from the attention of the whalers. 

Of the other three, the Blue Whale (Sibbald's 


Whale Balcznoptera sibbaldi) is the largest of all 
living creatures. It attains a length of eighty or even 
eighty-five feet. It spends, like the other species of 
the Rorqual, the winter in the open sea, approaching 
the land at the end of April or beginning of May. 

The Common Rorqual or Finner (Balcznoptera 
musculus) grows to seventy feet, and is the 
commonest of all the large whales on the British 
coasts. It feeds on fish, and is frequently seen 
among the herring shoals. 

Rudolphi's Rorqual or the Sei Whale (Balcenop- 
tera borealis) is a smaller edition to the common 
Finner, attaining -a length of from thirty-eight to 
fifty feet. Until recently it was considered the 
rarest of European whales, but in 1906 no less than 
three hundred and twenty-six specimens of this 
species were taken by the whalers in Scottish waters. 

Hundreds of Rorquals are annually captured in 
British waters (see Appendix V), and every year 
specimens are stranded on our coasts. 

The sub-order of the Odontoceti comprises the 
toothed whales, in which calcified teeth are always 
present after birth. These teeth are generally 
numerous, though in some cases only a few are 
present. There is no baleen or whale " bone." 
The upper surface of the skull is more or less 
asymmetrical. The olfactory organ is rudimentary 
or absent. For details of the anatomical differences 
between this and the preceding sub-order of the 
Mystacoceti a textbook on Comparative Anatomy, 
such as Flower and Lyddeker, should be consulted. 


The Odontoceti are represented by three living and 
one extinct families, of these one family only, the 
Sperm Whale (Physetendcs)^ is of any considerable 
economic importance. 

Two Physeterids have been the object of a 
considerable fishery, the Sperm Whale or Cachalot 
(Physeter macro cephalus) and the Bottlenose 
(Hyper oo don restrains). 

The Sperm Whale is one of the largest of animals 
equalling, if not exceeding, in bulk the Greenland 
Right Whale, which it further resembles in having 
been from the early days of whaling the object of 
an important fishery. The Sperm Whale is very 
widely distributed, being found (until it Became 
scarcer through over-fishing) in " schools " in all 
tropical and sub-tropical seas, but only accidentally 
in arctic or sub-arctic water. Occasionally 
stragglers appear in the waters of the British Islands, 
and are caught by the commercial whalers working 
these waters, or even washed ashore. In the ten 
years 1904-13 no less than sixty-six Sperm Whales 
were captured by the whalers in Scottish waters ; in 
Irish waters in the years 1909-13 the number was 
forty-four. On 23rd May, 1917, a Sperm Whale 
was stranded at Latheron, Caithness. 

Details of the Sperm Whale fishery are given 
below. The so-called " Southern " fishery of the 
British, the Pacific fisheries of British and American 
whalers were mainly for this species. Although not 
extinct, this species has been so much hunted and 
harassed that it no longer serves as the sole object 


of a fishery, though, as already stated, it is still not 
infrequently captured with other species, even in the 
waters surrounding the British Isles. 

Of the other Physeterids the only one of economic 
importance is the " Bottlenose " (Hyperoodon 
rostratus\ a regular inhabitant of the North Atlantic, 
where it passes the summer in Spitsbergen waters, 
going farther south in winter. Captain Gray 1 
says: " These whales are occasionally met with 
immediately after leaving the Shetlands in March 
and north across the ocean till the ice is reached." 
They are met with from the entrance to Hudson 
Strait and up Davis Strait as far as 70 N., and 
down the east side round Cape Farewell, all round 
Iceland, north along the Greenland Ice to 77 N., 
also along the west coast of Spitsbergen, and east to 
Bear Island. In the period 1905-13 twenty-four 
Bottlenose Whales were captured in Scottish waters. 
The second family of Odontoceti, the Platanistidae, 
are small Cetacea, inhabiting the rivers and estuaries 
of certain rivers in the tropics. They are of no 
commercial importance. 

The third and last family, the Delphinidas, com- 
prise the porpoises and dolphins of our waters as 
well as the Narwhal of Arctic seas. None of the 
members of this family is the object of a regular 
fishery, except the Pilot Whale, Ca'ing Whale or 
Grindhval of the Faroes and the Shetlands, which 
at times is the object of a regular fiord fishery well 
described by Miiller. 2 

1 Proceedings Zoological Society, 1882. 

3 " Whale Fishing- in the Faroe Isles,"- by Sysselmand H. C. 


This statement is, however, not strictly correct, 
since the White Whale or Beluga (Delphinapterus 
leucas) was fished for by the early English whalers 
at Spitsbergen, but not by the Dutch. 1 

It was described under the name of " Sewria " by 
Thomas Edge in 1609. The White Whales were 
captured in the bays by nets or driven ashore by the 
same means. In 1670 there is a record of a 
Greenland ship arriving in Yarmouth Roads with 
" about twenty-four tons of oil made from white- 
fish." 2 The Russian trappers, who frequented 
Spitsbergen in the nineteenth century, were provided 
with long nets which they used in such places as 
Cross Road and Green Harbour, for the capture of 
White Whales in the event of a school approaching 
their station in the open season of the year. 3 

In the first place, are whales to be considered 
as coastal or deep-sea animals? According to 
Vanhoffen 4 whales are generally seen in coastal or 
bank areas and rarely in the open ocean or deep 
sea ; the reason being that they find more abundant 
food in the former localities. Recent information as 
to the distribution of plankton (the floating organ- 
isms which form the food of the Whalebone Whales) 
shows that it is found much more abundantly over 
the continental shelf and shallow banks than over 

Miiller, " Fish and Fisheries," Prize Essays, International 
Fisheries Exhibition, Edinburgh, 1883. 

1 Zorgdrager. Bloyende Opkomst,, ist edition, p. 162. 

3 State Papers, Domestic, 1660-70, p. 433. 

3 Conway, " No Man's Land," p. 255. 

* Anat. Anz., Bd. xxii., 1899, p. 396. 



deep water. This plankton, even when it does not 
serve as the direct food of certain species of whales, 
nevertheless forms the basis of the food supply of 
the cephalopods and fish on which these whales 

Guldberg 1 agrees with this theory provided that 
too narrow an interpretation is not placed on the 
word " coastal." Unquestionably the food problem 
is the one which mainly governs the movements of 
whales, and therefore they are most often met with 
in localities where such food is most abundant. The 
coastal areas and banks are naturally very extensive, 
and not susceptible of being closed (either partially 
or wholly) to whaling operations by the governments 
of the countries off whose shores they lie. For 
instance, the Kodiac ground in the Pacific Ocean is 
a very extensive area covering hundreds of square 
miles. There is, however, one whale which is 
unquestionably not to be regarded as coastal in its 
habitat, and that is the Cachalot or Sperm Whale. 
When a whale is found to live mainly or exclusively 
on a given species of plankton the distribution of 
the whale corresponds with the distribution of that 
species. The second factor in the distribution of 
the whale is reproduction. The female whale seeks 
out a quiet area for the birth of her young and for 
the first few months of its life. Pairing also, for the 
most part, takes place in quiet weather, although 
there are very few authentic observations of this. 
A third factor is the water temperature. 

1 Biol. Cenlralblatt.y xxiii. and xxiv., 1903- j. 


One of the most important whales to the earliest 
northern whalers was the Polar or Greenland, or 
Right Whale, the Bowhead of the Americans 
(Balcena mysticetus). This whale appears to make 
regular seasonal migrations. In summer it is found 
in the farthest northern waters, e.g., in 75 to 
78 N. Latitude in Baffin Bay. In winter it 
migrates farther south, being found as low as 65 
N. Latitude on the east side of Greenland, or even 
in 58 N. on the west side. It frequents the water 
between the ice-floes where abundant Pteropoda 
(Clio borealis) and Entomostraca are met with. 
Although it is found in more open water in summer 
it never moves far from the ice. 

In former times, as will be seen from the sequel 
(Chapter III) this whale was very abundant off 
Spitsbergen. According to Martens, it was found in 
spring in the west near Jan Mayen and Greenland, 
but in summer in open water east of Spitsbergen. 

It is doubtful whether the Greenland Right 
Whale was found off the northern Norwegian coast 
in earlier historical times. At any rate the earliest 
whalers, who probably fished in these waters, 
distinguished between this whale and the " Nord- 
caper." The Greenland Right Whale is not found 
now in Scandinavian waters, though the balance of 
evidence is that it was so found in the seventeenth 
century, at any rate in severe winters. 

A true migration of the Greenland Right Whale 
is mentioned by Brown (1875) who describes 
hundreds as moving together from Paul's Bay 


(Baffin Land) to Lancaster Sound. Scammon 
gives the ground of the Bowhead, as the American 
whalers call this whale, in winter at 55 N. or 
in Okhotsk Sea 54 or 53 N. Latitude, while in 
summer it keeps to the edge of the ice. 

Off Northern Asia, from Nova Zembla eastward, 
the Greenland Right Whale is not met with. 

In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth 
centuries, from 1611 onwards, there was a regular 
fishery in Arctic waters between Spitsbergen and 
Greenland for this whale, but it has now practically 
disappeared in these waters. This is unquestion- 
ably due to over " fishing " on the part of the 
whalers. First of all the bay fishery at Spitsbergen 
was exhausted (about 1623), then the open water 
between Spitsbergen and the ice off Greenland, 
then Davis Strait and Baffin Bay were in turn 
exploited. In 1896 the Scottish whaling fleet of 
nine ships obtained only eleven species of this whale. 
In 1901 six Scottish whaling steamers caught four- 
teen Greenland Whales. The history of the whale 
fisheries shows clearly that in the Arctic region 
between Northern America and Europe this species 
of whale has almost become extinct. In the 
American-Arctic regions this same whale (Bowhead) 
still holds its own to some extent, since whaling only 
commenced here two hundred years after the 
Spitsbergen fishery. Moreover, the whaling season 
north of Behring Strait is a much shorter one. 
There were then originally three chief areas in 
which this whale was found : 


(1) The eastern Spitsbergen-Greenland area. 

(2) A western Greenland - Arctic - North - 

American area. 

(3) The American-Asiatic area. (Behring 


The first area has now been fished to death, the 
second has only a few whales still left, whereas in 
the third the whale holds its own fairly well. No 
census of this whale is possible ; we have no accurate 
idea of its former abundance. The recovery of a 
species of whale of the dimensions of the Greenland 
Right Whale from the effects of over-fishing is 
extremely slow. The females carry the young for 
probably at least a year; then there is a period of 
helplessness and dependence on the mother during 
the time of suckling. Possibly the mother only 
bears one young every second year. There are 
many factors, most of which cannot be estimated, 
but on the whole the evidence is in favour of a very 
slow recovery. 

The second important whale to the old whalers 
was the Nordcaper (Balcena biscayensisy which 
formerly frequented the European and American 
coasts of the North Atlantic. This whale was 
probably hunted by the Biscayans in the eleventh 
and twelfth centuries, although their principal fishery 
seems to have been in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries. The chase went more and more to the 

1 Or according to some authorities a variety of Balcena 


north as the whales became scarce and shy through 
excessive hunting, until ultimately the chief whaling 
grounds were off Iceland and y the North Cape of 
Norway. The Biscay ans, who called this whale 
" Sarda " (the Norwegian names were Nordcaper or 
Slettibakka) hunted it from October to February. 
In the summer it went farther north where it was, like 
the Greenland Right Whale, hunted by the Dutch 
and other early Spitsbergen whalers. In these waters 
it is now extremely rare. Stranded Nordcapers 
have been found in the Mediterranean at Taranto 
and Algiers. The Norwegian whaling records from 
1884 to 1891 show that this whale is still found in 
summer in Icelandic waters. Its range is from the 
'Azores and Bermudas in the south to Bear Island in 
the north. The whalers distinguished this species 
from the Polar or Greenland Right Whale as early 
as 1611, the latter being more valuable and also 
more easy to kill. The earliest American whalers 
caught the Nordcaper on the New England coasts 
in the early years of the seventeenth century. The 
season here lasted from early November to March 
or April. 

Before America was colonised it is probable 
that occasional specimens of this whale were killed 
by the Indians. Certainly, the earliest colonists 
captured it off the coasts of New Hampshire, 
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. 
The period of prosperity of this whaling ranged, 
in New England, from 1750 to 1784. The acci- 
dental discovery of a Sperm Whale off this coast 


and the developments it led to are described later 
(Chapter VII). 

Probably there were two main groups of the 
Nordcaper (B. biscayensis)\ one on the American 
and the other on the European coasts of the 
North Atlantic. The European stock first became 
reduced. The history of nineteenth-century whal- 
ing shows that this whale, like its near relative, the 
Greenland Right Whale, has sadly diminished on 
its old feeding grounds. More recently it appears 
to have increased in numbers. It is certainly of 
migratory habits, being found in winter to the south, 
and in summer to the north. 

In the northern half of the Pacific is found the 
Japan Whale or the Right Whale of the north-west 
coast, but whether this is a variety of the Nordcaper 
or is identical with the Southern Right Whale 
(Balcena australis] is doubtful. This whale ranges 
from the Aleutian Islands in the north to the coasts 
of Japan and Oregon. The Japanese and the 
American Pacific whalers both hunted this species. 
In Scammon's time (1874) it was very abundant off 
the Pacific coast of the United States. Its chief 
habitat was the celebrated " Kodiac Ground " from 
Vancouver Island north-west to the Aleutian chain, 
and from the west coast to 150 W. Longitude. 
There were large shoals also in the southern part 
of Behring Sea, off the coast of Kamschatka and in 
the Sea of Okhotsk. 

Off the American north-west coast this whale was 
hunted by the American whalers in summer from 


April to September inclusive; in spring from 
February to April south of 29 N. Latitude in the 
Bay of St Sebastian Viscaino and round the Cerres 

The Southern Right Whale (Balcena australis) is 
regarded by some cetologists as the same species as 
the Nordcaper and the Japan Whale. A century 
and a half ago the southern waters were full of these 
whales. The American whalers alone caugh. 
193,522 whales of this species in southern water? 
from 1804 to 1817. In spite of the fact that millio 
of dollars were made and thousands of whales kill ,, 
we have not sufficient information for a correct 
zoological differentiation of this species. This 
whale is also migratory, leaving and seeking colder 
and warmer water according to the season. It is, 
on the whole, a whale of temperate seas and possibly 
not found to any extent in Antarctic waters, 1 although 
other species are at present found there in great 
abundance, where they are the object of incessant 
slaughter by the Norwegian whalers; the last phase, 
in the History of Whaling. 

The California Grey Whale (Rhachianectes 
glaucus) is an inhabitant of the Pacific coasts of the 
North American continent. From November to 
May it is found off the coast of California, where the 
female enters the lagoons to give birth to the young, 
the male remaining outside off the coast. Later the 
male enters the lagoons (at the end of winter) and 
then the male, female, and young are seen migrating 

1 Racowitza. Expedition. Antarctique Beige, 1903. 


to the northward, swimming close inshore. The 
California Grey Whale is a true coastal species. 

In the summer it frequents Behring Sea and 
Okhotsk Sea. In autumn it is again noticed, from 
October to November, off the coast of Oregon. It 
does not appear to migrate below 20 N. Latitude. 
This whale is also known to the Japanese under the 
name " Kokujira." It was also hunted by the 
Indians, on its migration, in the Straits of Fuca 
(Vancouver), and near Charlotte Island. 

The Nordcaper and California Grey Whale are 
essentially plankton feeders. 

According to Andrews 1 the annual migration of 
the California Grey Whale occurs as regularly as 
the seasons. On both sides of the Pacific the 
migrations take place almost at the same time. 
Along the Korean coast near the end of November 
single pregnant females appear, travelling steadily 
southwards; a little later both males and females 
are seen, finally males bring up the rear, all having 
passed by 25th January. 

During the latter part of the nineteenth century 
the hunting of the whale by small steamers specially 
built to carry a harpoon gun, has led to an enor- 
mous destruction of Finner Whales or Rorquals 
(Balcenop tended). Many thousands of these 
whales have been killed by the harpoon gun (see 
p. 272). 

Of the Balsenopteridae the Humpback (Megaptera 
hoops) is one of the most important. It was known 

1 " Whale hunting with gun and Camera," New York, 1916. 


to the old Norwegians as " Skeljungr." It is of 
wide distribution, being found in the southern and 
northern parts of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Indian 
and Pacific Oceans, in the latter as far north as 
Behring Strait. Probably there is only one species 
of Humpback, though at different times several 
species have been described by cetologists. 

The Humpback is found in August and 
September in high northerly latitudes. In 
November it migrates to the south, and after the 
winter is over, north again. In February it is 
abundant off the Bermudas, leaving there in May 
for Greenland, Baffin Bay, and the Finmark 
coast (Norway). 

At the end of the summer, it leaves northern 
waters again and seeks the African coast or the 
West Indies. The Humpback crosses the Equator 
off the Peruvian coast. According to Scammon, 
individual Humpbacks are recognised by the 
whalers ; off Greenland the same individuals are met 
with from year to year, and they even have their 

Hjort has recently collected important informa- 
tion on the migration of the Humpback, 1 which in 
the North Atlantic feeds on either a small crustacean 
or a small fish (Osmerus arcticus), preferring the 
former. Hjort analysed the whalers' catches for 
1896 and 1898, and found that the Humpback 
approaches the Norwegian coast at two different 
seasons of the year, firstly in February and March, 

1 Fiskeri og Hvalfangst i det Nordlige Norge t Berg-en, igo2. 


and secondly in June and July. The Humpback 
swims quietly and slowly in summer, but otherwise 
in winter when it moves to the westward with the 
speed of a steamer, and approaches the coast as 
nearly as possible. Many whalers believe that it 
rubs itself on the stones of the coast to free itself 
of parasites. Certain it is that the whole Varanger 
Fiord in the month of March simply bubbles or 
boils with these whales. 

On the Finmark coast the Humpbacks are 
noticed to have their stomachs empty in the 
migration period. The females are pregnant, being 
near the birth period. 

At the beginning of April they are found feeding 
on fish. Where they go when they leave the 
Norwegian coast is not certain, possibly to the 
African coast, or the Cape Verde Islands or the 

The spring migration of the Humpback from the 
Norwegian coast is concerned with its reproduction. 
The female probably carries her young for eleven 
months. Whether pairing takes place soon after 
the birth of the young, as in the seals, is not known. 
The Bear Island whalers have observed the young 
suckling when twenty feet long. The larger young 
ones follow their mother even in the subsequent year 
when they leave the Finmark coast. Where the 
northern Humpback goes in the season from autumn 
to the following January or Febuary is not known, 
because the whaling season finishes in September. 
The Humpback is also found off the Greenland 


coast in summer in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay 
from 62 to 76 N. Latitude, leaving the open water 
at the end of summer. 

Recently whaling has been tried off the New- 
foundland coast. In 1902 there were two whaling 
steamers working in these waters, and from the ist 
January to the igth April they caught five Hump- 
backs; but from the 2Oth April to the end of 
August, over one hundred. They were most 
abundant in May and June. They probably pass 
through these waters on their way north. 

The Humpback appears to be distributed into 
groups or races in the different seas of the world, 
each group possibly frequenting a more or less 
limited but still somewhat extensive area. There 
are two such groups in the Atlantic, one in the 
north, the other in the south. There may be one 
(or two) groups in the Indian and several in the 
Pacific Oceans. Each group has its own migration 
paths. The North Atlantic group is found between 
the old and the new world from June to late autumn 
(or possibly to the following February or March) in 
high latitudes off the coasts of Greenland, Iceland, 
Jan Mayen, and northern Norway. In autumn they 
probably scatter in shoals looking for the best 
feeding-places. The females are still accompanied 
by their young. The best feeding-places are 
probably in the " Florida Current " or Gulf Stream, 
off the Norwegian coast. Both in November 
and in February the favourite food of the Hump- 
back, the small Crustacea Boreo-phausia and Nycti- 



phanes norwegicus are still abundant in 67^ N. 

There are only very few records of the appearance 
of the Humpback in winter. In April and May 
they are also absent from the Northern Whaling 

There are few records of the Humpback in the 
^uth Atlantic. In the North Pacific it is well 
\r i^wn to the coastal inhabitants. The chief hunt- 
ing grounds of the Indians were the Bays of 
Magdalena, Balena, and Monterey. The visits of 
the Humpbacks here are regular, in autumn they all 
leave for the south, and in summer they move 

In Antarctic regions the Humpback appears to be 
the commonest whale. There are two main groups 
apparently, the South American, and the South 

The most recent account of the migrations of the 
Humpback is that given by Risting 1 and Olsen, 2 
the former dealing with northern seas, the latter with 
the conditions off the east and west coasts of South 

Risting concludes that the Humpback's migra- 
tions, both north and south of the Equator, are 
divisible into a feeding migration towards the Polar 
Seas and a breeding migration into warmer regions. 
These migrations are so regular that once the 

1 Hval-fangsten i 1912. Bergen, 1013. 

8 Orjan Olsen. See a report in N^twen ^-die Hefte, 1912, 


whalers have found a station from which the Hump- 
back can be hunted its extermination is easier than 
that of any other species. The percentage of 
Humpbacks, to total whales captured in the Ant- 
arctic waters of the Falkland Dependencies, sank 
from 968 in 1910-11 to 2-5 in 1917-18. 

On its breeding migration the Humpback moves 
with great speed, keeping at the same time close to 
the land. The migration westward of the Hump- 
back along the Finmark coast, already referred to as 
taking place in February and March, is that of 
individuals coming from the east sea, where they 
must have spent the winter. At this time the 
females are nearly ready to give birth to their 
young. The second appearance off the Finmark 
coast is from June to August. In the meanwhile 
they have been observed off the coast of North- West 
Africa in April and May, where they are accom- 
panied by the newly-born young. In their return 
journey they pass the whaling stations off the Faroes 
and Hebrides. Comparatively small numbers of 
this species are killed by the whalers in Scottish 
(Appendix V) and Irish (p. 281) waters. In 
autumn, when the water becomes colder, the Hump- 
back migrates northward into the eastern parts of 
the northern sea, where it passes the winter, and 
here its food consists partly of herring. 

A similar migration appears to take place on the 
American side of the Atlantic, where the Humpback 
is abundant in Greenland waters during summer 
and early autumn. At its inception, whaling in 


Antarctic waters was almost entirely dependent on 
the Humpback. Here the plankton on which this 
whale feeds begins to become abundant in Novem- 
ber, and this food is carried by the currents towards 
the coast of the great South Polar Island groups. 
The Humpback now puts in an appearance, being 
at first in poor condition, but as the summer 
advances it rapidly gets fatter, being at its best from 
February to April. With the approach of the 
southern winter the Humpback moves north into 
warmer waters where the young are born and pair- 
ing takes place. The females captured off South 
Georgia and the South Shetlands in summer are 
nearly all pregnant. In its northern migration the 
Humpback approaches the coasts of the continents 
where it is found from the middle of May, or even 
earlier, off South America and Africa. The migra- 
tion lasts till the end of July, the Humpback even 
going north of the Equator. 

The large proportion of Humpbacks captured by 
whalers off the Natal coast is referred to below 
(p. 295). Towards the end of August the south- 
ward migration along these coasts begins, and this 
lasts until November; the females now being 
accompanied by their young. Similar migration 
takes place in the Pacific on both sides of the 
Equator. Off the African coast the birth of the 
young Humpbacks takes place in the warm 
Mozambique current. According to Olsen, the first 
Humpbacks arrive at the breeding-places off Portu- 
guese West and East Africa at the beginning of 


June, the majority arriving in mid-July. The 
females and young are seen moving south off Angola 
as early as the end of August, and the majority 
have left the African coast by October. A similar 
migration of Humpbacks takes place between 
New Zealand and the adjacent waters of the 

Here again the northward migration is for 
breeding purposes. 

In the genus Balaenoptera (Finner Whales) are 
found the largest living creatures. 

In the North Atlantic waters four species are 
distinguished (see above, p. 18). 

The Blue Whale (Balcenoptera sibbaldi) is the 
largest of all living animals. It lives mainly on 
small pelagic Crustacea (Boreophausid), and is a 
true plankton whale. It can devour one thousand 
litres of Crustacea at a meal. Many thousands of 
this whale have been taken off the Norwegian coasts 
since 1865. The Blue Whale is of migratory 
habits. It appears in the north in spring, in many 
years appearing in the Varanger Fiord on 8th May. 

It also appears off Iceland in spring, and off 
Newfoundland in February. Where it goes in 
winter is not known. The Blue Whale is also found 
on the Japan grounds. 

The Sei Whale (Bal&noptera borealis) is also a 
true plankton whale, and is found from Biarritz to 
the North Cape. The majority of the whales 
captured off the Faroes belong to this species. The 
common Finner (Balceno'ptera musculns or physalus) 


is distributed over the whole Atlantic Ocean. The 
lesser Finner (B. rostratd) has a very wide distri- 
bution. Both these whales are fish-eaters. The 
common Finner follows the shoals of herring and 
" lodde " (Osmerus\ and approaches the coasts at 
the same time that they do. 

Reference is made below (p. 56) to the 
legislation affecting the hunting of whales in 
Norwegian waters. According to Guldberg, this 
prohibition of hunting the whales in Norwegian 
waters can only damage the local whalers, without 
protecting the whales, since they all migrate over 
large areas. 

What of the future of these whales? An 
extinction of the Finners is perhaps hardly 
possible, although the number of individuals of 
these species is unquestionably diminishing rapidly. 
In the case of the Right Whales and Sperm 
Whales it is already a thing of the past for vessels 
to fit out solely for their capture. Only by inter- 
national regulation can the future of the whales 
and the continued prosperity of whaling itself be 

The migrations of the toothed whales, the 
Cachalot (Chapter VI) and the Bottlenose (p. 269) 
are dealt with elsewhere. 


The regulations for the protection of whales. 

ORIGINALLV -vhr.!-.s were hur f ed fo? their oil 
Their bodies are covered, immediately uiider th<L 
skin, with a layer of fat or blubber, which in a 
large specimen is from twelve to eighteen inches 
thick. In young whales this blubber resemblej 
hog's lard, in old ones it is of a reddish colour. 
This was formerly considered to be the valuable 
part of the whale, but, as will be seen, very little of 
the whale's carcass is now wasted. The blubber 
yields by expression and boiling nearly its own 
weight of a thick viscid oil (train oil). The word 
train has nothing to do with railways, but is derived 
from the Dutch " Traan," a tear, i.e., a drop. Th 
oil was originally used in the old-fashioned 
offensive " whale oil " lamps as an illuminant. 
Early in the nineteenth century it became gradually 
displaced by other illuminants. 

A full account of the uses of whale oil is give,a 
by Scoresby (1820). Up to that date it was 
largely used in the lighting of the streets of towns, 



and the interior of places of worship, houses, shops 
and factories. It was extensively employed in the 
manufacture of soft soap and in the preparation of 
leather and coarse woollen cloths, in the manu- 
facture of coarse varnishes and paints, and as a 
lubricant for machinery. A gas was manufactured 
from whale oil in 1816 or 1817, and in 1819 
Ipswich, Norwich and other towns in England 
lighted their streets with gas made from oil. 

The discovery of petroleum in America in 1859 
decided the fate of whale oil as an illuminant. 

Modern methods of extraction of oil and its uses 
are dealt with below. 

A superior kind of oil was found in the head of 
the Sperm Whale. 

In this whale the valuable part was the spongy 
mass dug from the cavity of the head. 

Spermaceti may be defined as a neutral, inodorous 
and nearly tasteless fatty substance extracted from 
the oily matter of the head of the Sperm Whale by 
filtration and treatment with potash-ley. It is 
white, brittle, soft to the touch with a specific 
gravity of 0-943 at 15, melts from 38 to 47. 

Spermaceti was formerly used in the manufacture 
of candles, being mixed with beeswax to preyent 
granulation. It is also used in the manufacture of 
unguents and ointments. 

At one period in the history of whaling whale- 
bone was the most important product of the fishery. 
" Whalebone " is a substance of horny nature 
adhering in thin parallel laminae to the upper jaw 


of certain species of whales. It acts as a strainer 
in the whale's mouth, detaining its food. Some 
three hundred of these plates are found in the mouth 
of an adult whale, their length being in the Green 
land Whale from ten to twelve feet. They art 
very flexible, strong, elastic and light. 

The yalue of the " bone " lies in the fact that 
when softened with hot water or by heating before 
a fire, it retains any given shape, provided it is 
secured in that shape until cold. 

Whalebone at one time commanded a very high 
price, since it served as a base for the rigid stays 
and expanded hoops of our great-grandmothers. 
The Dutch have at times obtained seven hundred 
pounds a ton for it, and it is said their export trade 
to England for this one article alone reached the 
annual sum of a hundred thousand pounds. In 
1763 its price was five hundred pounds per ton. 
In the early part of the nineteenth century its price 
varied from sixty to three hundred pounds, seldom 
falling to the lowest rate and rarely exceeding a 
hundred and fifty pounds. Scoresby estimated the 
price for the five years ending 1818 at ninety 
pounds per ton, but in July, 1830, it was quoted a* 
a hundred and sixty to a hundred and eighty pounds 
per ton. 

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the 
American fishery depended almost exclusively on 
whalebone. 1 

1 " Whalebone Its Production and Utilisation," by Charles 
H. Stevenson, U.S.A. Bureau of Fisheries Document, No. 626, 
Washington Governine; i '. '. .g ^ ace, :g 


Ambergris, another product of the whale fishery, 
is now regarded as a secretion from the intestines 
of the Sperm Whale, a result of disease. It may 
be defined as a light, inflammable, fatty substance, 
opaque in lustre, ashy in colour, with variegations 
like marble, and giving forth a pleasant odour when 
heated. It is now used exclusively in the prepara- 
tion of perfumes, haying the property of adding to 
the strength of other perfumes. 

Ambergris is comparatively rare, and is worth 
more than its weight in gold. 
x In a modern factory very little of the whale's 
body is wasted. Burfield 1 has described the modus 
operandi at a modern whaling factory. 

In July, 1920, the author visited the whaling 
station at Bunaveneader (Hebrides), and from 
personal observation from information kindly 
supplied by Mr Herlofson, the manager there, and 
from Burfield, the following summary is compiled. 

The chief products now are : Oil, whalebone, 
meat (both food for human beings and cattle), 
manure, bonemeal, salted meat, and spermaceti; 
with two subsidiary products ambergris and sperm 
teeth. Oil is still the most important product. 
To extract it every part of the animal, except the 
whalebone and sperm teeth, is boiled for twenty- 
four hours. The whale is towed to the factory from 
he place where it was killed, and anchored to a 
buoy until the factory is ready for it. A large chain 

1 Belmullet Whaling- Station. Report of the Committee of the 
British Association, Section D, Dundee, 1912. 


is then attached round the tail connected to a steel 
warp, and the whale is slowly hauled up the flensing- 
slip by means of a steam winch. The animal is 
drawn up on its side or back ; owing to the distension 
of the abdomen by the accumulation of gases the 
whale floats in this position. The flensing plane 
has to be strongly built, since a sixty foot whale 
weighs from seventy to eighty tons. 

The first process is the stripping off the blubber 
" blanket." This is done by the blubber-flensers, 
whose work consists exclusively in stripping off the 
blubber and taking out the baleen. The blubber 
is cut through along the mid-dorsal and ventral 
lines, two cuts being also made on each side. 
There are thus three strips taken off each side of 
the whale. A chain fastened to a steel-wire rope 
is attached to the head end of each of these strips, 
the blubber being taken off from the head end 
towards the tail by the assistance of a steam winch, 
the flensers using their knives to ensure the blubber 
coming off without the meat. 

The blubber is now cut up into manageable 
blocks by labourers. The blocks are further 
divided by a revolving circular knife ; and are thus 
transferred into fairly small pieces into the boilers 
as soon as removed from the whale. 

After the blubber is removed a " meat-flenser " 
cuts off the whale's head, which is chopped up 
separately. The carcass, from which the intestines 
have been removed, is also dealt with by the meat 
flenser, who strips the meat from the bones, the 


whole of the meat being taken off in four strips, 
two on each side. Finally he cuts up the backbone, 
and the whole of the meat and bones in manageable 
pieces is raised by elevators and tipped into boilers. 

The blubber-boilers are open, but the meat and 
bone boilers are closed, the pressure of the steam in 
the latter helping to extract the less abundant oil. 
The blubber is given three successive boilings, the 
average duration of each being eight hours. 

After each boiling the contents settle, the oil 
being run off into vats. At the third boiling the 
boiler is closed at the top, the steam pressing the 
contents to ensure complete extraction of the oil. 
Ultimately all the fat disappears, a dark mud 
remaining. All the oil, blood and scraps which 
accumulate when the whale is being cut up, are 
gathered together and boiled, and at one factory in 
1911 no less than two hundred barrels of No. 4 
oil were obtained in this way, the value being 
about six hundred pounds. 

The oils are classified according to quality: 

1. Spermaceti (from head of Sperm Whale). 

2. Sperm blubber oil. 

3. No. i oil (from blubber of Fin- whales). 

4. No. 2. oil (from second boiling- of blubber of Fin-whales). 

5. No. 3 oil (from meat and blubber in closed boiler). 

6. No. 4 oil (from bones, scraps, and sperm meat). 

Most of the oil is used for soap-making, but 
during the war it was sold to manufacturers of 
explosives for extraction of glycerine. The lower 
grades are chiefly used for the manufacture of 
lubricating greases. 


A rough average of the yield of the four 
commoner species of whale captured at British 
stations is : 


1. Rudolphis Rorqual or Seihval (Balanofitera borealis) . 10 

2. Common Fin-whale (B. musculus) 15-70 

3. Blue Whale (B. sibbaldi) 50-70 

4. Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) . . . f ,-80 

The whalebone plates are separated, scrubbed, and 
soaked in warm soda solution, washed in warm wat^r 
and dried in the open. When dry they are packed 
in sacks. The baleen from the Fin-whales giver, 
fourteen sacks to the ton. Most of the whalebone 
goes to Paris, where it is used in the form of fint: 
threads woven into silken fabrics for stiffening 

The residue from the meat and bones is dried b 
a large rotating cylinder. The dried products, 
which have a not unpleasant smell and look like 
coarsely ground coffee, are packed in sacks and 
exported to Norway, where it is used as cattle-food 
(the meat only). A mixture of meat (two parts) 
and bone (one part) is used as manure. 

The meat of most of the Balsenopteridae, when 
fresh, can be eaten, and some factories specialise in 
canning this for sale as human food. 1 

The water formed by the condensation of the 
steam in the boilers was formerly discharged into 
the sea. This water is of a gluey nature, the glue 

1 Whales and Porpoises as Food. With thirty-two recipes. 
U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Fisheries. Economic 
Circular, No. 38. Issued 6th November, 1918, 


being particularly abundant in the dark skin situated 
between the epidermis and the blubber. 

This, in the form of the dark mud mentioned 
above, was formerly thrown away, but steps are now 
being taken to utilise it. 

Before passing on to consider the regulations 
which have been, and which might be, made for the 
protection of the various species of whales, it is 
necessary briefly to summarise the effect of whaling 
on the abundance and distribution of those species 
which have been most persistently hunted. 

In all cases where whales have been the object of 
a regular fishery the operations of the whalers have 
had one inevitable result, and the sequence of 
events in each case presents a remarkable similarity. 
In every case the commencement of whaling is 
marked by a great abundance of whales, and the 
industry has been for a time exceedingly prosperous. 
Sooner or later a decline has set in, and naturally, 
with improved methods of killing, the period of 
decline has set in earlier and proceeded more rapidly 
in the later phases of whaling. Contrast the 
lengthy period during which the fishery for the 
Greenland Whale persisted, with the remarkably 
rapid decline of the Humpback fishery in the Ant- 
arctic region to the south of the South American 
coasts. The Greenland Whale, though easier of 
capture than the Humpback, defied the primitive 
efforts of the whaler of Spitsbergen for a couple of 
centuries ; the Humpback, a more agile species than 
the Greenland Whale, and consequently more 


difficult of capture, could not defy the modern steam 
whaling methods of the Norwegians in the waters 
of the Falkland Island Dependencies for a decade. 

Once the decline has set in, no ameliorative 
measures which have yet been tried have been 
efficacious in stopping it, with the inevitable result 
that there has followed a total cessation of whaling 
for that particular species, or for the particular area. 
Moreover, in no case has the cessation of whaling 
taken place sufficiently soon to render possible the 
recovery of the whales to any appreciable extent. 

The successive phases in the history of whaling 
described in the succeeding chapters have been, for 
the most part, only possible because either a new 
species has been attacked, or a new haunt of . a 
previously attacked species has been discovered. 
In the latter case, it is more than probable that a 
distinct variety of the original species has been the 
object of the fishery, though of this there i ., 
unfortunately, no positive evidence. The Atlantic 
Right Whale, or Biscay Whale or Nordcaper, was 
the object of the first regular whale fishery, that of 
the Basques, which originated probably a thousand 
years ago in the Bay of Biscay. It is probable that 
early whaling voyages, of which all record is now 
lost, by the Basques, in pursuit of this whale, took 
place to the Norwegian coast on the one hand, and 
to Newfoundland on the other. 

Most probably, the earliest voyages of the 
Bretons to the Newfoundland Banks for the cod 
fishery were preceded by voyages of the Basques 


to the same region for whales, and it seems likely 
that the former may have first heard of the resources 
of the Grand Banks from the Basques. At any rate, 
the Basques were essentially whalers, and the 
Bretons fishers of cod. , 

The Biscayan Whale was hunted to the verge of 
extinction when, fortunately for its persistence as a 
species, the Greenland Whale was discovered in 
Spitsbergen waters in the early years of the seven- 
teenth century. The Biscayan Whale has never 
recovered from the effects of its early persecution. 

Similarly the Southern Right Whale, of which the 
Biscayan Whale is regarded as a variety by many 
balaenologists, has been hunted to the verge of 
extinction, and only a miserable remnant of the 
former enormous schools are now found in its old 
haunts in southern waters. 

The second great whale fishery was for the Green- 
land Right Whale, and it originated in Spitsbergen 
waters. A detailed account of this fishery is given 
in a subsequent chapter. Originally a bay fishery 
in Spitsbergen waters, it soon became an open sea 
fishery, and even as early as the commencement of 
the eighteenth century the whalers were compelled 
to go as far as Davis Strait to make satisfactory 
captures. This second period, i.e., the real 
Greenland fishery (as distinguished from the first 
" Greenland," really a Spitsbergen fishery) lasted, 
like its predecessor, for nearly a century, and was 
followed by the third and last hunt for the Green- 
land Right Whale, that of the Americans in the 


extreme North Pacific and adjacent parts of the 
Arctic Ocean. This industry declined in its turn, 
so that this fishery is practically extinct in all three 
of the regions where it formerly flourished. The 
Greenland Right Whale has made no substantial 
recovery even in those seas in which it has longest 
been unmolested. 

The next whale to be attacked was the Sperm 
Whale. The great days of the Sperm or Cachalot 
whaling have long since passed away, and although 
the Sperm Whale is by no means extinct, since a 
few individuals are captured in Scottish waters 
every year, it cannot be said that, in spite of the 
long cessation of Sperm whaling, the species has 
made anything like a substantial recovery. 

The Pacific Grey Whale was also formerly the 
object of a special fishery, which, however, did not 
last long. 

Continual slaughter on the breeding-grounds soon 
produced a marked effect, and the species became 
so scarce that for a time it was thought to be 

There is, however, a fishery in Japanese waters 
for the Pacific Grey Whale, but there are no records 
of its reappearance off the Californian coast, where 
it was formerly so abundant. 

The White Whale (Delphinapterus leucas) was 
hunted in Spitsbergen, though only sporadically, 
from the earliest days of whaling. From 1869 to 
1878 there was a regular fishery for it in Spitsbergen 
waters, with the result that it has practically disap- 



peared there, though it is still fairly abundant to the 
north of Siberia. 

In no case has it reappeared in the bays from 
which it has been driven by excessive hunting. 
The Rorquals and the Humpback, owing to their 
greater activity and smaller commercial value as 
individuals, were not hunted by the older whalers, 
though on rare occasions an individual is recorded 
as being killed with the old hand harpoon. 

The extension of whaling to these whales was 
rendered possible by the invention of the gun 
harpoon. The decline of this fishery in all places, 
where it has been tried for even a few years, is 

In Newfoundland the first whaling station in 
which modern methods were adopted was established 
in 1897. I n tne fi rst ten years, 1898-1907, the 
annual average slaughter of Rorquals was four 
hundred; but while in 1903 three steamers took an 
average of two hundred and eighty-six each, in 
1905 fifteen steamers only averaged fifty-nine each. 
The smaller companies were ruined, and the fishery 
has steadily declined. Reference is made below to 
the hunting of the Rorquals in the waters of 
Finmark, and to the restrictive legislation enforced 
by the Norwegian Government, partly, it must be 
added, as a measure of protection for the herring 

The last and most striking instance is the rapid 
decline in the abundance of the Humpback in the 
waters of the Falkland Island Dependencies. 


Here the percentage captured by the whalers was 
as follows: 

IQIO-II 1911-12 1912-13 1913-14 1914-15 1915-16 1916-17 1917-18 
96-8 90-9 53-8 18-6 15-6 22-9 9-3 2-5 

Similarly the Fin-whale has recently shown a 
decline : 

1.8 5-3 4i-2 557 36-5 33-6 37'4 29-3 

So that the Blue Whale has now become the 
most important : 

1-4 47 5-i 25-6 47-8 43-5 53-3 68-2 

The actual numbers of Humpbacks captured in 
the South Georgia whaling season from October to 
March has declined from 5,299 in 1910-11, to 335 in 
1916-17; the Finner from 1,852 in 1915-16, to 
1,345 in 1916-17 ; while the number of Blue Whales 
captured has increased from 76 in 1910-11 to 2,398 
in 1915-16, and 1,920 in 1916-17. Not only was 
the Humpback hunted on its feeding migration to 
Antarctic waters, but it was also extensively captured 
by whalers off the African coast when engaged in 

It is convenient to consider here the various 
legislative enactments and orders which have been 
made by the maritime nations concerned to prevent 
undue destruction and the gradual extermination of 
whales. Most of the older enactments had for their 
object the regulation of the fishery in the interest of 
the seamen of the country making the enactment. 
For instance, the charters, resolutions, placards, 
and regulations relating to whaling in the Groot 


Placaet-Boek and other collections of Dutch regula- 
tions for the years 1597 to 1857 number at least two 
hundred and fifty-two, but none has for its special 
object the protection of the whale. The earliest 
regulation refers to stranded whales, the whaling 
regulations proper commencing in 1613 with an 
order prohibiting whalers from engaging in foreign 

The territorial waters are usually, though 
erroneously, considered to extend for three miles 
from low water mark. Even were they to extend 
for a considerable distance beyond this it is 
obvious, since whales frequent the high seas, that 
national legislation for the protection of whales 
will be of little effect, and international regulation 
is necessary. 

Attempts have been made by various nations to 
prohibit whaling in wide areas of open sea, except 
to their own subjects ; instances of this are given in 
the following chapters, both James I. of England 
and the Count Maurice of Holland asserting such 
rights to Spitsbergen waters. 

The Danes also interfered in Spitsbergen 
waters in 1615, 1623, and 1693. I* 1 these earlier 
assertions of authority no specific limit of sea, 
assumed to be controlled, is defined. 

The first definition was apparently, in December, 
1692, when Denmark issued an edict declaring that 
no one could, without royal authority, carry on 
whale fishing within ten Norwegian leagues or 
forty geographical miles of the coast. The 


Russian Government issued an ukase in 1821, in 
which it was declared that the pursuit of commerce, 
whaling, and fishery, on the north-west coast 
of America from Behring Strait to 51 N. 
Latitude had been granted exclusively to Russian 
subjects, and all foreign vessels were forbidden to 
approach these coasts within less than a hundred 
Italian miles. The execution of this ukase was 
soon suspended, the Russian ships of war being 
instructed to confine their supervision to an extent 
of the sea within the range of cannon-shot from the 

After this, British and American whalers 
increased greatly in numbers in Behring Sea, and 
the Russian officials frequently urged their 
government to preserve the sea as a mare clausum, 
and to prohibit foreign whalers from approaching 
nearer the coast than forty Italian miles (1842). 
The Russian Government objected, pointing out 
that such extensive limits were contrary to con&en- 
tions, and would lead to protests from other 
nations " since no clear and uniform agreement has 
yet been arrived at among nations in regard to the 
limit of jurisdiction at sea." In 1847, the Russian 
Government repeated their objections, but in 1852, 
as a result of repeated complaints by the Russian- 
American Company, instructions were issued to the 
Russian cruisers to prevent foreign whalers from 
entering bays or gulfs, or from coming " within 
three Italian miles of the shores " of Russian- 
America (north of 54 41'), the peninsula of 


Kamschatka, Siberia, the Kadjak archipelago, the 
Aleutian Islands, the Pribyloff, and Commander 
Islands, and the others in Behring Sea, and Sakhalin 
and others, and it was declared at the same time 
that while the Sea of Okhotsk, from its geographical 
position, was a Russian inland sea, foreigners were 
allowed to take whales there. Some of these claims 
were revived by the United States Government 
(which had in 1867 acquired Alaska by purchase 
from Russia) at the Behring Sea arbitration in 1891. 

These attempts at regulating the whaling industry, 
though they had national interests in the forefront, 
and the protection of the whales in the background, 
are worth consideration, since they prove how 
difficult it is for one nation acting alone to protect 
an animal like the whale. 

The Norwegian Government has made certain 
enactments, having for their object the restriction or 
prohibition of whaling in certain areas off the 
Norwegian coasts, and although these regulations 
were enacted more for the protection of the local sea 
fisheries, which it is alleged were detrimentally 
affected by whaling, than for the protection of the 
whale, some of the provisions may be noted here. 

In the Norwegian whaling law of June, 1896, a 
close season for whaling was prescribed from the 
ist January to the end of May, off the coast of 
the counties of Finmark and Tromso. It was 
likewise forbidden to hunt the whale in such a 
manner as to leave it to chance whether the whale 
was recovered or not. This regulation is more 


explicitly defined in the Canadian Act of 1902, 
Section 13 of which, reads: 

" It shall be unlawful to use, in the catching of whales, 
such methods by which it depends on chance alone 
that a whale can be traced and found, or to use any 
contrivance for the catching or killing- of whales which 
does not include a harpoon with a whaling line attached 
thereto, and fixed or fastened to the boat or vessel 
from which the whale is captured or killed " ; under 
penalty (set forth). 

A similar regulation prescribing, as the only 
method allowable, a harpoon with a line attached, 
fixed, or fastened to a steamer is inserted in the 
Whale Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1907, and the 
Whale Fisheries (Ireland) Act of 1908. 

The Irish Act contains a further proviso whereby 
by-laws may be made prohibiting the use of any 
engine or implement in the pursuit, capture or 
towing of whales, or any method of whaling which 
in the opinion of that authority 1 is injurious to the 
fisheries. Close times are also provided in both 
the Scottish and Irish Acts, and these of two kinds. 
First, an absolute prohibition from the ist 
November, to the 3ist March next following, and 
a partial prohibition, within forty miles of the 
Scottish and within twenty miles of the Irish coast, 
during the local summer herring season, such period 
not to exceed five weeks. 

Since it does not appear that any of the Norwegian 
companies working off the Scottish or Irish coast 

1 i.e., the Central Authority in Ireland. 


prior to the passing of these Acts fished between the 
ist November, and the 3ist March, it follows 
that this section of the Act affords no additional 
protection to whales. Since the whaling companies 
working from Scottish or Irish soil had to obtain 
licences from the fishery authorities, the regulations 
in the Act were capable of being enforced. In both 
Acts there were prohibitions against any sort of 
whaling within the three mile limit, against the 
killing of the herring-hog (which is supposed to 
indicate to the herring fishermen the presence of 
herring shoals), and the killing of any whale 
accompanied by a calf. 

The increase of whaling in Scottish and Irish 
waters by Norwegian subjects which led to the pass- 
ing of these Acts was due in part at any rate to a 
Norwegian law of 1904 which forbade for the period 
of ten years the hunting of the whale within 
Norwegian territorial waters off the counties of 
Nordland, Finmark, and Tromso and the landing of 
whales in these counties. 

Further, a similar prohibition could by Royal 
Decree be extended to the remaining seaboard of 
the kingdom, or parts thereof. 

A large expanse of sea in East Finmarken, the 
Var anger Fiord, was closed to whalers for a distance 
of one geographical mile outside a line drawn from 
Kibergsnses on the north to Jacobs River on the 
south. This arm of the sea is thirty-two miles 
across at the entrance, extends inland for a distance 
of fifty miles, and comprises an area of six hundred 


and thirty square miles. The Norwegian minister 
for Foreign Affairs stated that this fiord had always 
been regarded as part of the territorial waters of 

There can be little doubt that in the future 
whaling all over the world should be the subject of 
suitable regulation, having for its main object the 
protection of the few remaining Cetacea. The 
Basque fishery of the Bay of Biscay and the " Green- 
land " fishery alike came to an end because of over- 
fishing. The modern Arctic fishery is also on its 
last legs, and the great Cachalot fisheries are equally 
moribund. Only in the Antarctic regions do whales 
flourish, and even here they are now the object of 
ceaseless hunting and shooting. 

The great objection to whaling as at present 
carried on is that so many pregnant females or 
females with suckling young are killed ; while there 
is, theoretically, a prohibition against killing the 
latter in some areas, there is no effective means 
whereby the whaler can identify a gravid female 
while it is swimming in the water. 

The whalers themselves say that long before the 
whales become extinct, whaling will cease to be 
profitable on account of the increasing scarcity of 
the more valuable species. At present it does not 
pay to kill whales under forty feet in length, and 
this, of course, protects the smaller species, and the 
young members of the larger kinds, but since young 
whales up to forty-five or even fifty feet in length 
have been seen accompanying the mother, in case 


of the larger species, it follows that this size limit 
it not very effective. 

The whalers say that there is only a given 
number of whales present on their hunting grounds, 
of these they qapture a certain percentage. To 
render whaling profitable a minimum number of 
whales per steamer must be captured each season ; 
this varies from thirty in British waters to three 
times that number in the Antarctic, on account of 
the greater cost of transport, etc., in those latitudes. 

Consequently when the number of whales captured 
per steamer on any given whaling ground falls 
below the minimum number required to yield a 
profit, the whaling will, ipso facto, be abandoned. 
The whalers' argument is that this is in itself a 
sufficient protection for the whales, and there is no 
fear of absolute extinction of any species. 

Probably there is some truth in this contention, 
and for years to come there is no fear of the extinc- 
tion of any cetacean. Nevertheless, all zoologists 
should be on the alert, and should endeavour, 
when opportunity occurs, to educate public opinion 
on this subject, since it is only through the pressure 
of public opinion on government that effective 
steps can be taken to prevent the exploitation of one 
of the most interesting groups of animals in the 
interests of a small section of capitalists. 

W 1 5 - 1 ><> ir T 

rfcu/ - S^rlc. 1 

v > " " V'o^rT^', | 




iH ^W .W r ^ 


(Really Spitsbergen, circa 1611.) 



The Basque whalers The discovery of " Greenland " ( Spits- 
bergen) The first British whalers The Spitsbergen fishery 
The whales found there The disputes between the English 
and the Dutch Edge's description of the fishery* 

ALTHOUGH the general opinion is that the Basques 
were the earliest whalers, Noel de la Moriniere 1 
says that this is a misapprehension and that the 
Northmen were really the first in the field. 

He quotes the voyage of Ochther, 2 who travelled 
towards the end of the ninth century beyond the 
North Cape to Perm, and afterwards described his 
journey to King Alfred. There was evidently a 
hunting of whales and walruses in northern waters 
at this time, but there is no evidence that it developed 
into a regular fishery such as that of the Basques. 

The Norwegians are stated to have used a 
balista for the discharge of the harpoon with an 
attached rope, thus anticipating the harpoon gun of 
the English (1731). At the time of the Norman 
invasion of France there is evidence of whaling in 

1 Hi stoire generale des Peckes, 1815, Vol. i., p. 218. 

3 Schneider. Sammlung vermischter Abhandlungen zur 
Aufklarung der Zoologie und der Handlsgeschichte t Berlin, 



the Channel. In a book entitled, " de la transla- 
tion et des miracles des Saint Waast" A Life of 
Saint Arnould, Bishop of Soissons in the eleventh 
century, there is mention of a whale fishery by 
means of the harpoon on the coast of Flanders 
in 875. 

According to Ducere, 1 the history of the whale 
fisheries of the Basques has yet to be written. In 
this fishery the Bayonnais took part, and it is one of 
the most interesting features in the ancient records 
of the town of Bayonne. In early historical times 
it is fairly certain that the whale fisheries were 
carried on only off the north coast of Spain and the 
south-west coast of France, i.e., in the Bay of 
Biscay. Ducere says that it is still possible to trace 
the remains of the watch towers and furnaces of the 
whalers along the shores of the Bay of Biscay, 
the former naturally being used for the look- 
out, the latter for boiling the blubber. There 
is documentary evidence of a fishery off Biarritz in 
the thirteenth century, and the seal of the town 2 
contains a representation of a " chaloupe " harpoon- 
ing a whale. In the Middle Ages the Basques 
seemed to have picked up a living on the coast, 
partly by different kinds of fishing and partly by 
pillaging their neighbours. They killed whales 

1 Dictionnaire Historique de Bayonne, Commission des 
Archives Municipals Ville de Bayonne, par Edouard Ducere. 
Bayonne, IQII. 2 Vols. 

3 See " La Marina de Castilla," by Fernandez Duro. 
Madrid, 1892. The seals of Bermeo, Lequeitio, and Castrour- 
diales, which are reproduced on p. 218, show views of the old 
Basque Whale Fisheries. 


when the latter approached the shore, towing the 
body to the land to extract the oil. Later they 
fitted out rowing boats and killed the whale on the 
open sea. Fischer 1 says the whaling was at its 
apogee in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as 
indicated by the number of documents relating to it. 
Up to this time it was entirely free. According to 
the judgments of Oleron, the fishermen of Cape 
Breton (near Bayonne), Plech, Biarritz, Guetary, 
Saint Jean de Luz, and of the Labourd country 
were exempt from all dues. They gave to the 
church the whales' tongues, but this was a voluntary 
gift. The first attempt to interfere with these 
fishermen was by the kings of England, who, as 
Dukes of Guyenne, usurped the seignorial rights. 

In 1197 King John gave Vital de Biole and his 
heirs and successors the sum of fifty angevin livres, 
to be levied on the first two whales captured annually 
at Biarritz, in exchange for the rent of the fishery at 

An act of the Abbey of Honce in 1261 announced 
that permission was granted to pay a tithe on the 
whales landed at Bayonne. This tithe was a con- 
version of the previous free gift of whales' tongues. 
In 1257 William Lavielle gave to the bishop and 
chapter of Bayonne a tithe of the whales captured 
on the ocean by the people of Biarritz, and this was 
apparently paid until 1498. Although there is 

1 " Ce*tacees du sud-ouest de la France," P. Fischer. Actes 
de la Societe Linneenne de Bordeaux, Vol. xxxiv., 1881, 


documentary evidence in the Archives of Bayonne 
and elsewhere as to the existence of a flourishing 
fishery as early as the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, a fishery which must have persisted until 
the seventeenth century, since the earliest har- 
pooners engaged in Spitsbergen were Basques, 
there is but little evidence as to the manner in which 
the fishery was carried on. The term " Baleinier " 
occurs frequently in marine documents of Bayonne 
in the Middle Ages. It referred to a special type 
of vessel, very seaworthy, as ships went in those 
days, of eighty to one hundred tons burden, devised 
originally for the whalers, but extended in its use, 
firstly by the pirates, and secondly on the voyages of 
discovery of the fifteenth century. 

Fischer gives a long list of references to whales 
and whaling, but these are mostly acknowledg- 
ments of the lordship of the coasts and the seas and 
the inhabitants thereof; or documents of a similar 

In the sixteenth century the flesh, and especially 
the tongue of the whale, was sold in the markets of 
Bayonne, Cibourre, and Biarritz. The blubber 
was salted and sold inland, in the east of France. 
The first detailed description of the Basque whaling 
is that by Ambroise Pare, who visited Bayonne when 
Charles IX. was there in 1564. 

The whale is taken in several places in winter, 1 

1 But Clayrac fixes the time of the appearance of the whales 
off the coasts of Guienne and Biarritz as the September equinox. 
See Us et coutumes de la mer, Rouen, 1671. 


especially on the coast of Bayonne, near a little 
village called " Biarris," distant three leagues from 
that town. Near this village there is a rock upon 
which, for many years past, there has been a tower, 
on which a look-out is kept, by day and night, for 
whales. (There is now a lighthouse on this rock, 
overlooking the Chambre d'amour.) The whales 
are recognised by their spouting. As soon as one 
is observed, the look-out sounds a bell, upon which 
warning all the village run prepared with the 
necessary apparatus for the slaughter of the whale. 
There were several vessels and skiffs utilised for 
this. Apparently some were manned exclusively 
by those who killed or attempted to kill the whale on 
the high sea. Other boats specialised in the 
attempt to drive the whales ashore, where they were 
dispatched by the whole population of the village. 
Dead whales found floating in the sea were also 
towed ashore and utilised. After the whale was 
struck with harpoons it was killed with lances. 
Each harpooner was rewarded by the result of his 
efforts as determined by the number of his harpoons 
found in the whale's body. The females were 
considered easier prey than the males pour ce 
qu'elles sont soigneuses de sauver leurs petits. 

The flesh is not esteemed, except the tongue. 
Originally the oil was extracted on land, the whales 
being towed ashore and then cut up and the blubber 
boiled down. 

The discovery of the possibility of boiling down 
the oil at sea, " trying-out " as it is called, is 


due to a captain of Cibourre named Francois 

The whalebone is used for ladies' stays and 
knife handles, the skeletons to make enclosures for 
gardens, the vertebrae as chairs and seats in houses. 

In the seventeenth century and possibly even in 
the sixteenth, this Basque fishery had declined. 
Probably the whales were getting more shy and 
difficult to capture as the result of persistent fishing. 
Clayrac records them as passing Biarritz regularly 
towards the end of the seventeenth century (1671). 

The Basques fished for whales before the 
invention or use of the mariner's compass. Never- 
theless, they fished in the open sea to the west and 
are said to have attained in 1372 the banks of 
Newfoundland, where they encountered whales in 
abundance. This whale they called the Sarda, to 
distinguish it from the species commonly found in 
the Bay of Biscay. The word Sarda in the Basque 
language signifies a whale that keeps together in 

Continuing their voyages the Basques reached the 
Gulf of St Lawrence, where they discovered another 
different species of whale which they called the 
<: Grand Bay Whale," a name used by Thomas 
Edge in his classification of Spitsbergen whales. 

When the Gulf of St Lawrence became 
impoverished, the Basque whalers pushed on to the 
edge of the ice off Greenland, where they captured 
the Greenland Whale which appeared to them to 
be the same as that of the Gulf of St Lawrence. 




They noticed that the thickness of the large whale of 
the north was double that of the Sarda, its whale- 
bone longer, and that its oil was clear, whereas that 
of the Sarda was always cloudy. 

Thomas Edge, who took charge of the first 
English whaling expedition to Spitsbergen, received 
instructions as to the voyage in which two distinct 
species of whales are mentioned ; one is unquestion- 
ably the Greenland Whale, and the other the 
Sarda. This Sarda is the Nordcaper of the 
Dutch, but is it the same as the Sarda of the 
Basques? Most probably it is, and the Basques 
were mistaken in thinking that the whales of the 
Bay of Biscay and the whales they met off the 
Grand Banks were two distinct species. 

Prior to the first voyages of Columbus (1492) and 
John Cabot (1497) to America there was an 
extensive fishery for sea fish at Iceland, a fishery 
participated in by British, Bretons, and Basques, 
and probably not confined to Icelandic waters but 
extending both to Greenland and the Grand Banks 
of Newfoundland. 

The traces of these fishermen's voyages, under- 
taken when the science of . navigation was in its 
infancy, are scattered and fragmentary. The actual 
references to whaling are of the slightest, but are 
nevertheless sufficient to indicate that there was 
some whaling prior to the great Spitsbergen fishery. 

In the will of John Sparks of Cromer (1483), there 
is mention of a " Bloberhouse " ; l in the Carta 

1 Rye. " Cromer, Past and Present," p. 51. 


Marina of Olaus Magnus (1539) there is a represen- 
tation of an English whaler. 

Actual records of whaling voyages in the sixteenth 
century are rare, though a French Basque named 
Savalet told Lescarbot that he had made forty-two 
voyages, and Echevete the Spanish Basque had 
made twenty-eight voyages across the Atlantic to 
the Newfoundland coast, and as the Basques were 
predominantly whalers it is very probable that some, 
if not all, of these voyages were for whales. 

The Basques, moreover, had the best ships at this 
period, and were therefore better able to hunt the 
whale. English vessels were small, their average 
size being less than fifty tons; the Bretons and 
Normans had also poor vessels, whereas a Basque 
ship of four hundred tons with a crew of forty men 
is recorded. Ordinary fishing vessels at this period 
had flush decks, three masts, the foremast being 
very far forward, the mizzen very far aft; the sails 
were three big lug sails, the ballast sand and the 
cook-room a solid structure of brick and mortar 
built on the ballast. 

On the whole the available evidence tends to 
show that the Basque whalers regularly visited the 
Newfoundland bays toward the middle of the 
sixteenth century. According to Harrisse the 
presence of Basques at Newfoundland is not attested 
before I528. 1 

The Spanish authorities in general agree with 

1 Decouverte et evolution carlo gra-phique de Terre-Neuve et 
des Pays Circonvoisins, I4Q7, 1501, 1769, par Henry Harrisse, 
Paris, 1890, 


this. The fishermen of Guipuzcoa frequented the 
banks of Newfoundland, but not certainly before 
1530. Navarrete, who investigated the subject, 
fixes the first voyages at about 1541. Towards 
1550, the evidence is more definite, and we have 
the name of a commander of a whaler Jean de 
Urdaire, who afterwards became admiral. Theie 
is good documentary evidence that from 1557 to tne 
end of the seventeenth century Biarritz, Caberton, 
Pasajes, Renteria, Saint Jean de Luz, Saint Sebas- 
tian and Zubibura continually sent ships to 
Newfoundland both for whaling and cod fishing. 
At this time the Basque cod fishermen left the 
Cantabrian coast towards the end of March or 
beginning of April, returning from mid-September 
to October. The whalers left in mid- June, and 
returned in December or early January, their larger 
and better vessels enabling them to withstand the 
storms of winter. 

Although there must have been a considerable 
trade in whale oil between the Basques and Great 
Britain in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there 
is not much evidence of it. 

Late in the sixteenth century there is positive 
evidence that the soap-makers used whale oil, and 
that there was trade with Bayonne and other ports 
for this product of the fisheries. 

Guerau de Spes, writing on the 5th August, 1569, 
to the Spanish King, says, " Three ships of St Jean 
de Luz have put into Bristol loaded with Biscay 
iron, and are now leaving for their own country with 


a cargo of cloths, pewter and others things, all of 
which are destined to be taken into Spain. The 
want of oil here is so pressing that they are getting 
oil from rape-seed to dress their wool, and they say 
they can manage with it. There is little of the 
. eed, however, yet, and no matter how active they 
may be in sowing it the out-turn of cloth by means 
of it will be small and poor. They are trying also 
to utilise the oil which they obtain from boiling 
sheep's feet. Their great hope is to get soap and 
oil from Spain through France and from the Easter- 
lings, who I am told have already left for the 
purpose." 1 

In 1578 we have a further reference to the whale 
fisheries. Bernardino de Mendoza was ordered by 
the Spanish King to make inquiries into a yoyage 
made by the English two years previously " to the 
country called Labrador, which joins Newfoundland, 
where the Biscay men go in search of whales." 2 

This same year there are numerous complaints 
about the soap-makers using fish oil and train oil in 
the manufacture of soap. 3 

These complaints led to the Privy Council 
forbidding the London soap-boilers to use in making 
soap, or even to have in their possession " any more 
blubber oyle, pumpe oyle, trane oyle, whale or other 
fishe oyle." 

About this time there was a dispute between 

1 State Papers, Spanish, 1568-70, p. 186. 

2 Ibid., p. 567- 

* State Papers, Domestic, 1547-80, p. 605. 


Laurence Mellows and the " sope-makers " of the 
City of London, which was referred by the Privy 
Council to the Controller of Her Majesty's House- 
hold and the two Chief Secretaries of State. 1 
Mellows demanded eighteen pounds per ton for his 
seed oil, and the soap-makers would only offer 
thirteen pounds. The Council ordered the soap- 
makers to take from Mellows eighty tons of seed oil 
at sixteen pounds the ton, civil gage, and fifty-one 
tons of whale oil at sixteen pounds the ton, Biscay 
cask, and to pay ready money for the same. Upon 
doing this the soap-makers could at their liberty use 
both train and whale oil in making of soap for a 
period of eighteen months. On the i4th December, 
1579, the Privy Council ordered the Lord Mayor 
to induce the soap-makers to buy one hundred tons 
of seed oil from Mellows, and to report on his 
success to the Council. 

On i9th April, 1602, seven ships went from St 
Jean de Luz to Newfoundland for the whale 
fisheries, and many more for the fishing. 3 There 
is evidence scattered through the State Papers of 
this time of a considerable impressment of Biscayan 
whalers and mariners to strengthen the Spanish 

Spitsbergen was known and spoken of up to the 
times of Scoresby (1820) as East Greenland. 
Consequently early references to the " Greenland " 
whale fishery must be taken to include references to 

1 Ads of the Privy Council, 1578-80, p. 50. 

" State Pa-pers, Addenda, Domestic, 1547-65, p. 178. 


Spitsbergen, in fact the earliest references are 
exclusively to the latter. 

The first attempts to establish a whale fishery in 
Spitsbergen were the occasion of considerable 
disputes between the English and the Dutch, both 
of whom claimed territorial jurisdiction over Spits- 
bergen and the adjacent seas by right of discovery. 
The Dutch claim was based on the discovery of 
Spitsbergen by Van Heemskerk in 1596, that of the 
British Muscovy Company on the discovery of the 
same land by Willoughby in 1553. The British 
claim was strongly supported by King James I., 
notwithstanding the statement supporting the other 
side which had been drawn up by Plancius. Sir 
Hugh Willoughby set out in 1553 to discover the 
north-east route to " Cathay," and perished at the 
river or haven called Arzina in Lapland. Richard 
Chancellor, pilot-major under Willoughby and 
captain of the Edward Bonaventure^ one of 
Willoughby's fleet, had better luck and was the 
discoverer " of the kingdome of Moscovia by the 
North-east in the year 1553." 

Early in the seventeenth century English whalers 
began to fish at Spitsbergen, where whales were 
found in enormous numbers. The voyagers of the 
Muscovy Company had reported this in the previous 
century. Anthonie Jenkinson, who made his first 
voyage to Russia in 1557, reported " thus proceeding 
and sailing forward, we fell in with an island called 
Zenam, being in the latitude of 70 degrees. About 
this island we saw many whales, very monstrous, 


about our ships, some by estimation of sixty feet 
long, and being the ingendring time they roared 
and cried terriblie." 1 

The Muscovy Company was the first of the great 
English Joint-stock Corporations of foreign trade. 
It was incorporated by a charter signed on the 
6th February, 1555, under the name of " Merchants 
Adventurers of England for the Discovery of lands, 
territories, isles, dominions and seigniories, unknown 
and not before that late adventure or enterprise 
by sea or navigation commonly frequented. V2 
Sebastian Cabot was made the life governor. 
" After his death the same fellowship shall in places 
convenient and honest assemble together to elect 
and choose one Governor or two and twenty-eight 
of the most sad, discreete and honest persons " ; 
of whom four were to be Consuls, and the remaining 
twenty-four assistants to the " saide Governour." 

The Company was afterwards re-incorporated by 
statute, and the corporate name shortened to 
" Fellowship of English Merchants for Discovery 
of New Trades " (i2th February, I576-;). 3 

The Company, as its popular name indicates, was 
mainly engaged in the trade to Russia by the north- 
east, and the whaling business was subsidiary to 
this. In the re-incorporation referred to the Queen 
granted a monopoly of the right to kill whales and 
make train oil for a period of twenty years to Sir 

1 Hakluyt, " Voyages," Dent's Everyman Edition, Vol. i., p. 410. 

9 Ibid., p. 318. 

8 Patent Rolls, ig Eliz., Part XII. 


Roland Heyward and Sir Lionel Duckett. (See 
Appendix I., p. 303). 

In Hakluyt's "Voyages" (1575) there is a 
request of an honest merchant to a friend of his to 
be advised and directed on the course of killing the 
whale. A number of questions relative to whaling 
are set forth and duly answered. 

" The whaler should be of two hundred tons, with 
a crew of fifty-five men, and should set out in April 
for Wardhouse and be furnished with four kintals 
and a half of bread for every man, with two hundred 
and fifty hogshead to put the bread in. The 
further specification includes : One hundred and 
fifty hogsheads of cidar, six kintals of oile, eight 
kintals of bacon, six hogsheds of beefe, ten quarters 
of salt, a hundred and fifty pounds of candles, 
eight quarters of beans and pease, saltfish and 
herring a quantity convenient, four tunnes of 
wines, half a quarter of mustard seed and a querne, 
a grindstone, eight hundred empty shaken hogs- 
heds, three hundred and fifty bundles of hoops, and 
six quintalines, eight hundred pairs of heds for the 
hogsheds, ten estachas called roxes for harping 
irons, ten pieces of arporieras, three pieces of 
baibens for the javelins small, two tackles to turn the 
whales, a halser of twenty-seven fadom long to turne 
ye whales, fifteen great javelins, eighteen small 
javelins, fifty harping irons, six machicos to cut the 
whale withall, two doozen of machetos to minch the 
whale, two great hookes to turne the whale, three 
pair of can hookes, six hookes for staves, three 


dozen of staves for the harping irons, six pullies 
to turn the whale with, ten great baskets, ten lampes 
of iron to carry light, five kettles of a hundred and 
fifty li. the piece, and six ladles, a thousand of 
nailes for the pinnases, five hundred of nailes of 
carabelie for the houses and the wharfe, eighteen 
axes and hatches to cleave wood, twelve pieces of 
lines and six dozens of hookes, two beetles of 
rosemarie, four dozen of oares for the pinnases, six 
lanterns, five hundred of tesia. Item, gun powder 
and matches for harquebushes as shal be needfull. 
Item, there must be carried from hence five 
pinnases, five men to strike with harping irons, two 
cutters of whale, five coopers and a purser or two." 

To this is added a note of certain other necessary 
things belonging to the whale fishing, received of 
Master Burrow, who was captain general of a fleet 
of thirteen vessels on a voyage to the Narve in 
Liefland in 1570. 

" A sufficient number of pulleys for tackle for the 
whale. A dozen of great baskets. Four furnaces 
to melt the whale in. Six ladles of copper. A thous- 
and of nailes to mend the pinases. Five hundred 
great nails of spikes to make their house. Three pair 
of boots great and strong, for them that shall cut the 
whale. Eight calve skins to make aprons or 
barbecans." 1 

It is evident that prior to the Spitsbergen whale 
fishery, whales were killed and captured off the 

1 Hakluyt's, " Voyages," Dent's Everyman Edition, Vol. ii., 
p. 162. 


Norwegian coast at Vardohuus, in addition to an 
important fishery at Newfoundland, of which nearly 
all trace has been lost. 

Anthony Parkhurst, a merchant of Bristol, writing 
to Hakluyt on the i3th November, 1578, says: 

"He had made four voyages to Newfoundland, 
and had searched the harbours, creeks and lands 
more than any other Englishman. That there 
were generally more than one hundred sail of 
Spaniards taking cod, and from twenty to thirty 
killing whales; fifty sail of Portuguese; one 
hundred and fifty sail of French and Bretons, mostly 
very small; but of English only fifty sail." 

Sir Richard Whitbourne, who first visited New- 
foundland in 1583, says: 

" We were bound to the Grand Bay (which lieth 
on the north side of that land) purporting there to 
trade then with the savage people (for whom we 
carried sundry commodities), and to kill whales and 
to make trayne oil as the Biscaines do there yearly 
in great abundance. But then our intended voyage 
was overthrown by the indiscretion of our captaine 
and faintheartednesse of some gentlemen of our 
company, whereupon we set saile from thence and 
bare with Trinity Harbour in Newfoundland, where 
we killed great store of fish, deere, beares, beavers, 
scales, otters, and such like, with abundance of sea- 
fowle, and so returning to England we arrived safe 
at Southampton." 

There are frequent references to the abundance 
of whales off the Newfoundland coast at this time. 


In the account of the voyage of the Mangold 
of M. Hill of Redrife unto Cape Briton and beyond 
to the latitude of 44 degrees and a half ; in 1593, 
written by Richard Fisher, Master Hilles man of 
Redrife, there is reference to whales. 

" In our course to the West of Cape Briton we 
saw exceeding great store of scales, and abundance 
of porpoises, whereof we killed eleven. We saw 
whales also of all sortes as well small as great ; and 
here our men took many herded coddes." 

In " a briefe and summary discourse upon the 
intended voyage to the hithermost parts of 
America; written by Captaine Carlile in April, 
1583," for the information of the merchants of ihe 
Muscovy Company and others, there is reference to 
the prospect of good fishing for whales in northern 
regions. 1 

One of the earliest voyages by an English ship 
to the whale fisheries was made by the Grace of 
Bristol, 2 a barque of thirty-five tons, owned by 
M. Rice Jones, whereof Silvester Wyet, Shipmaster 
of Bristol, was master. This voyage was up 
into the Bay of St Lawrence, to the north- 
west of Newfoundland as far as the Island 
of Assumption, for the barbs or fins of whales 
and train oil. The Grace, with a crew of twelve 
men, left Bristol on the 4th April, 1594. In St 
George's Bay (north side of Nova Scotia) they 
found the wrecks of two large Biscayan ships which 

1 Hakluyt's, " Voyages," Dent's Everyman Edition, Vol. vi., 
p. 80. 
Ibid., p. 98. 


had been cast away three years earlier, from which 
they extracted seven or eight hundred whale fins; 
all the train oil was lost though the casks remained. 
After this Wyet was informed that whales which 
had been wounded in the Grand Bay and escaped 
capture eventually stranded on shore on the Isle of 
Assumption or Natiscotec " which lieth in the very 
mouth of the great river that runneth up to Canada." 
So he sailed across without, however, meeting with 
any stranded whales. They then went back to 
Newfoundland to fill up with codfish, returning 
safely " first in Combe and staid there a seven night, 
and afterward in Hungrod in the river of Bristoll 
by the grace of God the 24 of September, 1594." 

Prior to the voyage of the Grace it appears to 
have been customary for English privateers to lay 
in wait for Spanish ships on the return voyage from 
Newfoundland, whither they went for fish and 
train oil. Thus in April, 1591, the ship of Peter 
de Hody, merchant of Bayonne, returning from 
Newfoundland laden with dry and green fish and 
fourteen hogshead of train oil, was taken by a ship 
of war appointed by Sir Walter Raleigh and brought 
to Uphill near Bristol. 1 The same year the ship 
Holy Ghost of St Jean de Luz belonging to 
Martin, Adam, John and Michael Haurgues, laden 
with fish and oil from Newfoundland, was captured 
by the Elizabeth Bonaventure and Dudley, 
English men-of-war, and taken to Milford and there 
Sold. She appears to have been improperly 

1 State Papers, Eliz. t Domestic, Vol. ccxlii., p. 231. 


moored since she became a wreck in the haven. 
This episode was followed by petitions to the Privy 
Council and a case before Dr Caesar, Judge of 
the Admiralty. 1 Some of the oil was eventually 
sold to a shoemaker at Haverfordwest. 

The manufacture of train oil in England cannot 
at this time have been important, since in May, 
1594, a licence was granted to Elizabeth Matthews, 
widow, for twenty-one years on surrender of the 
licence granted to her late husband, Richard 
Matthews, yeoman of the poultry to have the 
making of train oil of blubbers and fish livers for a 
rent of twenty shillings. The shoemaker and 
other inhabitants of Scarborough petitioned to the 
Council against this grant of monopoly. 2 

Spitsbergen, the scene of the first extensive 
whaling enterprises and even to-day visited prac- 
tically every year by whalers, was discovered by 
Willem Barendts (Barents). Barents' 3 log is still in 
existence, as are also affidavits by Arent Martenssen 
of Antwerp and Anthoine Classen Herman, ship's 
captain, of Leyden, who took part in the expedition. 4 

In previous years, especially in 1594 and 1595, 
expeditions were sent out from Holland, with 
financial assistance from the Dutch Government, to 

1 State Papers, Eliz., Domestic, 1591-94, pp. 248-251. 

* Ibid., 1581-90, p. 709. 

' Extract uit het scheeps journal van Willem Barendsz, 
betreffende de ontdekking van Spitsbergen. Printed by 
Muller, N.C. 

4 Getuigenissen van twee reisgenooten, van Jan Cornelisz. 
Rijp over de noordpoolreis van 1596-97. Printed by Muller, 


seek a passage to China by the north-east route. 
These expeditions failing in their main object, the 
Government declined to assist the expedition of 1596, 
which was therefore financed by private enterprise. 
Barents sailed from Vlieland on the i8th May, 
1596, and after touching at Bear Island on the 
9th June, they thought they saw land on the I4th 
but were not certain till the I7th, when they 
undoubtedly discovered Spitsbergen. Probably the 
ships (there were two of them) were not fitted out 
for whaling, and the solitary reference to whales by 
Barents is on the I5th June, when he records 
" Passions une grande Balalne morte, sur lequel y 
avoit plusiers meauves" Herman records a land- 
ing when they found among other things " des dens 
de Baleines" 

The first mention of train oil in the accounts of 
the Muscovy Company is in the years 1604-6. 
This was obtained from Cherie Island (Bear Island) 
from " Sea-Morses " (Walrus). In 1604 the good 
ship God Speed of sixty tons set sail from 
London with Thomas Welden as master; who also 
went in 1605 and 1606. 

In 1609 Jonas Poole in the Lioness e sailed from 
Cherie Island, where he " set up a pike, with a white 
cloth upon it, and a letter signifying our possession 
for the right worshipfull Company trading to 
Moscovie." By this time sea-horses were becoming 
scarce, though Poole observed " the multitude of 
whales, that shewed themselves on the coast of 
Greenland." In 1609 the gain was thirty per cent, 


although the voyage in 1608 had shown forty per 
cent profit. 

Apparently it was in 1610 that the Muscovy 
Company first made a serious attempt to exploit the 
whale fishery in Arctic waters. In that year the 
Company set forth a voyage to Cherry Island; and 
for a further discovery to be made towards the 
North Pole in the ship Amitie of seventy tons, of 
which Jonas Poole was master, having with him 
fourteen men and a boy. With her was the 
Lionesse, Thomas Edge commander. On the 
9th March Poole weighed and put to sea (blessed 
bee God). They saw the North Cape on the 2nd 
May and on the 6th encountered much ice, being 
then in the neighbourhood of Cherry Island. On 
the 1 6th May they saw land (Greenland or 
Spitsbergen as it is now called). They saw great 
store of whales particularly in Deere Sound and to 
the northward of Knottie Point. Those in charge 
of this expedition were censured by the Company 
for having brought home blubber instead of oil, the 
dividend paid for 1610 being only twenty per cent. 
At this time train oil was in great demand for the 
manufacture of soap so the Company at once 
decided to fit out a whaling expedition for 1611. 

The two vessels sent out were the Elizabeth and 
the Mary Margaret, the former a small bark of fifty 
tons under the command of Jonas Poole, the latter 
a ship of one hundred and fifty tons commanded by 
Steven Benet (Edge being on board as agent of 
the Company). The former was fitted for 


discovery, the latter for whaling, and fortunately the 
instructions given by the Company to the masters 
are still extant. 

Poole was told to find whether the said land 
(Spitsbergen) be an island or a main, and which way 
the same doth trend, either to the eastward or the 
westward of the Pole, as also whether the same 
be inhabited by any people, or whether there be 
an open sea farther northward than hath been 
already discovered. His further instructions were 
to sail in company with the Mary Margaret " till 
God send you to the places where she may make 
her voyage, which by your report should be at a 
place named by you the last yeare 1610, Whale 
Bay." " And God sending you to the said place, 
we would have you to stay there the killing of a 
whale, or two or three, for your better experience 
hereafter to expedite that businesse, if through 
extremitie of the ice you should be put from your 

While the whale killing was in progress Poole was 
told to search the coast with his sloops for whale 
fins (really the whalebone), morses teeth, amber- 
gris or any other commodities. " And in this 
your coasting the land, we doubt not but you will 
endeavour with your Shallops to gather up all the 
whale fins you can finde, to kill the Morses which 
you can come on by land, and to reserve the teeth 
and blubber to the most advantage that may bee, 
the better to bear out the great charge which you 
know we are at in these Discoveries. And to that 


end we have laden in you eleven tunnes of emptie 

After a certain time spent in this voyage of 
discovery the Elizabeth was ordered to rendezvous 
at the place where she left the Mary Margaret, and 
if the time of year permitted to melt their blubber 
into oil " to avoid the great trouble and incon- 
venience you know we fell into the last yeere 1610 
by bringing the same hither in blubber." 

If the Mary Margaret was full fished and gone 
before the Elizabeth returned, Edge was instructed 
to leave a copper at Cherry Island. The detailed 
instructions specify that the ships should proceed 
together on the outward voyage to Cherry Island, 
kill morses there if possible, and then go on together 
to Whale Bay. On the return journey they were 
again to rendevous at Cherry Island, waiting the 
one for the other until the last day of August. 
They were to fill in the time of waiting by killing 
morses or searching the island for lead ore, or any 
other minerals. Since previous voyages had been 
spoilt owing to the ships returning home through 
fear of shortage of food the Company on this 
occasion set down the amount of provender supplied, 
to wit, " Beefe, 22C. 3 quarters, 18 li. Bisquit. 3oc. 
Beere 14 tunnes. Fish, 200 of Haberdin, 1 and 
halfe a hundred lings. Cheese 3000 weight. Butter 
three firkins. Oyle three gallons. Pease ten 
bushels. Oate-meale five bushels. Candels, sixe 
dozen. Aquavitae, thirtie gallons. Vinegar, one 

1 Dried, salted cod, originally prepared at Aberdeen. 



rundlet of twentie gallons." This was estimated to 
last them seven or eight months, and of course they 
could pick up fish, fowl and beasts as they went 

Jonas Poole was appointed grand pilot; Steven 
Benet, master of the Mary Margaret, having to 
follow his directions. 

The Commission to Thomas Edge 1 to go as 
Factor in the Mary Margaret for the killing of whale 
and morses upon the coast of Greenland or any 
other place in the North Ocean dated the 3ist 
March, 1611, is probably the earliest set of 
instructions for a whaling voyage and is quoted here 
in some detail. 

The adventures and losses in the first voyages 
are enumerated. Of two prior voyages to Cherry 
Island the first resulted in a loss of one thousand 
pounds, by reason of one Duppers, a brewer of 
London, together with certain men of Hull going 
thither and " glutting the said place." The second 
Xoyage (1609) by reason of ice was also unsuccessful, 
resulting in a loss of five hundred pounds. For 
this reason Edge is urged to encourage and stir up 
his mind to do his utmost endeavour to further the 
business in this his third employment, that the 
Company might recover the losses it had sustained. 
" And for that end we have made choice of you 
again to goe as our factor." Six men of Saint John 
de Luz accustomed to the killing of the whale were 
engaged for the voyage ; " whose names are as 

1 Purchas, "His Pilgrims," Vol. xiv., p. 30 (1906 edition). 


followeth, videlicet, Juan de Bacoyne, Juan de 
Agerre, Martin de Karre, Marsene de Horisada, 
Domingo de Sarria and Adam de Bellocke." 
Edge was warned to use them " very kindely and 
friendly during this their yoyage," but at the same 
time to omit no opportunity of learning " that 
businesse of striking the whale, as well as they." 
" And likewise to know the better sorts of whales 
from the worser, whereby in their striking they may 
choose the good, and leave the bad." 

The kinds of whales, eight in number, are next 

' The first sort of whales is called the Bearded 
Whale, which is black in colour, with a smooth 
skinne, and white under the chops ; which whales is 
the best of all the rest ; and the elder it is, the more 
it doth yield. This sort of whale doth yeelde 
usually four hundred, and some five hundred finnes, 
and between one hundred and one hundred and 
twenty hogsheads of oyle." Obviously this is the 
Greenland Right Whale. 

1 The second sort of whale is called Sarda, of the 
same colour and fashion as the former, but some 
% what lesse, and the fins not above one fathom long, 
and yeeldeth in oyle, according to his bignesse, 
sometimes eightie, sometimes a hundred hogsheads." 
This whale is the " Nordcaper." 

' The third sort of whale is called Trumpa, being 
as long as the first, but not so thicke, of colour grey, 
having but one trunke in his head, whereas the 
former have two. He hath in his mouth teeth of a 


span long, and as thicke as a man's wrist, but no 
fins; whose head is bigger than either of the 
two former, and in proportion far bigger than 
his body. In the head of this whale is the 
spermaceti, which you are to keep in caske apart 
from your other oil ; you may put the oyle you find 
in the head and the spermaceti altogether, and marke 
it from the other oyle, and at your comming home, 
we will separate the oyle from the spermaceti. The 
like is to be done with the oyle of this sort of whale 
which is to be kept apart from the oyle of the other 
whales. The reason is, that the oyle of this sort of 
whale being boyled, will be as white and hard as 
tallow, which to be mingled with the other oil being 
liquid, would make the same to show as footie oil, 
and so consequently spoyle both, and be of little 
value ; you are therefore to be very carefull to 
keepe the oyle of this sort of whale apart, as well of 
the head as of the body, for the reasons before 
mentioned. In this sort of whale is likewise found 
the Ambergreese, lying in the entrals and guts of the 
same, being of shape and colour like unto Kowes 
dung. We would have you therefore your selfe to 
be present at the opening of this sort of whale, and 
cause the residue of the said entrals to be put into 
small caske, and bring them with you into England. 
We would have the master also to be by at the 
opening of this whale and to be made privie of the 
packing of those barils. And although it be said, 
that the Ambergreese is onely in this whale and in 
none other, yet we would not have you be absent at 


the opening of any other; but if you see cause to 
make a reservation of the entrals of every whale 
that you shall perceive to be cause of the least 
suspect to have any of the said Ambergreese, being 
a matter, as you know, of good worth, and there- 
fore not slightly to be regarded. The teeth likewise 
of this sort of whale we would have you cause to 
be reserved for a triall; as also any other matter 
extraordinarie that you shall observe in the same. 
This whale is said to yeelde in oyle fortie hogs- 
heads, besides the spermaceti." This is the Sperm 
Whale which was occasionally encountered even 
in fairly high latitudes on the way to and from 

" The fourth sort of whale is called Otta Sotta, 
and is of the same colour as the Trumpa, having 
finnes in his mouth all white, but not above halfe a 
yard long, being thicker than the Trumpa, but not 
so long ; he yeelds the best oyle, but not above thirty 

" The fift sort of whale is called Gibarta, 1 of 
colour blacke like the two first, saving that it hath 
standing upon the top of his backe, a finne half a 
yard long. This whale is as big as the first; his fins 
little or nothing worth, being not above halfe a yard 
long; and he yeeldeth about twelve hogsheads of 
oyle, all of which his backe yeelds ; as for his bellie 
it yeelds nothing at all. 

" The sixt sort is called Sedeva, being of a whitly 

1 A Finner, see Browne, Goode, The Fishery Industries of 
the United States, Sec. I., pp. 29-30 


colour, and bigger than any of the former, the finnes 
not above one foot long, and he yeelds little or no 
oyle. The seventh is called Sedeva Negro, of 
colour blacke, with a bump on his backe ; this whale 
yeelds neither oyle, fins nor teeth, and yet he is of a 
great bignesse. 

" The eight sort is called Sewria, of colour as 
white as snow, of the bignesse of a Wherrie, he 
yeelds not above one hogshead or two of Oyle, nor 
any finnes, and is good meat to be eaten." 1 

Descriptions of the different species of whales by 
the Dutch will be found in an early pamphlet of 
Saeghman's 2 and in Zorgdrager. 3 The latter (in 
1720) distinguished six or seven species, viz., 
Vinvisch (Balena vulgaris\ Walvisch {Balena verd), 
Zwaard-Zaag of Tand-Vische (Balena Orca vel 
dantata), Noortkaper (Physter), Potyisch (Cete) and 
Eenhoorn of Hoornvisch (Narwal). A short 
digression is here made to give the various names in 
vogue from time to time for the whales of Arctic and 
sub- Arctic waters. 

Other accounts of the different species of whales 
met in northern waters are given by Von Troil 4 

1 This is the White Whale (Delphinapterus leucas). It grows 
to a length of about twelve feet. White whales were taken by 
the English, whenever possible. Twenty-four tons of oil were 
made from white whales in 1670. They were driven ashore by 
means of nets, and consequently were only taken in the bays. 

a Kort verhael van de Gedaente der Walvisschen, En hare 
Namen, en voorts waer, en hoe, deselve in Zee gevangen warden. 
Miiller, " Noordsche Compagnie," p. 377, from " Drie Voya- 
gien Gedaen na Groenlandt," Amsterdam, G. J. Saeghman. 

* Bloyende Opkomst, ist edition, p. 80. 

* W. von Troil, " Bref rorande en Resa til Island," 1772, 
Upsal, 1777. 


(1772) and Leems 1 (1767), the former dealing with 
the Icelandic names for whales and the latter with 
Danish Lapland. 

According to Von Troll the natives of Iceland 
divided whales into two classes, those with, and 
those without, teeth (tusks). 

Those without teeth are divided further into 
skidis fiskur or smooth bellied and reydar fiskur or 
wrinkle bellied (roughly, True Whales and Finners). 
Among the skidis fiskur, who have whalebone 
instead of teeth, the Slettbakr (Balana biscayensis) 
whose back is flat, is the largest, and some have been 
caught one hundred yards ( ?) in length. 

The Hnufubakr (probably Megaptera boops) has 
a hump on his back, and is next in size, from seventy 
to eighty yards (?) long. Of all the known whales 
the Steipereidur (Balcenoptem sibbaldi), which 
belongs to the class of the reydar fiskur, is thought 
to be the largest, as there are some one hundred and 
twenty yards (?) in length. Then follow the Hrafn 
reydur and the Andarnefia. 2 They are all considered 
as very dainty food, and the Icelanders say the flesh 
has the taste of beef. 

The whales which have teeth instead of whalebone 
are also divided into two classes, those which are 
eatable and those which are not. The names of 
these are given but not sufficient detail to enable one 
to identify them with certainty. 

1 Knud Leems, " An Account of the Laplanders of Finmark," 
originally published in Danish and Latin, Copenhagen, 1767. 

3 Lindeman states that the Andarnefia is the Bottlenose, which 
is, however, a toothed whale. 


Leems distinguished seven species of whale met 
with in the sea off Finmark. Of these it is possible 
to distinguish at least four with reasonable certainty, 
namely, the Ror Hval (a finner), the Nord Kaperen 
(B. biscayensis], the Springere (Dolphin), and Niser 

To return now to the events of 1611, Edge is 
next admonished to be industrious and diligent and 
to avoid negligence and idleness, and to see " that 
every one be imployed in some businesse or other 
in helping to kill the whale, or in searching the bayes 
along the coast for whales, ambergreese, morses 
teeth, or any other strange thing, that may be found 
upon that coast, or in killing the morses, beares, or 
anything that may make profit toward our great 
charges." The Mary Margaret is ordered to keep 
in touch with the Elizabeth, and finally Edge is 
instructed, " You have with you an order set downe 
by the Lords of his Majesties privie Counsell, for 
the maintaining of our Charter; which we would 
have you make knowne to any of our Nation, that 
you may chance to meet withall either at Cherie 
Hand, or upon any of those coasts. And if any 
stranger do offer you violence, or doe disturbe you 
in your trade, you may both defend yourselves, and 
maintaine your trade to the uttermost of your 

Fortified by these detailed instructions, the Mary 
Margaret and the Elizabeth set sail from Blackwall 
on the nth April, 1611, accompanied by the 
Resolution on a Russian trading voyage and the 


Amitie, seventy tons, bound for Nova Zembla " to 
see if they could make a voyage by way of trade, or 
by killing of Mohorses." Although whaling had 
undoubtedly been prosecuted in northern waters 
prior to this, the Mary Margaret was probably the 
first vessel to take part in the " Greenland " whale 

Their voyage was certainly not devoid of incident. 
Before they reached latitude 65 north, the Mary 
Margaret and Elisabeth separated owing to bad 
weather. Poole reached Cherie Island on the I3th 
May, and on the i4th spoke the Amitie, on the i6th 
the Mary Margaret with whom he kept company 
until they reached " Greenland." On the 29th 
May they anchored in Crosse Road (see chart, p, 58) 
where " we found almost all the sounds full of ice, 
that the Biscainers could not strike one whale, 
although they saw divers, which as they said were of 
the beste kinde of whale." 

They cruised about, and on the I2th of June the 
Biscayners killed a small whale which yielded twelve 
tons of oil " being the first oyle that ever was made 
in Greenland." On the 25th June the Mary 
Margaret found a large number of sea-morses in Sir 
Thomas Smyth's Bay. The crew landed, killed five 
hundred, leaving a thousand more living on shore. 
The next day most of the men went ashore to work 
and make oil of the morses, leaving the master and 
ten men on board. Some ice drifted into the bay 
forcing the ship ashore, " where shee, by the master's 
weake judgment was cast away, and all their bread 


spoyled not fit to eate." The ship being lost beyond 
hope of recovery, the crew made ready to leave the 
place in their boats. Fifty men in all, they left in 
four small sloops and the ship's boat on the i5th July. 
After proceeding for some thirty to forty leagues to 
the southward the boats separated. One sloop and 
the ship's boat being together, met with a ship of 
Hull, to whom they imparted the information that 
their ship was lost and that they had left on land 
goods to the value of some fifteen hundred pounds. 
The Mary Margaret's men now proceeded with the 
Hull boat back to Foule Sound to take in the 
Company's goods and to kill some sea-morses. 

This Hull ship, the Hopewell, Thomas 
Marmaduke, master, got back to the wreck of the 
Mary Margaret, where they were ultimately found by 
Jonas Poole in the Elizabeth, as will appear in the 

The main part of the shipwrecked crew of the 
Mary Margaret, including Thomas Edge, the 
factor, and Steven Benet, the master, held on their 
course to the southward to Cherry Island, which 
they reached safely on the 29th July, having been at 
sea in their sloops for fourteen days, " and comming 
into the Hand with a great storme at north-west 
with much difficultie they landed on the south side of 
the Island." Here they found the Elizabeth in the 
north road, three miles away, " being at that time 
weighing anchor to set sayle for England." 

Poole, who was unquestionably a man of resource, 
on learning how matters stood with the Mary 


Margaret, immediately lightened his ship, putting 
" neere one hundred morse hides on land, and some 
emptie caske, and haled up a shalop. After haul- 
ing up the remaining sloops of the Mary Margaret 
at midnight I set sayle for Greenland, carrying with 
mee two Biscaine shallops, determining there to try 
the blubber of those morses we had killed, and bring 
it to oyle, and to bring all the oyle, teeth and finnes 
which they had gotten in that country." 

Ple left Cherry Island in the Elizabeth on the 
ist August, and arrived at Foule Sound in 
" Greenland " on the 14$!, where he found the Hull 
ship, the Hopewell, busily engaged in salvage work. 
As soon as the Elizabeth was moored Poole set to 
work to make the best of things. He determined to 
get out the blubber and send it ashore to be made 
into oil, and also to take home the oil and whale-fins 
as being the more valuable cargo, leaving the morse- 
hides and blubber to the next year. The accounts 
given by Edge and Poole of this same incident differ 
in details, though there is an agreement in the main. 
For instance, Edge gives the date of arrival of the 
Elizabeth at Foule Sound as the I4th August, 
Poole gives the date as the 3rd. 1 At any rate, Poole 
lightened his ship too much during these operations, 
so that " the ship began to held, and with all a great 
many men went to leeward, there being at that time 
above forty on board." Poole says he had at this 
time on board " about nine and twentie tunne weight, 

1 But they may have estimated the date, one by the old, the 
other by the new method. 


and to any unpartiall man's judgment, sufficient to 
shift a bark of sixtie tunnes." 

At any rate, the position suddenly got worse, " the 
hides which lay in the hold slid to leeward, and 
brought her altogether downe, then every man made 
shift to save his life, and I being farre from the 
hatches, could not get up so soone as others did. 
At which time I saw death before mine eyes two 
wayes, one if I stayed in hold, I was sure to be 
drowned ; the other if I went up the hatches, I was 
in election to be slaine ; for downe at the hatches fell 
hogsheads of beere and divers other things, the least 
of them being sufficient to beate a mans bones." 
However, Poole escaped, " and, blessed bee God, 
no man perished at that so dangerous an accident." 
With their boats they now made for the Hull ship, 
their sole hope of rescue. There they found small 
comfort, for Duke told them plainly they were not 
to come aboard, " and caused pikes and launces to 
be brought to keepe us out." However, Edge 
persuaded the Hull man to be reasonable, so that 
Poole got aboard, " having mine head broke to the 
skull, and my brow that one might see the bare 
bones, and by mine eare I had a sore wound, likewise 
the ribs on my right side were all broken and sore 
bruised, and the collar-bone of my left shoulder is 
broken, besides, my backe was so sore, that I could 
not suffer any man to touch it." An arrangement 
was eventually come to with the Hull ship whereby 
the goods which were saved were taken in at the 
rate of five pounds the tunne. On the 2ist August 


they left Greenland in the Hopewell, ninety-nine 
men in all, arriving at Hull on the 6th September. 

This venture, though unsuccessful in itself, held 
out such great promise for the future that the 
Muscovy Company determined to embark thoroughly 
in the whaling trade, a resolution which was speedily 
copied by various " interlopers " in which term 
were included not only foreigners but also British 
subjects, e.g., Hull men, not authorised by the 
Muscovy Company. . 

In 1612 the Right Worshipfull the Muscovie 
Merchants sent out two ships, the Whale, one 
hundred and sixty tons, and the Sea-horse, one 
hundred and eighty tons, under the command of 
John Russell and Thomas Edge. Leaving Black- 
wall on the 7th April they arrived at Cherry Island 
on the 3rd May, where they found a Dutch ship, in 
which " one Alan Salowes an Englishman was 
pilot." The Muscovy Company's servant wished 
to detain Salowes, but eventually he was allowed co 
depart. On the 22nd May off Black Point and on 
the 23rd off Cape Cold they saw great store of 
whales. A few days later they met the Dutch ship 
again, in company with the Diana of London 
" whereof one Thomas Bustion dwelling at 
Wapping Wall, was master." The HopewelL 
of Hull, still in charge of Thomas Marmaduke, was 
also at the whaling this year, and they* claimed to 
have sailed to 82 north. There was also a ship 
from San Sebastian in charge of Nicholas 
Woodcock, an Englishman, as pilot, so there were 


at least six ships at the whaling this year, two of 
the Muscovy Company's vessels and four inter- 
lopers, two English and two foreign. The intro- 
duction of the foreign element appears to have been 
due to English renegades, since the Hollanders 
" came to Greenland with one ship, being brought 
thither by an Englishman, and not out of any 
knowledge of their owne discoveries, but by the 
direction of one Allan Sallowes, a man imployed by 
the Muscovia Companie in the Northerne seas for 
the space of twentie yeeres before ; who leaving his 
country for debt, was entertayned by the Hollanders 
and imployed by them to bring them to Greenland 
for their Pylot." Similarly the Spanish ship was 
piloted by the Englishman Woodcocke, who, how- 
ever, was subsequently arrested on complaint by the 
Company, and imprisoned for sixteen months in the 

The Muscovy Company's ships were very 
successful this year, getting seventeen whales as well 
as some sea-horses, of which they made one hundred 
and eighty tons of oil " with much difficultie ; as 
not being experimented in the businesse." The 
Company for both periods (this and the preceding 
year) paid two dividends of ninety per cent. 1 

In 1613 great preparations were made, the 
Muscovy Company alone fitting out five ships and a 
pinasse for the whaling. These ships were the 
Tigre, Admiral; the Matthew^ Vice- Admiral ; the 
sea-horse called the Gamaliel, Rear- Admiral ; the 

1 Scott, " Joint Stock Companies to 1720," Vol. ii., p. 53. 


Desire ; the Annula ; the Richard and Barnard ; 
with the John and Francis, to follow. In all 
expeditions consisting of more than two vessels, one 
was appointed to lead, the " Admiral," the other to 
look out astern, the " Vice- Admiral." By day the 
Admira! carried a signal and by night a distinguishing 
light. The officer in command of the fleet was the 
General, and he sailed in the Admiral. The second 
in command was the Lieutenant-General, he sailed 
in the Vice-Admiral. Both of these officers had 
letters patent from the Sovereign, authorising them 
to enforce martial law. The journal of this voyage 
was kept by the famous William Baffin, who after- 
wards (in 1615) went as pilot of the Discovery in 
search of the north-west passage. 

Hearing that a number of foreign ships were 
fitting out for the fishery, the Company took the 
precaution of applying for a Royal Charter from 
King James, to exclude all others, natives and 
foreigners, from participating in the fishery. It was 
urged that the industry would be highly beneficial 
to the country, since every hundred pounds 
adventured brought trade estimated at five hundred 
pounds. The claim was based on the right of first 
discovery and the advantageous character of the 
occupation. 1 The petition was accepted and a 
grant embodying the views of the company made on 
the 1 3th March, 1613. 

This year the Company's ships were under the 

1 " The Humble Petition and Remonstrance of the English 
Merchants for the Discovery of New Trades," Lands, MSS. 
No. 142, f. 301. 


command of Benjamin Joseph and Thomas Edge. 
Leaving Queenborough on the i3th May, they 
reached Greenland in eighteen days. On the 3ist 
they saw a ship which proved to be a ship of Saint 
John de Luz " which had leave of the Companie 
to fish," and from whom they learnt that there were 
eight Spaniards on the coast. They also saw 
another ship, supposed to be a Frenchman, with 
Allan Sallas as pilot. On the 2nd June they 
boarded a small pink and ordered the master and 
pilot thereof aboard the English General's ship. 

The master's name was Clais Martin of Home, 
his ship being for Dunkirk, and with him was 
another ship, whose master was Fopp, also of Dun- 
kirk. According to Edge there were fifteen sail of 
large ships besides four English interlopers 
engaged in the whaling this year. 

In addition to those mentioned above Baffin 
records meeting four foreigners on the 6th June at 
Poopy Bay, of whom two were Hollanders from 
Amsterdam with a commission granted by the Grave 
Maurice to fish in that country; one a Rocheller and 
the fourth a vessel from Bordeaux. When they saw 
our Kings Majestie's Commission they told our 
General that they would depart this coast. The 
English were at this time in great strength. The 
Jacques of Bordeaux agreed with the English that if 
he were permitted to fish he would hand over half 
the whales he killed. The Rocheller and the small 
ship from Biscay agreed (8th June) to leave the 
coast. On the Qth the English ordered the two 


Dutch ships, the Dunkirker, the Rocheller and the 
Spanish ship from Saint Sebastian out of Green 

Two Dutch ships were encountered on the loth 
at Low Sound, where on the loth June the English 
" went on shoare to set up the Kings Majesties 
Armes upon a low point of land, lying a great way 
off, called Low-nesse. We set up a Crosse of 
wood and nayled the Armes upon it." On the I3th 
the English again molested a number of foreign 
ships in Home Sound, compelling them to leave, 
which they did on the following day, when the 
English again went on shore and sent up the King's 

In short during the whole of the time of the 
fishery there were constant altercations ending with 
the foreigners submitting with bad grace, since they 
were inferior in strength, and leaving or at least 
making the pretence of leaving. There was one 
large ship of Biscay of seven hundred tons " which 
we expected would have fought with us." 

It was in company with two ships of Amsterdam, 
the masters of which were Cornelius Calias and 
William Vermogon, Admirals, and John Jacob, Vice- 
Admiral, " these two would gladly have stood out 
with us, if the Biscaine would have assisted them." 
In spite of the enormous waste of time in wrangling 
with the foreigners, by the I7th July the Company's 
ships had secured thirty-eight whales (of which 
eight had been handed over by the Frenchman 
according to agreement) and one hundred and sixty 


tons of oil had been prepared. Disputes were, 
however, continuous, and on the ist August 
" for pilfering and some perempterie two of the 
Rochellers were ducked at our yard arme, the one 
on the one side, and the other on the other." 

On the 1 4th August six of the ships left for home, 
namely, the Tigre, the Gamaliel, the John and 
Francis, the Annula, together with the Bordeaux ship 
which had fished under permission, and the Biscay 
ship which had fished in Sir Thomas Smyth's Bay. 
On the 1 6th off Cold Cape they fell in with a ship of 
Alborough belonging to Master Cudner of London, 
the master being named Fletcher. This was one 
of the four English interlopers referred to by Edge. 

On the whole the voyage produced but poor 
results for the Muscovy Company, the financial loss 
being between three and four thousand pounds. 

On their return home to Amsterdam the despoiled 
Dutch ships complained of the ill-treatment to which 
they had been subject, and representations were 
made through the ordinary diplomatic channels to 
King James, who at this time was a convinced 
believer in the doctrine of mare clausum. The 
Dutch founded their case partly on the right of 
prior discovery and partly on the general principle of 
freedom of navigation and fishery. 

In all there are six separate accounts of the 
whaling at Spitsbergen in 1613. These are the 
accounts by Edge and Baffin published by Purchas ; 
the " Histoire du Pays nomme Spitsberghe " by 
Hessel Gerritsz, an account by Robert Fotherby, a 


note in manuscript in the British Museum entitled 
" A briefe Narration of the Discoverie of the 
Northern Seas and the Coasts and Countries of 
those parts as it was first begunn and continewd by 
the singular Industrie and charge of the Company 
of Muscovie Merchants of London," and finally the 
" Corte Deductie ende Remonstrantie van wegen 
de Bewinthebbers ende Participanten vande 
respectiue oude Noortse Compagnien ouet Delft, 
Hoorn, Enckhuijsen, Vlissingen ende Veere, ouer- 
gegeuen aende Hooge ende Mogende Heeren de 
Staten Generael Vereenichde Nederlandtse Pro- 
vintien." 1 

Of these the most valuable account from the whal- 
ing standpoint is that by Fotherby. This account is 
in manuscript in the possession of the American 
Antiquarian Society, and contains illustrations of 
the whale fishery together with a description of 
the fishery. It is really the original description of 
Fotherby's first voyage (of three). 2 This account 
has been reprinted twice, and in addition quoted 
extensively by Conway (" No Man's Land "). 

The Dutch version of the occurrences at Spits- 
bergen in 1612 and 1613 is given by Hessel 
Gerritsz van Assum. 8 

1 See Miiller. " Noordsche Compagnie," p. 3^3. 

3 " Transactions and Collections of the American Archaeological 
Society," Vol. iv. (1860), p. 285; reprinted by the Hakluyt Society 
in a volume entitled " The Voyages of William Baffin," London, 

' " Histoire du pays nomine" Spitsberghe. Monstrant comment 
qu'il est trouvee, son naturel et ses animauls, avecques la 
triste racompte des maux, que nos pecheurs tant Basques que 
Flamens, ont eu a souffrir des Anglois, en 1' este passee P An 


The Dutch ship this year, 1612, was commanded 
by Willem van Muijden of Amsterdam, with whom 
was another ship from Saardam, which, however, 
only went to Bear or Cherry Island to shoot or catch 
walrus. In 1613 Van Muijden had two ships, in 
which were engaged twelve Basque sailors from St 
Jean de Luz; three master-harpooners, three boat- 
swains, and the remaining six for the preparation of 
oil and cutting up the whales. There was also a 
barque from Amsterdam in which was Thomas 
Bonaert, an Englishman, and a few Dutchmen, the 
majority of the crew being, however, Englishmen. 
There were also two barques from Saardam. As 
already related, the English persistently molested 
the Dutch. Eventually, Muijden showed the 
English Admiral his Excellency's (Count Maurice) 
Commission, which stated that he was at liberty to 
fish, and to defend himself against all who wished to 
harm him. The Admiral read it, kissed it, and 
admitted its genuineness, but said he was obliged to 
execute the charge he had from his king, which was 
still greater, and which gave him the right to hold 
for His Majesty, and for their enjoyment, all 
countries and lands already discovered, and to be 
discovered, within a line running from the north-west 
and one from the north-east, drawn with a compass 

de grace, 1613." Escrit par H. G. A. " Et en apres une 
protestation centre les Angloys, et annulation de touts leurs 
frivols argumens, parquoy ils pensent avoir droict, pour se faire 
Maistre tout seul, dudict pays," Amsterdam, 1613. (English 
translation in Hakluyt Society's " Early Dutch and English 
Voyages to Spitsbergen in the Seventeenth Century," London, 


placed upon their map midway between Trondhjem 
and Iceland. 

The English Admiral, therefore, not only forbade 
Muijden to fish anywhere, but took away from him 
all that he had already caught. The Dutchmen's 
adventures are related in detail. On the 28th July 
the English Admiral made Muijden a present of 
twenty pipes of lard and twenty-one wattles for the 
eighteen and a half whales which he had captured. 
And he still retained in his service the vessel from 
Saardam, which went here and there for him, 
looking for wood along the banks and bringing the 
blubber to the Foreland to the other English ships. 
This vessel was also given a quantity of blubber for 
its pay, and came home. According to Gerritsz the 
Muscovy Company accumulated incredible wealth 
from the despoiling of the Dutch ships. 

As will be seen, this success of the English in 
1613 was only temporary. 

It was evident there would be a keen struggle in 
1614, and both sides made great preparations. 
The Dutch, evidently placing little faith in their 
diplomatic representations to King James, deter- 
mined to resort to force to defend their interests. 
Early in 1614 a new Dutch Company was formed 
and a charter of monopoly obtained for three years, 
a period subsequently extended to ten. 1 They 
obtained the exclusive right " to trade and fish from 
the United Netherlands on or to the coasts of the 

1 This charter is printed in full in " Zorgdrager," ist edition, 
PP. 173-175. 


lands between Nova Zembla and Fretum Davidis," 
including Spitsbergen, Beer-en-Eiland and Green- 
land. A tax of last-money, i.e., a contribution 
towards the expenses of the common defence based 
on the tonnage of the vessels participating in the 
fishery, was levied, and fourteen Dutch whalers set 
off, convoyed by four men-of-war of thirty guns each. 

The Muscovy Company also made a big effort for 
1614, and they sent out thirteen great ships and 
two pinasses for Greenland, under the command 
of Benjamin Joseph and Thomas Edge, all the ships 
being well appointed with artillery for defence, as 
well as the other necessaries for fishing and dis- 
covery. The log of one of these ships, the 
Thomasine, was recorded by Robert Fotherby, and 
from it the following extracts are made. William 
Baffin was on board the Thomasine for this voyage. 

On the 1 4th June the Thomasine first encountered 
the Dutchmen, eleven sail being met off the Fore- 
land, " one of them came roome towards us, and 
struck her top-sayles twice, whereby we supposed 
they tooke us for some of their fleete." 

Apparently the Dutch were content to leave well 
alone, so long as they were not molested. At 
Maudlen Sound Fotherby went ashore and set up a 
cross with the King's Arms nailed thereon, under 
which he nailed a piece of sheet lead, with the arms 
of the Muscovy Company engraved on it. Then 
cutting up a piece of earth, he said in the hearing 
of the men there present : " I take this piece of earth, 
as a signe of lawfull possession (of this countrey of 


King James his New-land, and of this particular 
place, which I name Trinitie Harbour) taken on the 
behalfe of the Company of Merchants called the 
Merchants of New Trades and Discoveries, for the 
use of our Sovereigne Lord James, by the grace of 
God, King of Great Brittaine France and Ireland, 
whose Royall Armes are here set up, to the end 
that all people who shall here arrive may take notice 
of his Majesties right and title to this countrie, and 
to every part thereof. God save King James." 
Later they went ashore on Red Beach, where they 
found no commodities as they expected to have 
done, " for here had the Hulmen been in 1612 as 
we might know by fires that they had made, and 
gathered the fruites that many yeares before had 
brought forth. Thus as we could not find that 
which wee desired to see, so did we behold that 
which we wished had not been there to be scene, 
which was great abundance of ice." At a subse- 
quent visit to the same spot they set up a cross and 
nailed a sixpence thereon with the King's Arms. 

The English ships returned half laden, while the 
Dutch also made a poor fishing. The Muscovy 
Company, being deprived of the assistance of 
royalties from foreigners licensed to take part in the 
fishing, had to reduce their dividend from thirty per 
cent in 1613 to eleven per cent in 1614. 

In 1615 the Muscovy Company sent out two large 
ships and two pinasses under the cofnmand of 
Benjamin Joseph and Thomas Edge. On one of 
the pinasses, the Richard, twenty tons, of London 


was Robert Fotherby, who kept a log of the 

This year the Dutch sent out fourteen ships, of 
which three were States men-of-war of great force ; 
they killed whales in Horn Sound, Belsound, and 
Fairhaven as they were far too strong to be 
interfered with by the English. The King of 
Denmark also sent out three men-of-war to demand 
toll from the English which, however, was not paid. 
These were the first Danish ships that went to 
Greenland being piloted thither by James Vaden, 
an Englishman. 

In a letter written by Fotherby to Edge, dated 
from Cross Road, i5th July, 1615, there is a 
reference to a meeting with three ships and a 
pinasse of the King of Denmark. Fotherby, it 
must be remembered, was on a very small craft with 
a crew of ten men. He was " courteously enter- 
tayned " by the Danes, who asked him by what 
right he fished there. Fotherby told them by 
virtue of the King of England's patent granted to 
the Muscovy Company of Merchants. The Danes 
then entreated and finally compelled him to accom- 
pany them to meet Edge. Eventually matters 
simmered down, the Danes being apparently 
satisfied with their inquiries, " for they seeme to 
pretend that the right of this land belongs to the 
King of Denmark, and neither to English nor 

This year the English again returned half laden, 
but the Dutch made a successful voyage. 


In 1616 the Muscovy Company sent to Green- 
land eight large ships and two pinasses under the 
command of Thomas Edge. " This yeare it 
pleased God to blesse them by their labours, and 
they full laded all their ships with oyle, and left an 
over-plus in the countrey, which their ships could 
not take in." By the middle of August they had 
from twelve to thirteen hundred tons of oil, and 
all the ships arrived safely in the Thames in 
September. The Dutch had four ships which made 
a poor voyage. 

Encouraged by this success the Muscovy 
Company sent out in 1617 fourteen ships and two 
pinasses to the whale fishing. At this time the Com- 
pany was showing signs of financial weakness and in 
January, 1617, it was resolved to send books to the 
freemen for subscription of a new stock, to be paid 
up during the ensuing four years, those who failed to 
take up stock to be excluded during that time. 

Moreover, King James himself infringed on the 
privileges of the Company. On May 24th he granted, 
by letters patent under the great seal of Scotland, to 
Sir James Cunningham, his heirs and associates con- 
stituting the Scottish East India Company, the right 
to trade to the East Indies, the Levant, Greenland, 
Muscovy and all other countries and islands in 
north, north-west, and north-eastern seas. 1 

The Muscovy Company was chiefly concerned 
since it was intended in the first instance to take up 

1 State Papers, East Indies, i., 65. 


The actual fishing was again very successful this 
year in spite of the presence of numerous foreigners 
and interlopers. Edge himself met with a Dutch 
ship of two hundred tons, from which he learnt that 
there were ten Dutch ships on the coast with two 
men-of-war. Edge warned him not to fish and 
told him to inform the others, that if he met with him 
or any Dutch ships hereafter he would take from 
them what they had got. Hearing later that the 
Dutchmen had killed a few whales in Horn Sound, 
Edge ordered his Vice-Admiral to proceed thither, 
" put the F lemmings from thence and take what 
they had gotten." This the Vice-Admiral proceeded 
to do, much to Edge's subsequent dissatisfaction, 
since the goods taken from the Dutch ships were 
not worth twenty pounds. 

A small English ship of sixty tons with a crew of 
twenty men under William Heley was more 
fortunate. Detailed for the purpose of discovery 
they discovered Witches Island (in 79 north) and 
also " tooke a ship of Flushing, 1 called the Noah's 
Arke (Master John Versile) in Horn Sound, having 
out of him two hundred hogsheads of blubber and 
two whales and a half to cut up, a great copper, and 
divers other provisions, and sent him away ballasted 
with stones." Two other Dutchmen and two Danes 
escaped before Heley appeared on the scene. This 
year the Company's ships captured one hundred and 
fifty whales, yielding over one thousand eight 

1 The Noordsche Companie was this year (1617) enlarged by 
the addition of Zealand partners. 


hundred tons of oil, " beside the blubber left for want 
of caske." 

In 1618 the Dutch made another determined 
attempt to wipe off old scores, and since the Muscovy 
Company were heartened by the great success of the 
previous year it looked as if there were to be lively 
times at the whale fisheries. 

The Muscovy Company and Sir James Cunning- 
ham's Company joined forces, the East India 
Company promising the former a loan of one hundred 
thousand roubles on condition that the whale 
fisheries should be carried on jointly 1 for eight 
years. According to Edge this put the Muscovy 
Company to great trouble and cost " in taking of all 
the provisions they had bespoken, and paying ready 
money for the same, having no use thereof, but 
great part spoyled, and came to little good." There 
can, however, be little doubt that the Muscovy 
Company were now hard up, since they were com- 
pelled to borrow money from persons not free of the 
Company. Ultimately, thirteen ships and two 
pinasses were sent forth again under the command 
of Captain Edge. The Dutch were represented by 
twenty-three well-appointed ships, who commenced 
to fish alongside the English, setting two boats to 
the English one, " with a full purpose to drive the 
English from their Harbours, and to revenge the 
injurie (as they termed it) done them the yeere 

A letter from Master Robert Salmon dated Sir 

1 State Papers, Domestic, James I., xcviii., 2, 9. 


Thomas Smyth's Bay, the 24th June, 1618, throws 
some light on the proceedings. After relating the 
killing of thirteen whales, which yielded but little oil 
on account of the difficulty of working in the ice, 
Salmon goes on : " Here is five sayle of Flemmings 
which have fourteen and sixteene pieces of Ordnance 
in a ship ; and they doe man out eighteene shallops 
so that with theirs and ours there is thirtie shallops 
in the bay, too many for us to make a voyage ; 
there is at least fifteene hundred tunnes of shipping 
of the Flemmings ; we have reasonable good quarter 
with them, for we are merry aboord of them, and 
they of us, they have good store of Sacks, and are 
very kinde to us," yet a little further he says " the 
Company must take another course the next yeere 
if they mean to make any benefit of this country, 
they must send better ships that must beat these 
knaves out of this country." 

The Dutch had, however, evidently intended to 
continue at the whale fishing, since every ship had 
Count Maurice's Commission. 

Master Sherwin, writing in Bell Sound (29th June, 
1618), is also annoyed by the Dutch, " let them all 
go hang themselves, and although you be not strong 
enough to meddle with them, yet the worst words 
are too good for them, the time may come you may 
fce revenged on them againe." Two of the Dutch 
ships came along, but Sherwin handled them 
carefully " for fear of after-claps " ; had it been later 
in the year " we would have handled them better." 
" Now they be gone for Home Sound, I would that 


they had all of them as good a pair of homes grow- 
ing on their heads, as is in this country." From 
which it would appear that Master Sherwin was not 
devoid of humour. 

Finally, James Beversham, writing to Master 
Heley from Fairhaven (i2th July, 1618), complains 
that the Biscainers have stolen one of the sixteen 
whales they had killed. 

Heley was himself by this time in much greater 
straits, since five of the Dutchmen, namely, the 
Fortune of Camphire, four hundred tons, with 
eighteen cast pieces beside brass bases and 
" murtherers/' Captain Hubreght Cornelisson; the 
Saint Peter of Flushing, three hundred tons, with 
eighteen cast pieces, Captain Cornelius Cooke ; the 
Salamander of Flushing, two hundred tons, fourteen 
cast pieces, Captain Adrian Peeterson; the Cat of 
Delph Haven, with sixteen cast pieces, Abraham 
Leverstick being Captain and General of the 
Zealanders, and William Johnson of Milliworth in a 
ship with fourteen cast pieces, after much conference, 
on the i Qth July forcibly set on Heley who was in 
the Pleasure, attended by one English ship and a 
pinasse. The Dutchmen plied their ordnance, 
small shot and " murtherers." The English ships, 
in spite of their resistance, were forced to anchor or 
run ashore, their ships being rifled, and their casks 

After this, the remaining English ships dispersed, 
their voyage being " utterly overthrowne." They 
returned empty, the Muscovy Company putting their 


loss at over sixty-six thousand pounds besides the 
spoiling of the ships and the loss of the men. 

On their return the English whalers made formal 
complaint, and the proceedings at the Foreland, Bell 
Sound and Horn Sound were the subject of separate 
affidavits. 1 

The statement of events at the Foreland is sworn 
to by William Heley (London), aged twenty-four 
years or thereabouts, Robert Salmon of Deptford, 
Stephen Smith of Gravesend and John Headland 
of London. At the Foreland it is evident there 
was considerable wrangling between William Heley, 
who was the chief representative of the English, 
and Hubreght Cornelisson, the Admiral of the 

Heley, though with a numerically inferior force, 
and with unarmed ships, seems to have attempted to 
prevent the Dutch from fishing, although the latter 
were present in overwhelmingly greater force. 
Heley learnt that this year the Dutch sent nineteen 
ships to Jan Mayen Island (Hudson's Touches) and 
that the twenty-three for Greenland (Spitsbergen) 
were to be distributed as follows: To Horn Sound, 
five; Bell Sound, seven; Green Harbour, three; 
the Foreland, five; and Fairhaven, three. There 
was a man-of-war to ride close to the English Vice- 
Admiral's side, and if she stirred, then to go with 
her. It appeared that the Dutch had information of 

* State Papers, Domestic, James I., Sept., 1618, Vol. xcix., 
No. 40. Ibid., July-Aug., 1618, Vol. xcviii., Docket 44. (Re- 
printed in " Early Dutch and English Voyages to Spitsbergen," 
Hakluyt Society, 1904.) 


the number of vessels being fitted out in England 
in the winter of 1617-18 by the Muscovy Company, 
and were determined to overpower them. Amongst 
the amenities we read that Cornelius de Cock of the 
Saint Peter said that " our King of England was a 
Scotchman, and that his picture stood at Flushinge 
with an emptie purse by his side " ; a statement 
characterised in a marginal note as " a gross and 
intolerable abuse to his Ma'ty." 

The further proceedings at the Foreland, 
culminating in the attack of the I9th July, are set 
forth in great detail in the affidavit of Heley and the 

The events at Bell Sound are sworn to by 
Thomas Edge of London, Thomas Sherwyn of 
Wapping, John Thornbush of Wapping, John 
Martin of Rodrith, John Ellis of Wapping, and 
John Barker of Radcliffe ; and those at Horn Sound 
by John Johnson of Lymehouse, William Dridle of 
Redritge, and William Henderson of Lymehouse. 
At both places the English endeavoured to persuade 
the DutcrTto desist from fishing, but the latter were 
in great force and took no notice of the English 
protests, except to produce their commission from the 
" Grave Morrice," the Prince of Orange. It seems 
unnecessary to recapitulate all the details of these 
transactions. 1 

The effect of these events on King James, who 
was now thoroughly steeped in the doctrine of 

1 " Early Dutch and English Voyages to Spitsbergen," 
pp. 42-65. 


" Dominium Maris," can be imagined. Diplomatic 
protests were promptly made to the Dutch, who sent 
ambassadors to England in November to treat on 
the points at issue. 

A detailed account of the discussion of the legal 
points at issue is beyond the scope of this work. 
King James appointed two groups of commissioners 
to treat with the Dutchmen, a Scottish group to deal 
with the herring fisheries, and the English group to 
deal with other matters in dispute, including the 
whale fishery. Pusillanimous James tried to bluff 
the Dutchmen, but without success. The English 
case was based on the contention that Spitsbergen 
belonged to the king, on the prior fishing there, and 
on the depredations of the Dutch in 1618. The 
Dutch claimed Spitsbergen by right of discovery, 
but in order to arrive at a modus vivendi, they 
proposed three alternatives : 

(1) That all nations should fish for whales at 
Spitsbergen, sharing the bays and fishing stations 
between them. 

(2) That fishing should be carried on by the 
English and Dutch with an equal number of vessels 
of equal size. 

(3) That the island should be divided into two 
equal parts by an imaginary line, the Dutch to have 
one part, the English the other. 

James would have none of this, and insisted on 
his right to the sea at Spitsbergen. On the practical 
point he gave way, consenting that the Dutch should 
fish at the Island for three years longer. 


In 1619 a joint undertaking of the Muscovy and 
the East India Companies engaged in the Spits- 
bergen whale fishery, nine ships and two pinasses 
being sent out under the command of Captain Edge. 
The Dutch were also strongly represented. 
Misfortune dogged the footsteps of the English 
companies. A letter from John Chambers to 
W. Heley from Bell Sound, i6th June, 1619, relates 
a disaster which had occurred to one of the English 
ships. By this time Salmon had killed ten whales 
" whereof eight are made into oyle, which hath made 
one hundred and eleaven tuns and a halfe, the other 
two were killed the fourth of this present, being very 
large fish, not doubting but they- will make sixe and 
thirtie or fortie tunnes ; we have the hundred tunnes 
aboard, the rest Master Barker taketh in." The 
voyage was a great loss to the companies, and as 
the Dutch brought home large quantities of oil and 
sold it at low rates, the English companies were 
compelled to hold theirs over for twelve months and 
then sell it at a very low price. Moreover, one ship 
was lost near Yarmouth on the return voyage. 

By this time the position of the Muscovy 
Company was desperate, so that in 1620 a fresh 
undertaking was formed, new capital being provided 
by Ralph Freeman, Benjamin Deicrowe, George 
Strowd and Thomas Edge. The liabilities and 
assets of the old concern were taken over for a sum 
of twelve thousand pounds. This included a claim 
against the Dutch for damage in 1619 amounting 
to twenty-two thousand pounds. 



In 1620 seven ships were sent out under the 
command of William Goodlad and William Heley. 
Owing to the great number of Dutch and Danish 
ships the English were compelled to pass from 
harbour to harbour, so that they eventually returned 
half laden with about seven hundred tons of oil. 

In 1621 eight ships departed, seven for the 
whaling and one for discovery, with a partial success, 
eleven hundred tons of oil being obtained. 

In 1622 the Greenland section of the Muscovy 
Company's trade was put up to auction and sold 
for an annual sum of five hundred and twenty 
pounds. The purchasers formed a separate con- 
cern known as the " Greenland Adventurers." 
Eight ships were sent to the whaling and one for 

Bad luck again attended them. One of the 
largest ships was wrecked on the coast of " King 
James Newland " and twenty-nine of the crew lost. 
The remainder returned with one thousand three 
hundred tons of oil. 

Purchas prints three letters concerning the 
whale fisheries of 1623, from Nathaniel Fanne, 
Master Catcher and William Goodlad. The last 
named was Admiral, William Heley being Vice- 

This year the Dutch were represented by very 
large ships, up to five hundred tons burden, furnished 
with material for the building of houses and taber- 
nacles at Spitsbergen, for the living quarters of the 
shore gang, and preparation of the train oil. 


The Dutch Company (Noordsche Compagnie) 
about this time enlarged its sphere of operations 

It is estimated that in the reign of James I. 
(1603-25) there were in existence from one thousand 
two hundred to one thousand four hundred English 
ships, of which eighteen were engaged in whaling 
and discoveries in Arctic seas. Marsden's list 
includes the following names of whalers : Desire, 
Dragon, Elizabeth, George, Gods Speed, Hope-well, 
Jacob, Mary Anne, Mary Margaret, Matthew, 
Patience, Rainbow, Samaritan, Samuel, Sarah, 
Tiger and Unity}- 

Towards the end of the reign of James I. the 
merchants of Hull complained of the falling off of 
their trade, and in evidence given by John Ramsden, 
before the Trades Committee of the Privy Council, 
it is stated " that the summer trade in fish being 
ruined by the King of Denmark and the Ward- 
house ... we did seek to revive again by searching 
and finding out the land called Greenland, where 
we were the first that found that country, and gave 
the first hazard of any Englishman to kill the 
whale, which we hoped would retrieve our fortune; 
but the Russia Company of London do exceedingly 
disturb us therein. Another special cause of decay 
we humbly suppose to be the strict restraint thereof 
by the Company of Merchant Adventurers and the 

1 For further details see R. G. Marsden, " English Ships in 
the Reign of James I." Trans. Roy. Hist. Soc. t xix., pp. 310-55, 
igos, and also Rendel Harris, " The Last of the Mayflower." 
Manchester University Press, 1920. 


Eastland Company of London, who abridge and 
monopolise the whole trade of these countries into 
their own hands, though many of them are of small 
ability and hinder often those that are better able." 1 
One of the best early descriptions of the whale 
fisheries is that of Edge (see illustrations, pp. 64 and 
80). First of all the ordinary species of whale is 
described. " The whale is a fish or sea-beast of 
a huge bignesse, about sixtie five foot long, and 
thirtie five foot thicke, his head is a third part of all 
his bodies quantitie, his spacious mouth contayn- 
ing a very great tongue, and all his finnes, which 
we call whale finnes. These finnes are rooted in 
his upper chap, and spread over his tongue on both 
sides his mouth, being in number about two 
hundred and fiftie on one side, and as many on the 
other side. The longest finnes are placed in the 
midst of his mouth, and the rest doe shorten by 
their proportionable degrees, backward and for- 
wards, from ten or eleven foot long to foure inches 
in length, his eyes are not much bigger than an 
Oxes eyes, his body is in fashion almost round 
forwards, growing on still narrower towards his 
tayle from his bellie ; his tayle is about twentie foot 
broad, and of a tough solid substance, which we use 
for blockes to chop the blubber on (which yields 
oyle), and of like nature are his two swimming 
finnes (and they grow forward on him). This 

1 " Causes of the General Decay of Trade and Scarcity of 
Money in the Town of Kingston-on-Hull, as laid before the 
Privy Council by John Ramsden, Merchant," 1622 (from 
Hartley's, Hull). 


creature commeth oftentimes above water, spouting 
eight or nine times before he goeth downe againe, 
whereby he may be descried two or three leagues 

This gives the whalemen their opportunity. 
When the whale is observed blowing, the shallops 
are sent out after him. It is unnecessary to quote 
Edge's description in full, since as Purchas says 
" You may see this story of the whale killing 
presented lively in the Map, which Captain Edge 
hath liberally added to this relation." After the 
whale has been harpooned by the harping-iron he 
is lanced, and " in lancing him they strike neere the 
finnes he swimmeth withall, and as .lowe under 
water neere his bellie as conveniently they can; 
but when he is lanced he friskes and strikes with his 
tayle so forcibly, that many times when he hitteth 
a shallop hee splitteth her in pieces." 

" The whale having received his deadly wound, 
then he spouteth bloud (whereas formerly he cast 
forth water) and his strength beginneth to fayle 
him." The whale is next towed to the ship, across 
the stern of which it is laid. The blubber is next 
cut off, " then to race it from the flesh, there is a 
crane or capstan placed purposely upon the poope 
of the ship, from whence there descendeth a rope 
with a hooke in it ; this hooke is made to take hold 
on a piece of blubber; and as the men wind the 
capsten, so the cutter with his long knife looseth the 
fat from the flesh, even as if the lard of a swine 
were to be cut off from the leane." The blubber is 


next towed ashore to the cookeries, where it is 
boiled (see p. 80). The fins are then severed from 
one another with axes, cleaned, and packed in 
bundles of fifties. 

This description of Edge's applies to the period 
of the bay fishery, when the whales were abundant 
close to the shore. At this time whales were 
present in enormous numbers in Spitsbergen waters. 
They arrived oh the west coasts and in the west 
bays of Spitsbergen in the early summer, travelling 
eastward. They entered the bays in large schools, 
staying a considerable time, until the excessive 
hunting drove them out into the open sea, where 
the chase and capture were far more difficult than 
in the landlocked and smooth waters of the bays. 

Segersz, who wintered on Spitsbergen in 1633- 
34, says that the whales deserted the bays on the 
2;th October, 1633, returning on the 27th April, 
I634- 1 

1 Segersz, Jacob, van Brugge. Journael of Dagh Register, 
gehouden by Seven Matroosen, In haer Overwinteren op Spits- 
bergen in Maurits-Bay Gelegen in Groenlandt A zedert het 
vertreck van de Visschery-Schepen de Geoctroyeerde Noordtsche 
Compagnie, in Nederlandt, zijnde den 30 Augusty, 1633, tot de 
wederkomste der voosz. Schepen, den 27 May, Anno 1634. 
Beschreven door den Bevel-hebber Jacob Segersz, van der Brugge. 
Amsterdam, 1634. Eng. Trans. Hakl. Soc., " Early Dutch and 
English Voyages to Spitsbergen," 1904. 



The methods of the Dutch whalers at Spitsbergen Smeerenburg 
The French at Spitsbergen The English Muscovy 
Company Anderson and Gray's description of the fishery 
The German whalers The pre-eminence of the Dutch. 

ACCORDING to Jansen, 1 the Dutch whalers (1613- 
1750) did not keen regular written logs. It was not 
the custom of fisherme" ' . do so, and it was only 
towards the middle of the nineteenth cc -tun th, t 
vessels engaged in the Dutch 1 ernng fisl -ry ker 
logs. The whalers went out and home every yeai, 
keeping only a slate and no log. The accounts that 
have been published were written from memory, and 
were in some cases greatly amplified 6y those who 
received them. Fogs prevented accurate observa- 
tions, and when the fog cleared away boisterous 
weather drove down the ice from the region of the 
Pole and compelled the whalers to run before it. 
Many whalers were lost, and the States General were 
compelled to make a law to regulate the manner in 

1 Notes on the Ice between Greenland and Nova Zembla; 
being the results of investigations into the records of early Dutch 
voyages in the Spitsbergen seas. Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc., 
Vol. ix., London, 1864-5. 



which the whalers were to assist those who had lost 
their ships. 1 

As a rule whalers did not venture beyond 80 
N. Latitude, but entered the west ice at 79 or 79^ 
N., neither higher nor lower. 

The Dutch navigators from 1613 to the end of the 
eighteenth century were whalers and not explorers. 
The first period the bay fishery (shore fishery) led 
to the building of Smeerenburg as an oil boiling 
establishment. The whalers at this period went 
straight to Smeerenburg and plied their calling there 
as described by Zorgdrager (infra). A shore 
fishery was established on Jan Mayen in ,1617, and 
though successful at first, the whales were never so 
abundant there as at Spitsbergen. 

About 1626, when the shore fishery was falling 
off, the Noordsche Compagnie sent out voyages 
ostensibly to seek the north-east passage, but really 
to try and discover new whaling grounds. The 
results of these voyages were kept secret for this 

When the whales were much harried and 
commenced to leave Spitsbergen they went round 
the north-west point towards the east, whither the 
whalers followed them. The new whaling ground 
was called to the eastward, and the whales caught 
there were said by the whalers to be different from 
the species that took flight to the north-west and west 

1 Reg-lenient van de Groenlandtsche visscherye, over het berg-en 
der g-oederen en hetgeene daeren dependeert, nevens haer Ed. 
Gr. Mog-. Resolutie van approbatie, 22 Jan., i6gs. Gr. Plac- 
boek, iv., 1355. 


in the ice-bearing southerly current (Greenland 

The ice between Spitsbergen and Greenland was 
called West-ice, and the whales in it West-ice 
Whales. After the slaughter at Smeerenburg these 
West-ice Whales became very cunning and shy. 
The other whales, though not differing in appearance, 
were more abundant in unusual years when the ice 
east of Spitsbergen and Nova Zembla drifted in 
greater quantity and with smaller and flatter floes 
much lower down than in ordinary years. Such 
an unusual year in which there was great abundance 
of this peculiar whale was called a south-ice year, 
and the whale a South-ice Whale. This South-ice 
Whale was not so shy and cunning as the West- 
ice Whale, and was even, after a hundred 
years' slaughter, still more easy to catch than the 

From this it would appear that south-ice years 
have been exceptional, otherwise this whale would 
have changed its habits, like the West-ice Whale. 

The whaling ground to the eastward, north of 
Spitsbergen, was called " Waigat " (blow-hole) 
because the southerly wind blows strongly through 
it. The Waygat or Waigat was the north end of 
Hinlopen Strait. 

De Straet van Hinlopen was first marked on 
Blaeus map (1662); at the same time Colom, Valk 
and Schenk call it Waygat. The two names were 
used interchangeably from that time down to 
Scoresby's day (1820). Martens writes in 1671, 


" It is unknown whether the haven of this Weigatt 
(blow-hole) goeth through the country or no." 

In some years this Waygat was blocked with ice, 
and then the whalers went back round the west ice 
and anchored at Disco and about the south-east 
point of Spitsbergen, sending their boats into the ice 
because there were no whales in the open water. 
These boats had great difficulty in towing the dead 
whales, with oars and sails, out of the ice on the east 
coast towards their ships. If a gale from the east or 
north-east brought this ice into motion, the ships 
weighed anchor and retreated into Wybe Jansz Bay. 

Whaling was first made a free trade about 1650, 
by this time the west-ice fishery was being 

The west-ice fishery was divided into high and 
low latitude fishery, the former between 79^ and 
73 N. Latitude and the latter lower down. At its 
period of greatest prosperity from one hundred to 
two hundred ships went along the Greenland ice up 
to Spitsbergen Voorland (on Prince Charles Island) 
or straight to 79 or 79^ N., very seldom higher or 
lower, and thence steered west in the ice-bearing 
southerly current that is in an ordinary year. 

In a south-ice year they did not go so high, but 
steered east as soon as they found it was a good 
year for the South-ice Whale. How this was 
ascertained was doubtful. " Having ascertained 
from the shape of the ice, its height, size and form, 
that we were in the south-ice, and that it was a south- 
ice year, we steered towards the east." 


The worst year on record was 1668 when the 
Dutch ships failed to get higher than the Voorland. 
In an ordinary year the vessels went two hundred 
and twenty-four miles from Spitsbergen before the 
real ice fields were found, some thirty-six miles long 
with smooth water. Sometimes over one hundred 
ships were attached to the same field. They drifted 
south with the ice ; when free, if full, they went 
home, if not, they went back again to 79 N. to make 
the same circuit again, or to the old whaling grounds 
to the eastward to Disco or Nova Zembla. 

If, after a mild winter, there happened to be a hot 
summer and winds favourable for scattering the ice, 
then there was a good deal of open water in the ice- 
bearing current of Greenland, and consequently few 
whales, for they avoided open water. When the 
Dutch whalers had been unsuccessful in the west 
ice and were induced to go to Nova Zembla, it was 
probably because there was too much open water, 
and if this assumption be correct, then they only 
went to Nova Zembla in favourable years. 

The most favourable year for going north that 
way must have been a south-ice year when the ice 
north and east of Nova Zembla came down towards 
the North Sea, and in those south-ice years all the 
Dutch whalers got plenty of whales in the south ice 
and did not go north. In some years, when the 
Dutch whalers had been unsuccessful in the west ice 
the opening in the ice near Nova Zembla was some- 
times so great that no ice could be seen. 

The general opinion in the seventeenth and 


eighteenth centuries was that every winter the water 
round the Pole was frozen more or less down to 76 
N. Latitude, according to the severity of the weather. 
The whales were supposed to remain in winter near 
the edge of the ice pack, where the food was scanty, 
so that the whales captured in the early part of the 
season were thin. There was an extensive barrier 
between Spitsbergen and Nova Zembla. 

In 1707 a Dutch whaling captain named Cornelis 
Gillis found, towards the end of the season when 
looking for whales to the eastward, enough open 
water to go up north among the seven islands and 
beyond 81 N. From thence 4ie steered east and 
south-east round N.E. Land. In the parallel of 
great island he saw high land at a distance of one 
hundred miles from N.E. Land. 

In some years the Dutch whalers drifted to within 
a few miles of Greenland in 72 N., but although 
they often wanted to go ashore, the Whaling 
Company prevented it. The Dutch whalers have 
fyeen near the coast of Greenland opposite Iceland. 

Usually the Spitsbergen season closed late in 
August or early September. 

Since in 1624 a well-laden Dutch ship, which left 
the fishing grounds in advance of the remainder of 
the fleet, was captured on the homeward jpurney by 
a Dunkirk privateer, 1 it became the custom for all 
the'fleet to assemble together at a given rendezvous 
at the end of the season and journey home together 
for mutual protection. 

1 Wassenaer Histt. verh.> fol. 86. 


In 1633 the Dutch fleet left Spitsbergen on 
the 3Oth August, 1 and Jan May en on the 26th 
August. 2 In 1634 they left Spitsbergen on the 
ist September, 3 but generally they left about the 
middle of August. 

At this time the Spitsbergen harbours were shared 
between the different nations engaged in the whale 

The English, Dutch, French, and Danes each 
had their own harbour, where the oil was prepared 
and the fins cleaned. In the huts the superfluous 
gear, such as spare boats, were laid up for the 

The division of the bays was a source of much 
trouble. In the first instance the English made an 
exclusive claim to all the bays and harbours, and, in 
any case, being the first at the fisheries, they had 
naturally seized the best fishing places. Reference 
has already been made (p. 112) to the proposals of 
the Dutch negotiators in the winter of 1618-19. The 
different nations frequented selected localities to 
which they gradually -acquired a sort of prescriptive 

The English claimed from Crosse Roade and 
Deere Sound right down to Home Sound. There 
were English huts (at that time called tents) at the 
north end of Foreland Sound at both sides, in 
Greene Harbour, Bell Sound, and on the south 
shore of Horn Sound. The Dutch occupied 

1 Van der Brug-ge. Journal, Hakl. Soc. t 1904, p. 87. 
3 Van der Brugge. Twee fournalen, p. 3. 
' Ibid., p. 22 


harbours north of the English, their principal resort 
being the bay at north-west angle of Spitsbergen, 
which they called Mauritius Bay. 

The two islands to the west of it, shown on 
Edge's map, but not named on it, are now known as 
Amsterdam and Danes Islands ; on the former, 
Hackluits headland is marked. On the east part of 
the south shore of Amsterdam Island the Dutch 
built their village of Smeerenburg or Blubbertown. 
At the commencement of the fishery the Noordsche 
Compagnie was mainly an Amsterdam venture, but 
at each renewal of the charter other towns were 
admitted. Each town had a chamber or committee, 
and the united chambers formed the company. The 
older chambers had larger shares and better stations 
than those admitted later. Each chamber had its 
own " tent " at Smeerenburg, with a complete 
equipment for the fishing. The Amsterdam tent had 
the best position at the east end of Smeerenburg. 
In order to the west were the following tents: 
Middleburg, Flushing, the Danes, Delft, and 

The Danes afterwards separated from the Dutch. 
Enkhuisen also had a tent and Van der Brugge 
mentions a Veere tent. 

Each chamber probably had a capstan of its own 
for hauling in the whales and the ships to their 
moorings, and for hoisting the blubber and casks. 
The ships were moored in a row with their sterns to 
the shore, and room between each for a rowing-boat 
to pass. 


Zorgdrager 1 gives a detailed account of the Dutch 
operations at Spitsbergen at the time when they 
first took the lead at the Northern whale fisheries. 
The ships anchored in Dutch Bay, off the flat of 
Smeerenberg, in a row one behind another, or so 
near to one another that a sloop could just pass 
between to tow the oil-casks from ashore on board. 
An anchor was let go from forward into the bay and 
the ship made fast astern with a rope to the shore, 
either to the foundations of the kettles (coppers), or 
to some large stone, or to the jawbone of a whale, 
whereof some are still (1720) to be seen in various 
places as high piles set up for the purpose on the 
beach. Lying here, as in a desired and safe haven, 
three or four miles inland from the sea, preserved 
and protected from all winds, they pursued their 
fishery with convenience and enjoyment, rowing 
their sloops round and to the ships in the bay, 
which in those days was generally full of fish, as 
their doings and remains sufficiently manifest irt 
various accounts of this fishery, otherwise they 
would not have settled themselves so solidly by 
their oil cookeries and laid up their ships so com- 
fortably at anchor. Besides, they brought up 
double crews of sixty, seventy, and even eighty 
men, which were apportioned some to the sloops to 
kill the fish and tow them to the oil cookeries on the 
shore, others to remain on land and cut up the 
blubber from the fish, chop it up small, boil down 

1 Zorgdrager. Bloyende Ofikomst, ist edition, Amsterdam, 
1720, p. (in my copy) 174-5; obviously a misprint for 184-5. 


the oil, fill it into casks, and roll them down to the 
water. Others again were on the ships to bring 
the casks alongside, hoist them aloft with a pulley, 
and lade them into the ship. 

At this time (1623) there came yearly a small 
fleet of ships from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hoorn, 
and other places, which were arranged in a row 
along the flat of Smeerenburg, each by its own 
cookery. Thus there were Amsterdam, Hoorn, 
Rotterdam, and other oil cookeries with their ware- 
houses and cooperies, wherein a quantity of Green- 
land implements were stored, casks made, bound 
and taken away, many things kept ready for future 
use, and stored away, when the ships sailed home. 

According to Miiller, 1 the Danes left Smeeren- 
burg in 1623, their place being taken by the Hoorn, 
Enkhuisen and Flushing men from 1625 onwards. 
This place lay to the west of the Amsterdam " tents." 
The Danes protested, but without effect. 

In 1626 there were five big Dutch tents at 
Smeerenburg. In 1633 all the chambers of the 
Noordsche Compagnie had tents there. 2 Amster- 
dam alone, had two large tents, the other towns, 
such as Middleburg, Veere, Flushing, Enkhuisen, 
Delft, and Hoorn, one each. 

All these cookeries and warehouses (Zorgdrager, 
p. 191) along the flat of Smeerenburg resembled 
the neighbourhood of a small town, which conse- 
quently was named Blubbertown, after the industry. 


" Geschiednis der Noordsehe Compagnie," p. 143. 
3 Ibid., p. 144. 


It is not clear how many oil cookeries and ware- 
houses there were in all. In 1720 the foundations 
and ruins of eight or ten oil-coppers were distinguish- 
able, and those of the warehouses. The rest were 
all decayed by the passage of time so that no trace 

Seeing that the ships, as previously stated, 
brought up double crews, it was very dull, not only 
on the ships and boats, but also on shore. There 
came up, therefore, as in a camp, some sutlers, who 
sold their wares, such as brandy and tobacco and 
the like, in their own huts or in the warehouses. 
Bakers also went there to bake bread. In the 
morning when the hot rolls and white bread were 
drawn from the oven, a horn was blown, so that 
some enjoyment was then to be had at Smeeren- 

In addition to the buildings for the carrying on 
of the whalers' business, there .was a church and a 
fort with several batteries. 1 

The great days at Smeerenburg were those 
following 1633, when the place was annually 
visited by over a thousand whalers, in addition to 
what may be considered the camp-followers. 

There is evidence that the buildings at Smeeren- 
burg were commenced in 1619; twenty years later 
the place was in a condition of decay. 2 

During the time the fishing was confined to the 
Dutch chartered companies, the number of ships 

1 Miiller. " Noordsche Compagnie," p. 147. 
3 Miiller, p. 148. 


employed was annually about thirty ; soon after the 
fishery was thrown open this number considerably 
increased. There is no detailed account of the 
conditions at Smeerenburg at the period of its 
greatest prosperity. Dirck Albertsz Raven of 
Hoorn 1 describes a few days spent there in 1639, 
when, according to Miiller, decay had already set 
in. Raven's ship was wrecked in the ice off 
Spitsbergen, most of the crew losing their lives. 
The survivors were taken off by another Dutch 
whaler, of which Gale Hamkes was master. Gale 
Hamkes' ship, the Oranje Boom, put into Smeeren- 
burg harbour. " On the 4th July we came into 
West Bay; the sloops of Gale Hamkes then 
brought us to our tents, where we at once set to 
work and got ready our three sloops with all their 
accessories, wherewith we afterwards still caught 
three whales. On the 26th our one sea-fisher came 
to us in the Bay, with a good quantity of blubber. 
On the 22nd August our second sea-fisher also came 
to us in the Bay, with his ship full of blubber, whereat 
we were very glad ; we then divided our men on the 
two ships, and got ready to depart again." It is 
evident at this time that whales were captured 
partly at sea and partly in the bay. 

It is impossible to give a full account of each 

1 Journael ofte Beschrijvinge van de reyse ghedaen by den 
Commandeur Dirck Albertsz. Raven nae Spitsbergen in den 
Jare 1639, ten dienste van de C. Heeren Bewindt-hebbers van de 
Groenlandtsche Compagnie tot Hoorn. Waer in verhaelt wordt 
sijn droevighe Schip-breucke sijn ellende opt wrack, en sijn 
blijde verlossinge. Met noch eenighe ghedenckweerdige 
Historien. Hoorn, 1646. 


year's proceedings at the Spitsbergen fishery. In 
1624 five English ships going to the fishery met 
two Zeelanders, and would have attacked them, but 
for the opportune appearance of a Dutch man-of- 
war. 1 More Dutch ships, to the number of twenty, 
arrived, so the English were compelled to retire. 
One of these Dutch ships was a small vessel of 
eighty tons, in charge of Simon Willemsz, with 
Jacob Jacobsz of Edam as pilot, with instructions 
to sail along the north coast to Cape Tabin, and 
try for a north-east passage. They could not have 
gone very far, since they were back in time to take 
part in the season's fishing. The Dutch made a 
good voyage this year, but sending a laden vessel 
home imprudently in advance of the others, she 
was captured by a Dunkirk privateer and held to 
ransom for ten thousand guilders. 

In 1625 the Muscovy Company sent twelve 
ships to the fishery, under command of Captain 
William Goodlad, who, arriving at Whale Head, 
found that nine ships of York and Hull had been 
there and taken away the Company's shallops left 
over from the previous season, burned their casks 
and spoiled their material for the fishery, besides 
demolishing their houses and fort. On his return, 
Goodlad applied to the Privy Council for warrants 

1 Claes Wassenaer. Historisch verhael alder g-hedenck- 
weerdichste Geschiedenisse, die hier en daer in Europa, als in 
Duitsch-lant, Vranck-rijk ... en Neder-lant, Asia, America en 
Africa, van den beginne des jaers 1621 tot Octobri des jaers 
1632, voorg-evallen sijn. (Met platen kaarten en portretten.) 
Tot Amstelredam, by Jan Evertsz, Kloppenburgh, 1622-4, 
J. Hondius, 1624, en Jan Jansz, 1625-35, 21 din., 7 bdn., 4to. 


against Richard Prestwood and Richard Perkins 
" the principal agents in this contempt." 

From this time onwards the British whale 
fisheries at Spitsbergen declined gradually. The 
whales in the Bays were now scarce and shy, so that 
it became the custom of the Dutch and Basque 
whalers to seek them on the edge of the ice to the 
northward and westward. The English whalers 
clung to the Bays long after fishing there had ceased 
to be profitable, and this, combined with squabbles 
at home between the " Company " and the " Inter- 
lopers/' led to the disappearance of the British 
whalers, so there is a distinct gap between the first 
period of British whaling and the effort by the South 
Sea Company to resuscitate the trade in 1724. 

In 1626 Charles I. licensed Nathaniel Edwards 
and his partners as a Scottish Company, and their 
competition had to be bought off by the Greenland 
Company ; for instance, materials for the equipment 
of the whalers were bought by the latter from 
Edwards. The competition of the Hull inter- 
lopers was a further drawback. In the interests 
of King Charles's soap monopoly the use of 
of Greenland oil for soap-making was prohibited, 
so that the conditions were not very favourable for 
the growth of an industry already threatened by 
the severe competition of the Dutch. 

The " Society of Soapinakers in the City of 
Westminster in the County of Middlesex " had the 
monopoly of soap manufacture and the right of 
search. Proceedings had soon to be taken against 


the old soap boilers, who, in disobedience to the 
proclamation, used fish oil, and refused to have 
their soap tried or marked by the assay-master, and 
who also, though not a body corporate, presumed to 
assemble in taverns in London and to confer about 
the sale of their soap and the buying of fish oil from 
the Greenland Company. 

In 1633 a charter incorporated the Governor and 
Company of the English Colony of Rhode and 
Proxidence Plantations in New England in 
America. This grant encouraged whale killing. 

The French, apart from the Basques, participated 
but slightly in th- Spitsbergen whaling. Even 
the Basques went mainly as harpooners in Dutch 
and English vessels, until the seamen of those 
nations had learnt the art of killing the whale. 
Still there were a few attempts, both by the French 
and by the Basques, to take part in this lucrative 

A " Compagnie du Pole Arctique " was founded 
secretly in Paris in 1609, not for discovery, but for 
occupation, and for securing a short passage to the 
East Indies. It seems to have been fantastically 
conceived and nothing came of it. 

Apparently it was due, to some extent at any rate, 
to the initiative of this company, that the three 
Basque ships, La Grace-de-Dieu of St Jean de Luz, 
Les Quatre-fils-Aymon of Rochelle, and the 
Jacques of Bordeaux, went to the Spitsbergen 
fishery of 1613 (see p. 96), where whales were 
reported to be comme carpes en un vivier! 


Reference has already been made to the exploits 
of these vessels, which were commanded by Mignet 
de Haristiguy, Michel d'Etchepare, and Silhouette. 
These vessels fished in Bell Sound, which was even 
then known as the Bay of the French, this pointing 
to the existence of previous expeditions. AllVecord 
of these expeditions is now lost, and in fact there is 
little evidence that the French participated to any 
extent in the first phase of the Spitsbergen fishery. 

The history of the early French adventures in the 
Spitsbergen whale fishery is obscure, although some 
research into the history of the subject has recently 
been undertaken, notably by Hamy. 

In 1621 there was founded a society in France 
entitled " Royale et Generale Compagnie du com- 
merce pour les voyages de long cours es Indes 
occidentales, la pesche du corail en Barbarie et celle 
des baleines." The history of this French company 
is imperfect; the records of the voyages have 
disappeared, leaving hardly a trace behind. The 
great French market for whale oil at this time was 
Havre de Grace, whither the Bayonne ships, for 
example, took their cargoes. The leader in French 
whaling enterprise was Jean Vrolicq, whom we first 
hear of in 1631, entering into partnership with 
Johann Braem of Copenhagen who had obtained a 
charter from Christian IV., giving him the right to 
send six ships to Spitsbergen. 

Vrolicq, who had already applied to the French 
King for a charter, fished in partnership with the 
Danes in 1631. The following year Vrolicq went 


to Spitsbergen under the sole patronage of the 
French King and Cardinal Richelieu, where he 
attempted to fish in the Bay of Basques, south of 
Magdalena Bay. He was, however, ordered off by 
the Dutch, so he went to Iceland whence he made 
a poor voyage. On his return to France he 
complained, so the French Government made repre- 
sentations at the Hague, strongly supporting his 
right to take part in the Spitsbergen whale fishery. 
The States General eventually recommended the 
Noordsche Compagnie to allow him to fish outside 
the limits of their fishery. In 1633 and 1634 
Vrolicq was again at Spitsbergen, but he was 
interfered with by the Dutch and eventually ruined. 

Fourteen French ships went to the fishery in 
1636, but these were all captured by the Spaniards 
in the autumn of that year when they sacked St Jean 
de Luz, Cibourre, and Soccoa. In 1637 a Danish 
warship drove the French ships out of Spitsbergen 
waters so that the Havre Company, having sustained 
a loss of one hundred and sixty thousand livres, was 
forced into liquidation. The French were unwill- 
ing to drop out altogether from such a lucrative 
trade, so in 1644 Cardinal Mazarin founded the 
Compagnie du Nord etablie pour la pesche des 
ballaines, which in 1648 amalgamated with the Com- 
pagnie de mer de St Jean de Luz. So for a few years 
longer the French flag was seen in Arctic waters. 
The charter was renewed in 1669, but shortly 
afterwards the Company abandoned the business. 

In the seventeenth century the Dutch developed 


two extensive fisheries, the Grand Fishery, which 
was the herring fishery in the North Sea, and the 
Small or Lesser Fishery, which was the whale 
fishery at " Greenland " (really Spitsbergen). The 
former was the subject of minute regulation, the 
latter, though subject to various orders, was com- 
paratively a free fishery, except that at first it 
was confined to the Noordsche Compagnie. The 
whalers, unlike the herring fishermen, could fish when 
and where they pleased. The Dutch Government, 
at the same time, was interested in the development 
of the whaling, and made frequent grants of convoy 
to and from the fishing grounds. There were also 
prohibitions on the export of whaling ships and 
implements, and the whalers were forbidden to take 
service in foreign ships. In time of war the whalers 
were not allowed to leave port, and they were not 
exempt from the financial and other burdens placed 
on the fishing trade in general. For instance, the 
whalers were ordered to carry home the whole of 
their blubber, oil, and whalebone, and sell them in 
the Dutch markets, for the conservation of the 
custom-house duties and the market tax. 1 

Except for this regulation there does not seem to 
have been any regulation on the fishing; there was 
no fishing season prescribed by law, neither were 
there any rules for branding the produce, i.e., the 
barrels or casks of train oil. 

1 Placaet, waerby den Groenlandts-Vaerders g-elast wert tot 
conservatie der neeringen, licenten, convoyen ende veylgelt, hier 
te Lande met haer ghevang-en visch, traen, etc., te komen, 
sender eerst elders te mogen Zeylen. Groot Plac.-boek., i., 683. 


The whalers, until the Bounty system was 
introduced, had to rely solely on their own energy 
and initiative. There was never any code of 
regulation for the whaling at all comparable to the 
code for the herring fishery. 

Nevertheless, the herring fishery was the first to 
decline ; the whaling continued to flourish long after 
there was an unmistakable decline in the former 
fishery. During the wars which were so frequent 
at this time the herring fleet, which fished the North 
Sea, was far more liable to attack by privateers than 
the whalers in the distant waters at Spitsbergen. 
In fact, the latter were only liable to attack on the 
outward or homeward journey, particularly the 
latter. For their protection during these voyages 
the convoy system was adopted. 1 

The war with England in 1652-4 was prejudicial 
to the " Greenland " trade. In April, 1652, before 
hostilities commenced, the Dutch resolved to con- 
tinue in the whaling during the coming season, and 
took steps to secure the supply of able seamen. In 
July the advisability of calling home the whaling fleet 
was considered, but for the time the Dutch Govern- 
ment warned the whalers to keep together for safety. 

Although it appears that the whaling was kept 
going in 1652, it was forbidden the following year, 2 

1 Rapport van de Raadpensionaris van de bedenking der 
Generaliteit om de geheele visscherije op te ontbieden, van haar 
neering tot preservatie hunner apparente schaade en ruine door 
de engelsche vloot; ook de Groenlandsvaarders adverteeren, haar 
bij form van admiraalschepen te voegen om de gedreygde 
swaarigheid te ontgaan, 21 July, 1652. 

3 Waerschouwinge ende verboth, waerby omme pregnante 


not only to keep the ships safely in port, but because 
the men were required for the navy. 

The " Greenland " warehouses in Amsterdam are 
described by Filips von Zesen. 1 They belonged to 
the Greenland (Noordsche) Company, and were 
situated in the Keisers-gracht. The Greenland 
Company originally boiled down their oil at 
Spitsbergen, but other traders, not members of the 
Company, at this time brought the blubber home 
to boil it down. The land in the Keisers-gracht 
was bought by the Company in 1620, and it is 
probable that the warehouses were erected soon 
after, when the Company was at the height of its 

The warehouses were spacious and well suited for 
the accommodation of the requisites of the fishery 
and the general merchandise of the Company. 
There were great stone cisterns 2 in the cellars for 
the storage of train oil, which was better preserved 
there, and less subject to leakage than in vats. 
These warehouses are illustrated in Conway's "No 

redenen den Walvisch-vanghst voor het jaer 1653, g-eschorst 
wordt, 25 Maart, 1653. Gr. PLac.-boek., ii., 506. 

1 Beschriebung- der stadt Amsterdam, darinnen von derselben 
ersten ursprunge bis auf g-egrenwartigen Zustand, ihr unter- 
schiedlicher anwachs, herliche vorrechte, und in mehr als 70 
Kupferstiikken entworfene fiihrnemhste Gebeue, zusamst ihrem 
Stahtswesen, Kaufhandel und ansehnlicher macht zur See, wie 
auch was sich in und mit Derselben markwiirdiges zugetrag~en 
vor augen gestellet werden Zu Amsterdam, Gedrukt und verlegt 
durch Joachim Noschen. Im Jahr, 1664. See also Muller, 
Noordsche Compagnie," p. 121. 

3 " Gemetzelde Bakken." See Le Moine de VEs-pine and 
Isaac de Long. De Koophandel van Amsterdam, Rotterdam, 
1780, Vol. ii., p. i g8. 


Man's Land." They are still in existence and in a 
good state of preservation. Practically all trace of 
the blubber-houses or cookeries, which must have 
been built all over the West European coast from 
Liibeck to the north of Spain, has now vanished. 
After the period of the bay fishery at Spitsbergen 
was over, all the whalers, with the exception of the 
Basques, brought the blubber home to be boiled 
down. The first German oil cookeries were erected 
at Hamburg in 1 649 ; not much is known about them, 
but they were developed and increased until 1675, 
when they were burnt down. In 1753 Conrad von 
Uffenbach described those on the banks of the Elbe 
near the Altona gate at Hamburg. These blubber 
factories, which belonged to Mennonites, are fully 
described and figured by Uffenbach. 1 

The first Dutch cookeries were built at Oostzanen, 
on the Twisk near the Overtoom, they are illustrated 
in Conway's " No Man's Land." 

The Noordsche Company lost their monopoly in 
1642, and immediately the Dutch whaling showed 
signs of rapid improvement. Meanwhile the 
English trade languished. The Civil War exer- 
cised a detrimental effect on the commerce of the 
country, and from this even the whaling was not 
exempt. The disputes between the Monopolists 
and the Interlopers dragged along interminably. 

After the Dutch whaling became free to all 
(circa 1645), a great number took part in it, and for 
that very reason the increased quantity of whale 

1 " Merkwiirdige Reisen durch Niedersachsen," 1753. 


products caused a fall in price, which again jeopar- 
dised the whale fisheries. 

It became customary, in order to avoid the 
customs duty of two per cent, to land the oil and 
bone in foreign countries, but this was forbidden 
by a law of 1652, according to which all Dutch 
whalers were required to land their cargoes at their 
home ports. In 1661 all the Dutch whalers were 
forbidden to go into foreign service, or to sell their 
sloops, casks, sails, harpoons, or other gear to 
foreigners. The trade was assisted in 1675 by the 
passing of two orders, one of which admitted the 
Dutch whaling products free, and the other taxed 
foreign imports into Holland with double the 
original duty (of two per cent). There was an 
immediate and marked revival, and soon after 
about two hundred and fifty Dutch ships set out 
annually to the fishery. 

Each ship had to deposit six thousand guilders 
caution money before starting, as a security that 
it would return with its cargo to the home port. 
In war time the whale fishery was either forbidden, 
the sailors being pressed into the naval service, or 
the whaling fleet was permitted to start under 
adequate naval protection. 

Commissaries were appointed from South and 
North Holland, from among the leading men in 
the trade to see that the regulations were carried 

The whaling trade generally seems to have been 
run on a slender margin of profit. True, there 


were enormous prizes to a favoured few, but, on the 
whole, the profit was small, and many were able to 
take part in the trade simply because they supplied 
the goods which the whalers required. Had they to 
purchase these goods instead of supplying them at 
cost price, it is doubtful whether they could have 
kept on with the trade. 

During this period of the Dutch predominance 
the British whalers were engaged in a series of 
disputes which may be referred to briefly. 

In 1645 the Greenland Company (the successors 
of the Muscovy Company) petitioned Parliament, 
which gave notice to all the ports throughout 
England, by their burgesses, that all should come in 
and join the Company in guarding the harbours (in 
Spitsbergen), giving assurance to Parliament to set 
out yearly a certain proportion of ships. Three 
months' consideration was given, but, owing to the 
hazardous nature of the trade, none came in except 
York, Hull and Yarmouth. It was therefore stipu- 
lated that no new adventurers of only two or three 
years' standing should now be admitted, since 
London, Hull and Yarmouth have, at great cost, 
defended Bell Sound, Home Sound, Green Har- 
bour, Cross Road, Mettle Bay, and Sir Thomas 
Smyth's Bay. The late intruders, Warner, Whit- 
well, and others, have for two years only sent into the 
Company's harbours two or three small vessels, which 
not only refused to join them to keep out the French 
and Dutch, but brought in Dutch strangers to 
manage their stock and adventure, the consequences 


of which will be most dangerous to English 

The dispute between the Greenland or Mus- 
covy Company and the " Interlopers," as they 
were called, was really an important trade 
quarrel between monopolists on the one hand 
and free traders on the other. Briefly, the 
Muscovy Company claimed the sole right to the 
whale fishery at Spitsbergen on the following 
grounds : x 

Their discovery of the trade and its protection 
from the Dutch, their chartered rights confirmed by 
the Navy Commissioners and the Committee for 
Trade, and their vested interests. In 1654 a strong 
effort was made to put an end to these everlasting 
disputes, which naturally exercised a detrimental 
influence on the whaling trade. A petition to the 
Protector was drawn up (i7th January, 1654), by 
Francis Ashe, Governor of the Muscovy Company, 
in which an appeal is made for regulations for the 
trade, so that rival interests should not clash in 
certain harbours, and more harbours might be 
opened up for whaling. The Company wished to 
retain possession of Home and Bell Sounds, urging 
that private adventurers could not succeed, because 
the erection of storehouses is needful to store the 
oil of a successful year, which will occur every three 
or four years, when the whales come in shoals, and 

1 To give full details of this dispute would require a special 
volume. See The Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, from 
1611 to 1671. 


compensate for two or three losing years, and these 
storehouses involve great expense which could not 
be faced by private individuals. 

The free adventurers (Edward Whitwell and 
Richard Eccleston of Hull being the leaders) 
chiefly Hull men, commenced an agitation. They 
appeared before the Committee of the Council of 
State appointed to inquire into the question, and 
in addition printed a broadside addressed to 
Parliament and every member thereof. They 
were not above introducing politics into the 

" We conceive the right which such as seek to 
ingrosse the trade and harbours to themselves, 
pretend to have, is onely grounded upon a monopo- 
lising pattent; which came from prerogative power, 
and not consistent with the freedome of a Common- 
wealth and the members thereof. In the late 
King's time the Company used all unjust, illegal 
and arbitrary means possible to suppress all but 

The free traders' claim was based on the plea that 
the trade was discovered by Hull men forty years 
ago ; that there is ample room for all who desire to 
fish, and that it is inconsistent with the public wel- 
fare to restrain the fishing to fifty people, who 
enhance the price of oil by their inability to bring in 
a sufficient quantity, that Bell Sound, one of the 
harbours claimed by the Muscovy Company, is 
thirty miles long by fifteen broad, and Green 
Harbour still larger, and that by the admission of all 


there would no longer be any need to import oil 
or fins from Holland, and the state would be 
strengthened by the increase of shipping. 

In reply, the Greenland Company stated that 
where several ships fish in the same bay there are 
bound to be disputes and quarrels. 

According to the Company's agents the whales at 
this time came into the bays in schools of from two 
to three hundred " to gender, feed, and rubb them- 
selves," staying many days. The schools consisted 
of families of two, three or four together; when one 
was struck with a harpoon the other members of the 
family dispersed, but whales not of the family paid 
little attention. " So that when one interest is 
onely there, they can take or pursue such as are 
most likely to goe first out, and to follow the rest 
at leisure ; whereas if there be divers interests, 
each party disturbs the fish wheresoever it 
appeares, having onely respect to their owne 
profitt, and so suddanily scares or drives away 
the whales." 

In the light of modern opinion the demands of the 
Greenland Company seem quite unreasonable, and 
it must have been evident to the Company that 
Parliament would not exclude the free traders 
entirely from the fishery. The free traders wanted all 
the harbours open to everyone, first comers to have 
a choice of place, and only a certain number of boats 
to fish in each harbour. Eventually a compromise 
was arrived at. 

Twelve ships of an aggregate tonnage of three 


thousand tons were to be sent to the fishery ; five to 
fish in Bell Sound, three in Horn Sound, two in Ice 
Sound (Green Harbour), two in Cross Road and Sir 
Thomas Smyth's Bay. There were four hundred 
and twenty seamen and one hundred and sixty 
landsmen distributed as follows: two hundred and 
fifty men at Bell Sound, one hundred and forty men 
at Horn Sound, one hundred and ten men at Ice 
Sound, and eighty men at Cross Road and Sir 
Thomas Smyth's Bay. The shipping was to be 
supplied in the following proportion: the London 
Company, one thousand six hundred tons ; Hull and 
York, four hundred tons ; Horth for Yarmouth, five 
hundred tons ; Whitwell and partners, three hundred 
tons, and Batson and partners (with L. Anderson), 
two hundred tons. The dispute dragged on without 
much prospect of being settled in time for the 
approaching season, so the London and Hull 
adventurers petitioned to be allowed to send up six 
ships with a pinasse. 

This was the year in which the Dutch sent up 
seventy sail escorted by three men-of-war. 

Soon after this the British whaling trade became 
practically moribund, and the home market for oil 
depended on captures made by privateers from the 
foreign whalers, and on the home-grown supply of 
rape seed. There are numerous references in the 
State Papers of this period to this privateering, of 
which a few may be quoted. 

In September, 1666, the Constant, Warwick, and 
Victory put into Plymouth with three French prizes 



from Greenland, laden with whale oil, one of them 
being upwards of two hundred and fifty tons, and 
containing fourteen pieces of ordnance. In May, 
1667, the Mermaid brought in two French prizes in 
ballast, bound for Greenland. This was not 
customary, as it paid better to seize full ships on the 
return voyage. In August a French ship laden 
with oil was taken off the coast of Holland and 
brought into the Humber by the Hampshire and the 
Oxford. The same month a Scottish privateer 
brought into Scarborough a Dutch prize of two 
hundred tons from Greenland, laden with oil and 
whalebone. On 3rd October a Frenchman laden 
with oil is in the roads off Deal, and on the 5th a 
Frenchman (a prize) with Greenland oil has gone up 
the Thames, and this presumably refers to the same 

In 1668 the Greenland traders in Holland had 
such bad luck in their fishing that rape seed " rises 
apace " and great quantities are shipped from Hull 
to Holland, four vessels partly laden therewith 
having sailed by 4th October, and more daily were 
making ready. In 1671 Hull reports that " in rape 
seed it fails much of our expectation by reason the 

Holland Greenland fleet are so well fished that the 


price has fallen to nothing." 

When the Greenland Trade was eventually thrown 
open by statute in 1672 the trade was quite lost, and 
wholly engrossed by foreigners. 

In 1658-59 the Dutch helped the Danes in their 
war against Sweden, and in the latter year whaling 


was first of all forbidden, 1 and then permitted under 
certain conditions. 2 

Shipowners and captains in the trade were to put 
fifteen hundred able seamen at the disposal of the 
Dutch Admiralty, or buy them off at fifteen florin 
per head. These repeated wars adversely affected 
the Dutch whalers to such an extent that it became 
customary to put the ships under a foreign flag. 
This was forbidden again in i66i. 3 

At this period (circa 1660) we have two interest- 
ing manuscripts describing the " Greenland " whale 
fishery, by Anderson 4 and Gray, 5 the latter 
illustrated by small sketches. 6 The former manu- 
script is in the British Museum, the latter in the 
Register Book of the Royal Society. The Royal 
Society of London, which was incorporated by 
charter in 1662, interested itself in Spitsbergen and 
its whaling. 

Both accounts are of great interest, as they prove 
that the English followed the bay fishery (in Bell 

1 Placaet, in welcke de Walvischvang-st, ende vaert daerop tot 
nader orde geschort werd. Gr. Plac.-boek., ii., 507. 

a Nader Placaet, in welcke onder seeckere limitatien de vaert 
op Groenlandt toegelaten en andere equipagien ter zee bij 
provisie ende tot nader ordre verboden werden. Gr. Plac.- 
boek., ii., 507. 

3 Placaet, houdende verbodt, om schepen te laten bevrachten, 
omme by uytheemsche natien tot den walvischvang-hst g-heetm- 
ployert te worden. Gr. Plac.-boek., ii., 2639. 

4 An account of Greenland from Capt. Lancelott Anderson, 
a Hull merchant who has made thirty-three voyages thither. 
British Museum, MS. Sloane, 3986, ff. 78, 79. 

8 Register Book of the Royal Society, Vol. ii. (1662-3), p. 308. 
8 These sketches, as well as the two manuscripts, are repro- 
duced in the Geographical Journal, London, June, 1900. 


Sound) long after it had been abandoned by the 
Dutch and French. 

Lancelott Anderson was a whaling captain of 
Hull. He was on the whaling ship which rescued 
in May, 1631, the eight English whalemen who had 
been left behind on Spitsbergen the previous year, 
and were the first to winter there. 1 He is also 
mentioned in a list of those engaged in the whaling 
in 1654. His account of the whaling follows : 

" First, that they usually went out of Hull in the 
beginning of May, and that it proved three weeks or 
four voyage to the place they went to which lay in 
78 gr. of Latitude. 

" Secondly, that they saild between great masses 
of ice of seventeen or twenty fathomes thick part of 
which stood out high above the level of the main 
mast, off which ran spouts of fair fresh water, when 
the sun shind upon them. To some of these 
masses of ice (which were of far lesser bulk) they 
often times fastened their ships by the Ankor when 
the winds were higher than ordinary to hinder it for 
running too swiftly that it might not split itselfe upon 
those great ices. 

" Thirdly, that they caught their whales in some 
large Bay or other and particularly in the Bay call'd 
Bell Sound. 

" That they always swome to them in their Boates 
with harping irons of this shape O -2> to strike them, 

1 V God's Power and Providence shewed in the Miraculous 
Preservation and Deliverance of Eight Englishmen," London, 
1631. Reprinted, Hak. Soc., 1855. 


and always strive to avoid their tayles (because with 
that part they strike and if they hitt a boate will 
break it in pieces) but if you bear up to their head 
and foreparts, then are you more secure. 

' The whales are there of quick hearing (though 
they have but little ears) and if they bee suddenly 
surprised will quake and shiver, and strive to avoyd 
you by sinking down in the sea. 

" After they are struck they presently dive and 
run down towards the Bottom. 

" Now their harping irons are fastened to a Cord 
(which lyes coyled up in the Boate, so that it may 
not run fould) of three hundred fathoms. Which 
the whale will draw all after it and they follow hir 
with the Boate which way soever shee draw the 
cord, and it be not of length enough they are ready 
(with another Cord in another Boate) to fasten to the 
end of it before the whale has drawn it quite out to 
its full Length both of which may extend to one 
thousand fathom. 

" The whale will toyle and weary hirselfe thus till 
she be weary or not able to stay longer under water 
(and she will sometimes stay one hower or more 
under water before shee appear at all) yea and will 
run under great Hands of Ice which are floating 
there, but will come back againe to the open sea and 

" Lastly, when shee is dead and floates they lett 
hir alone for two or three days in which tyme shee 
swells and so a greater part of hir Back appears on 
the water. 


' Then they goe to hir and cut off Collops of hir 
back as deepe as the fatt reaches and as far as the 
water permitts, which done they turn up one side 
and then the Belly and lastly the other side and so 
spades hir round and then leaving the rest of the 
body (except the whalebone which they take out of 
hir mouth) to the mercy of the sea. 

' Then they take these Collops and Boyle 
them in their Coppers and so the fat runs all into 

" And an ordinary whale will yield twelve tun of 
oyle, some twenty tun (if large and taken at a 
seasonable time)." 

Mr Gray was one of the crew of the Salutation, 
Captain Mason, which was at the Spitsbergen fishery 
in 1630. He wrote an account of the whale fishery, 
which is in the Register Book of the Royal Society 
(1662-3), entitled, " The Manner of the Whale- 
fishing in Greenland, given by Mr Gray to Mr 
Oldenburg for the Society." 

" We have according to the bignesse or smalnesse 
of our ships, the more or fewer Boates ; a ship of two 
hundred tuns, may man six boats; A vessel of 
eighty or one hundred tuns, four boats ; A vessel of 
sixty tuns, three boats or more, not lesse ; three boats 
being as few as may be with convenience to kill a 
whale. Each boat hath six men; A Harpeneir, 
Steersman, and four Oars; to which men the 
merchant giveth (besides their wages) for every 
thirteen tuns of Oyle (which we call a whale) when 
there is so much for each boate, to the Harpenier 


6 li. ios., the Steersman 3 li., and to each Oar 305., 
in all for each boat 15 li. ios., which we call whale 

" We have several men and boats upon several 
convenient places, which we call Look-outs, that 
constantly remain looking out <by turnes for the 
Whale, which when we fish in Harbour, cometh into 
a smooth Bay, where there is a good Harbour for 
our ships; and having discovered the Whale, which 
swimmeth with her back above the water, or is 
descried by the water which she bloweth into the 
Air, one Lookout maketh signes to another, by 
hoysing up a basket upon a Pole, and then all the 
boats row after her, and having opportunity to row 
up with her before she goeth down, strike a Harping- 
iron into her, to which is a stafie joyned being about 
six foot long, called a harping-staffe, to the Socket 
of which Iron is a white rope, with an eye seazed 
very fast; This Rope is about five fathoms long, 
which Lying upon the forepart of the Boat (which 
we call a Shallop) always coyled over a little pin, 
ready to take up, to give scope to the iron, when it 
is thrown at the Whale; and to this hand-rope is a 
warpe of three hundred fathoms seazed, to veer after 
the whale, lest, when she is struck, by her swift 
motion (which is often down to the ground, where 
the water is sixty, seventy, or eighty fathom deep) 
she should sink the boat. 

* Thus having gotten our Iron into her, our boats 
row where they think she will rise (after she hath 
been beating her selfe at ground) and get two or 


three more irons into her, and then we account her 

' Then when she is neer tired with striving 
and wearied with the boats and ropes, we lance her 
with long Lances, the Irons and stands wereof are 
about twelve or fourteen foot long, with which we 
prick her to death ; and in killing her, many times 
she staveth some of our boats, beating and flourishing 
with her tayle above water, that the boats dare scarce 
come nigh her, but oftentimes in an hours time she 
is dispatched. Thus having killed her, our boats 
tow her (all of them rowing one before another, one 
fast to another like a team of Horses) to the ships 
stern, where, after she hath layn twenty-four hours 
we cut off the blubber, and take the finns (which we 
commonly call the whalebone) and her tongue out of 
her mouth, and with a great pair of slings and tackle, 
we turn her round, and take all that is good off her, 
and then we turn her carcass adrift and tow the 
blubber (cut in pieces) to the shore where works 
stand to mannure it. 

" Having made fast the blubber to the shore, we 
have a Waterside-man who stands in a pair of boots, 
to the middle leg in water, and flaweth such flesh as 
is not clean from the blubber; Then we have two 
men with a barrow, that when the Waterside man 
hath cut it in pieces about two hundredweight, carry 
it up to a stage standing by our Works, like a Table ; 
then we have a man with a long knife, who we call a 
Stage-cutter, who sliceth it into thin pieces about 
halfe an inch thick, and a foot long or longer, and 


throws it into a Cooler, we call a slicing-cooler, 
betwixt which and another cooler (called a chopping- 
cooler) we have men called choppers placed ; five or 
six men, who upon blocks cut about a foot and halfe 
square (made of the tayle of the whale, which is very 
tough) do take the sliced blubber and chop it very 
small and thin, not above a quarter of an inch thick, 
and an inch or two long; and thrust it off from the 
blocks into the Chopping-cooler, which holds two or 
three tuns. 

" Then upon a platforme is built a Copper-hole, 
about four foot high, to which there is a stokehole, 
and on this Copper-hole is a broad Copper which 
containeth about a Butt, hanged with mortar and 
made tight round the edges. And over the stokehole, 
upon an Arch, stands a Chimney which draws up the 
smoke and flame. And we have one we call a 
Tubfiller who with a Ladle of Copper, whose handle 
is about six foot long, taketh the Chopt blubber out 
of the chopping-cooler and puts it into a hogshead 
made with straps for that purpose, and he drawes 
this hogshead from the chopping-cooler's side to the 
Copper and putteth it in ; under which having once 
kindled a fire of wood and boiled a Copper or two 
of Oyle, the scruffe which remains after the oyle is 
boiled out of the blubber (which we call fritters) we 
throw under the Copper, which makes a fierce fire 
and so boyleth the Oyle out of the blubber without 
any other fewell. 

' Then when we find that it is boyled enough, we 
have two men which we call coppermen who with 


two longhandled copper ladles take both oil and 
fritters out of the Copper, about halfe, and put it 
into a Barrow (we call a Fritter-barrow) made with 
two handles and barrell-boards set about halfe 
a-quarter of one inch from the other, through which 
the oyle runneth and the Fritters remain ; from which 
the oyle being drained whilst another Coper of oyle 
boils, they are cast into the stokehole and burnt, and 
the barrow stands ready again on the first Oyle- 
cooler, to receive what is taken out of the next 
Copper. Out of this barrow the oyle runs into a 
great thing we call a Cooler made of Deal-boards, 
containing about five tuns, which is filled within an 
inch of a hole (made in the side for the oyle to run 
into the next spout) with water to cool the oyle, and 
so the oyle runs upon the water, through this hole 
into a spout about ten or twelve foot long, into 
another cooler filled as aforesaid and out of that, 
through a long spout into a third filled as aforesaid 
and out of that, in a long spout into a Butt laid under 
the end of this spout, which being full, the hole of 
the Cooler, next the Butt is stopt till another Butt is 
laid under, and then the plugg being taken out, it 
filleth another, till we have done boyling. Then we 
fill up our Oyles, when they are thoroughly cold, and 
marke them and roule them into the water, rafting 
twenty together, and so tow them aboard, hoyst 
them into our ships, and stow them to bring them 

" And for our finns, which grow in two Gumms in 
the whales mouth (whereof in a whales mouth, great 


and small are about six hundred, four hundred and 
sixty whereof being merchandable) we cut them one 
by one out of the gumms and having rubbd them 
clean we bind them up sixty in a bundle, and so 
taking account of them ship them aboard in our 

" Upon the shoar we have a Tent for our Land- 
men, built of stone, and covered with Deals, and 
Cabbins made therein for our Blubber-men to lodge ; 
And we have a great Working-tent with a Lodging- 
room over it, where, about six Coopers work to get 
ready Cask to put the Oyle into." 

The Germans first participated in the whale 
fishery in 1640, by which time the first prosperous 
period (the bay fishery) was over. The first oil- 
houses were built in Hamburg in 1648 ; in 1674 there 
were nine in existence. Hamburg whalers did well 
in the period 1669-98, especially in the years 1669, 
1671, 1672, 1673, 1682, and 1697. In these years 
the average was from seven to eleven whales per 
ship. Whaling at this time does not appear to have 
been such a hazardous occupation as one would 
have thought, for of one thousand five hundred and 
forty-nine ships which voyaged to the Arctic regions, 
only fifty-six, i.e., three and a half per "cent, were 
lost. The merchants, however, frequently sustained 
other losses owing to the action of privateers. One 
of the oldest accounts of the German fishery is given 
by Martens in 1671. l Martens, in the capacity of 

1 Friedrich Martens. " Spitzbergische Reise-beschredbung," 


ship's-barber (doctor) made four journeys to Spits- 
bergen in whalers, and his book, unlike many whaling 
treatises, is an account of his own personal experi- 
ence. His first ship was called Jonah in the Whale 
(Jonas im WalfiscK). They left the Elbe on the 
1 5th April, 1671 ; on the 27th they sighted the ice, 
Jan Mayen being ten miles distant bearing south- 
west by west. Many ships were engaged at this 
time in this neighbourhood, and it was customary for 
the vessels to hail one another, the most frequent 
question being as to the number of fish (whales) 
caught. In his reply Martens quaintly says, after 
giving the number, " sollte er auch nock einen 
oder mekr> als er hat, dazu setzen, schadet eben 

When the complement of whales was obtained the 
ship flew a special flag, illustrations of which are 
given by Martens. On the 7th May the Jonas 
im Walfisch sighted Spitsbergen, on the I4th 
there were twenty ships whaling in 75 22' north. 
On the 1 5th they sighted their first whale, 
but failed to secure it, on the 3Oth they were 

After rescuing the crew of a wrecked whaler they 
obtained their second (i3th June) and third (22nd 

Hamburg, 1675. First translated into English by Sir John 
Narborough and others, and published in 1694, as an account 
of several late voyages and discoveries to the south and north, 
etc. Dedicated to Samuel Pepys. 

Also translated and published in the Hakluyt Society's publi- 
cations for 1855. A collection of documents on Spitsbergen 
and Greenland, under the title " Voyage into Spitsbergen and 


June) whales. After securing five more " fish " 
they sailed for Bear Harbour, where twenty-eight 
ships were at anchor, twenty Dutch and eight 
Germans. They returned home on the 2 ist August. 
The fishery conditions at this time are not well 
described. Zorgdrager 1 gives a general account of 
the extent of the whaling grounds, which comprise 
the waters from Davis Strait, past Greenland, 
Iceland, Spitsbergen to Nova Zembla. Martens 
says the whales are more abundant in the spring 
towards the west, off Greenland and Jan Mayen, 
later they move east to Spitsbergen. According to 
Zorgdrager there was a considerable fishery north 
of Jan Mayen in 74 north from 1611 to 1633. 
In the eighties of the seventeenth century there 
was a prosperous fishery in Gael-Hamkes Bay in 

The ice fishery has been well described by 
Martens and Zorgdrager, for the period at the end 
of the seventeenth and the commencement of the 
eighteenth century. The treatment of the whale's 
carcass was apparently evolved by the Dutch, the 
other nations copying their methods. 

1 The full title of Zorgdrager' s book, which was published at 
Amsterdam in 1720, is, " Bloyende Opkomst der Aloude en 
Hedendaagsche Groenlandsche Visschery, waar in met eenege 
g-eoeffende ervaarenheit de geheele omflag deezer Visscherye 
beschreeven, en wat daar in dient waargenomen naaukeurig 
verhandelt wordt." A German translation (with different illus- 
trations) was published at Leipzig in 1723, under the title, 
" Alte und neue Groenlandische Fischerei und Walfischfang." 
A second enlarged edition was published at the Hague in 1727, 
a third edition at Amsterdam in 1728, and a second German 
edition at Niirnberg in 1750. 


The types of vessel in use at this time were of the 
following dimensions : 

Ship 100 feet long- by 26 by u carried 4 boats and 28 men. 
ioo ,, 28 by 12 5 ,, 35 ,, 

112 ,, 29 by 12^ ,, 6 ,, 42 ,, 
118 30 by 12* 7 50 

The hull of the vessel was strengthened to resist 
ice pressure, and provided at the bow with an iron 
" breast-plate " which corresponded in function 
with the false or ice stem described by Scoresby. 

Fitting-out began in March with the preparation 
of the so-called hard bread, consisting of two-thirds 
rye and one-third wheat. At the beginning of 
April the soft bread was made. A ship with thirty- 
five men and five boats required for the voyage : 
fifteen casks of hard bread, sixteen sacks soft bread, 
twenty-eight sacks peas, eight tons meat, thirteen 
quarters butter, one thousand pounds cheese, five 
hundred pounds bacon, nine hundred pounds stock 
fish, twenty-eight barrels of beer, two and a half 
ankers of brandy, and so on. The empty casks for 
the reception of the blubber were prepared and 
placed in the hold, the interstices being filled with 
firewood for subsequent use in boiling the oil at the 
factories on shore. The two lowest rows of casks, 
about two hundred in all, were filled with water. 
The fore-part of the hull was strengthened inside. 
At the end of March the master appeared to take the 
vessel over, and to make ready for sea. The 
mustering of the crew usually took place at some 
water-side inn. Zorgdrager specifies in full detail 


the fishery equipment of the whaler, including four 
hundred and fifty new casks, sixty new whale-lines, 
fifty oak harpoon stocks, cloth for sails, forty new 
and ten old harpoons, fifty new lances, ten blubber 
knives, and so on. 

His list is so meticulously correct that he does not 
forget the porcelain coffee service and the mirrors 
and serviettes for the cabin. Evidently the old 
whaling masters were by no means uncivilised. 

Between the 6th and 8th April the crew were 
mustered in the captain's cabin before the owner 
and skipper. Advances in pay were made. The 
captain received one hundred to one hundred and 
fifty guilders, and twenty-five guilders towards his 
equipment. His share was also fixed at from twenty 
to twenty-five guilders per whale and a percentage 
on the oil. The mate (steersman) received sixty to 
sixty-five guilders advance and an agreed percentage 
on the oil, the harpooners fifty to fifty-five guilders 
advance and a percentage on the oil, but nothing 
for the whalebone. The monthly pay of the crew 
was carpenter, thirty-six to forty guilders, boatsmen 
twenty-eight, cook twenty-eight, butcher twenty- 
eight, barber (doctor?) twenty-six, quartermaster 
(Schiemann), who looked after the lines, twenty-five, 
experienced seamen eighteen to twenty, younger 
seamen fourteen to fifteen, cooks' assistants twelve, 
and cabin boys ten to eleven guilders. The steers- 
man of each boat capturing a whale received in 
addition three guilder. On the I5th to 2Oth April' 
the ships put to sea, those for Davis Strait, however, 


starting a month earlier than this. When the vessel 
reached the latitudes of 61 to 66 north, the 
whaling apparatus was got ready, the distribution of 
the various duties at the whaling also being settled. 
For the flensing the cutters, harpooners, a " blubber 
king " and " blubber queen " were appointed. 
Each harpooner had his boat provided with se^en 
lines, each one hundred and twenty fathoms long, 
of the best hemp. The whaling apparatus was at 
this time primitive, Martens describes the harpoons 
and lances, the best harpoons being of steel. Zorg- 
drager divides the fishery into three main parts : 
(i) The capture of the whale. (2) The flensing. 
(3) The treatment of the blubber. 

The officers and harpooners keep a sharp look out 
for whales. The crew are also on the qui vwe for 
a dead whale, the first sighting of which was re- 
warded with a ducat. As soon as a whale is seen the 
cry " Val Val," is raised, and the men tumble into 
the boats. When the boat is near enough to the 
whale, the harpooner throws his weapon. Attached 
to the harpoon is a line of the best hemp, the " Voor- 
ganger," to which five other lines can be attached in 
succession, after which another boat can be called 
up, and its lines in turn attached. The line is 
wound round a bollard (Slupsteven), a wet cloth 
being kept at hand to prevent the bollard from 
taking fire from the friction of the lines. Care has 
to be taken that the line passes out over the bow and 
not over the side, as in the latter case there is 
danger of capsizing. 


A whale can run out ten lines of one hundred and 
twenty-five fathoms each, after which it is compelled 
to come to the surface. This gives the opportunity 
for the discharge of a second harpoon, and for 
lancing with the six foot lances. Eventually the 
whale is killed. Sometimes two boats from different 
ships share in the killing of the whale, in which case 
the ships take half shares. The tail is now cut off, 
a hole made in the whale's body, which is then towed 
alongside the ship by five or six boats. It is now 
made fast, the tail end forward and the head aft. 

A fish of fifty kardels blubber gives two hundred 
and forty to two hundred and fifty Maas barten 
(bone of not less than eleven feet long) and about 
two hundred Untermaas barten. The blubber is 
put on board into the hold (Flensloch) and must be 
prepared within forty-eight hours. 

The whalers usually returned home in September, 
October, or November at the latest. The Dutch 
made several attempts to winter in the North, at 
Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen (1633-4); Spitsbergen 
(1630-1) successfully, and 1633 unsuccessfully; in 
the latter case the men died of scurfy due to the 
lack of fresh provisions. 

During the next three decades, as already 
described, the Dutch followed the whale fishery 
with, on the whole, considerable success, while the 
English took a very minor part. Already the 
whales were becoming scarce in Spitsbergen waters, 
and the ships had to go farther out to sea to make 
their captures. The three Dutch wars with 


England 1652-54, 1665-67, and 1672-74, interfered 
considerably with the Dutch whalers, but the trade 
was resumed in 1675. The next ten years were 
very prosperous for the Dutch. There was a slight 
falling off until 1691, when the fishery was again 
prohibited on account of the war. 

Feeble and unsuccessful attempts were made by 
the English in 1672 and subsequent years to wrest 
this valuable monopoly from the Dutch. In 1672 
an Act of Parliament allowed British whalers to 
land their products free;) colonials were admitted at 
a reduced rate, .while foreigners had to pay a 
customs duty of nine pounds per ton for oil and 
eighteen pounds per ton for whalebone. 1 

In 1693 Sir William Scaven formed the " Com- 
pany of Merchants of London trading to Green- 
land " with a capital of forty thousand pounds, 
afterwards increased in 1703 to eighty-two thousand 

According to Anderson, 2 in 1696 the new Green- 
land Company, which had been established in 1693 
with forty thousand pounds as its original capital 
stock, had afterwards increased its capital to eighty- 
two thousand pounds, the completion to be made at 
any time before the year 1703. 

By reason of the war with France, and the scarcity 
of seamen, the company could not employ all its 
capital in this trade, so it was enacted that the 
company, during its term of fourteen years, ending 

1 " History of Commerce," Vol. ii., p. 521. 
* Ibid., p. 626. 


in 1707, should be free of all duty, custom or impos- 
ition whatsoever, for any oil, blubber or whale-fins 
caught and imported by them during the said term. 

The company, however, was so unfortunate partly 
through bad management, partly through real losses, 
as to expend their whole capital some years before 
the expiration of their term, so that they broke up 
entirely. This failure was all the more surprising 
because in 1697 the Dutch whale fishery was univer- 
sally successful. The superintendent of this fishery 
reported that when lying in one of the bays with his 
ship, the Four Brothers, having a cargo of seven 
fish on board, a richly laden fleet assembled at that 
place, consisting of one hundred and twenty-one 
Hollanders with one thousand two hundred and 
fifty-two whales, fifty-four Hamburgers with five 
hundred and fifteen whales, fifteen Bremeners with 
one hundred and nineteen whales, and two 
Embdeners with two whales, and not a clean ship 
among them. 

Elking 1 attributes the ill success of the English 
to the following: 

(1) The ships were commanded by persons 
unacquainted with the business, who interfered with 
the fishery, whereas the chief harpooner ought to 
have commanded at this time. 

(2) The captains had fixed pay ; they should have 
been paid by share. 

(3) The blubber taken home was slovenly and 

1 Elking, " A View of the Greenland Trade and Whale Fishery, 
with the National and Private advantages thereof," London, 1722. 


wastefully managed in boiling, and the fins were ill 
cleaned; so that the products offered for sale only 
fetched an inferior price. 

(4) The lines and fishing instruments were 
injured from want of care and frequently embezzled. 

(5) The ships were extravagantly fitted; an 
exorbitant price paid for materials and large sums 
spent on incidentals, which ought to have been 

(6) The last ship sent out was unfortunately 
wrecked, after securing eleven whales, a misfortune 
which accelerated the ruin of the company. 

In a translation of " divers passages " from De 
Witt's " True Interest and Political Maxims of 
Holland and West Friesland," published by the 
authority of the States General and translated into 
English in the year 1702, advocating free trade, it 
is stated that the authorised Dutch Greenland 
Cpmpany made heretofore little profit by their 
fishing, because of the great charge of setting out 
their ships, and that the train oil, blubber, and whale- 
fins were not well made, handled, or cured, and 
being brought hither and put into warehouse, were 
not sold soon enough, nor to the Company's best 
advantage. " Whereas, now that everyone equips 
their vessels at the cheapest rate, follow their fishing 
diligently and manage all carefully, the blubber, 
train oil, and whale-fins are employed for so many 
uses in several countries, that they can sell them 
with that conveniency, that, though there are now 
fifteen ships for one which formerly sailed out of 


Holland on that account, and consequently each of 
them could not take so many whales as heretofore; 
and, nothwithstanding the new prohibition of 
France and other countries, to import those com- 
modities, and though there is greater plenty of it 
imported by our fishers, yet those commodities are 
much raised in value above what they were whilst 
there was a Company; that the common inhabitants 
do exercise that fishery with profit, to the much 
greater benefit of our country than when it was 
under the management of a Company carried on by 
a few. For however much these members sell their 
commodities dearer than if that trade was open or 
free, all the other inhabitants that gain their subsist- 
ence immediately or by consequence by a foreign 
competition must bear the loss. Indeed, our fisher- 
men, dealers in manufactures, owners of freight 
ships, are burdened by all manner of imposts; to 
impress them yet more in their necessity by these 
monopolies of Guilds and yet to believe that it 
redounds to the good of the land, because it tends 
to the benefit of such companies, is to me incompre- 
hensible. These Guilds are said indeed to be a 
useful sort of people, but next to those we call idle 
drones, they are the most unprofitable inhabitants of 
the country, because they bring in no profit from 
foreign lands for the welfare of the inhabitants of 

Further details of the Dutch whale fishery during 
this period are given in an Appendix (p. 308). 

Towards the end of the seventeenth century 


practically all the Dutch seaports were engaged in 
the Greenland whaling. Van Oelen gives the 
names and ports of , all the Dutch ships which left 
for the whaling at Greenland in 1683. The leading 
ports at this time and the number of vessels fitted 
out from each is given here. 

Amsterdam, thirty-four ; Rotterdam, thirty-two 
and a " hooker " ; Hoorn and Saardam, twenty-nine 
each; Ryp, twenty; Jispi, seventeen; Dordrecht, 
fourteen; Saendyck, twelve; Enckhuysen, Meden- 
blick and Uytgeest, six each; Texel and Edam, five 
each; Stavoren and De Coog, four each; Delf- 
shaven, Zeelandt and Knollendam, three each; 
Schiedam, Westsanen and Haarlingen, two each; 
and finally De Creyl, one ship. 

This year Hamburg also sent fifty ships to the 
whaling, and sometimes the German ships numbered 
eighty. The Dutch names at this time are very 
curious, some vessels, e.g., De Brewery of Hoorn, if 
they lived up to their names would doubtless be 
popular amongst the seamen. 

Some Dutch whalers went a great many times to 
the fishing, the record for a Dutch Commandeur 
being held by Roelof Gerritsz. Meyer, who went 
forty-four times, capturing two hundred and eighty- 
seven whales. 

At the end of the seventeenth and the commence- 
ment of the eighteenth centuries English whaling 
was practically extinguished, yet the Dutch, in the 
ten years, 1699-1708, equipped one thousand six 
hundred and fifty-two ships, which caught eight 


thousand five hundred and thirty-seven whales, the 
produce of which sold for over twenty-six million 
florins, of which four and three-quarter millions was 
clear gain. 

The publication in London in 1721 of a list of 
ships employed in whaling to " Greenland " and 
Dayjs Strait appears to have aroused interest. 
This list was : 

From Holland 251 ships. 

From Hamburg: 55 

From Bremen ... 24 

From Biscayan Ports 20 

From Bergen 5 

At any rate, shortly afterwards the South Sea 
Company took the matter up, with what success the 
next chapter shows. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the 
Dutch fleet left the Y and the Zaan every April for 
Spitsbergen. In war-time the fleet was protected 
by warships, i.e., in 1697 the whalers were protected 
by a Dutch and Hamburg convoy. After 1718 the 
whalers visited Davis Strait. A list of the whale 
ships from 1719 to 1770 gives the names of forty- 
four Dutch ports participating in the whale fishery. 
The Dutch statistics were : 

1669-1778 14,167 ships. 561 lost. That is four per cent. 

In 1733 the Dutch East Indian Company 
imported whalebone into Holland from the East 
Indies. The Dutch Greenland adventurers immedi- 
ately protested against this, alleging it would ruin 
their trade if permitted to go on. Their statement, 


which gives great detail, is of interest, though 
naturally, it must be discounted a little since it is 
obviously partisan. 

The Dutch Greenland merchants say that at this 
time, at an expense per ship of ten thousand guilders, 
the total was one million eight hundred thousand 
guilders, or, as they put it, eighteen tons of gold, 
which must be paid out even if not a single whale be 
caught. Provisions and gear cost five hundred and 
forty thousand guilders, advances of pay to captains 
and crew, etc., one million two hundred thousand 
guilders. A usual catch is about forty-four thousand 
quartels of blubber and one hundred and twenty 
thousand pounds of whalebone, besides walrus teeth 
and seal-skins, the total value being two million one 
hundred thousand guilders. Of this, one hundred 
and fifty thousand guilders must be allowed for the 
cost of working up the products for the market, 
showing a total income of one million nine hundred 
thousand guilders. Of this, one million three 
hundred and fifty thousand guilders represent the 
goods sold abroad, and three hundred thousand 
that consumed at home. 

An empty ship represents a loss of twelve thousand 
six hundred florins. 

The Davis Strait fishery commenced in 1719. In 
the first ten years the Dutch sent seven hundred 
and forty-eight ships. The Hamburgers sent four 
ships in 1719, the Bremeners two in 1725. The 
chief fishery was on the south side of Disco Island 
where, until quite recently, the whalers of Dundee 


and Peterhead commenced their season's fishing. 
The Dutchmen usually made first for South Bay in 
Greenland in 67 10' N., where the ships also 
assembled for the return journey. In Disco and 
Liefde Bays there were at this time very rich whaling 
grounds; even in the mid-nineteenth century the 
British and American whalers fished regularly up to 
Melville Bay. According to De Jong, 1 L. Feykes 
Haan in July, 1715, found the strait was closed with 
ice at 72 N. ; the fishery was nevertheless carried 
on in these regions up to 79 N. There must at 
this time have been a considerable Dutch trade with 
Greenland. In 1691, on account of war (the French 
defeated the allied British and Dutch fleets off 
Beachy Head this year), the States General forbade 
the Dutch whalers to set sail to Greenland; and 
King Christian V. of Denmark issued a decree 
prohibiting whaling at Greenland to all but Danish 
subjects. In the following year Hamburg was com- 
pelled to conclude a treaty with Denmark to enable 
her citizens to fish in Davis Strait. In 1709 Great 

1 " Nieuwe Beschryving der Walvischvangst en Haring- 
visschery," by D. de Jong-, H. Kobel, and M. Salieth. 

De Reste's book, " Histoire des peches des decouvertes et des 
establis semens des Hollandais dans les mers du Nord," 3 vols., 
Paris, 1801, is a translation of De Jong, with some of the illus- 
trations different The first volume was ready in 1791, and the 
second almost ready when the revolution broke out. De Reste 
got into bad odour with the revolutionists (ces Cannibals as he 
calls them), who objected to his association with the old govern- 
ment, and he only escaped narrowly, the executioners surround- 
ing his house in the Rue du Cherche-Midi half an hour after 
his escape. Eventually his work was completed, and published 
in the ninth year of the Republic. 


Britain, France, and the Netherlands combined to 
shut the Hanseatic towns out of the whale fishery. 
The Hanse towns made diplomatic protests which 
were, however, feeble and unavailing, so they decided 
on their own convoy system, a decision which was 
helped by the losses their ships had sustained in the 
Mediterranean trade owing to the attack of Algerian 
pirates. Usually twenty, thirty or even forty ships 
assembled around the convoyer, the captain of which 
assumed the responsibility of Admiral of the Convoy. 
This warship carried a crew of from one hundred 
and thirty to one hundred and fifty, and sixty to 
eighty soldiers. There was also a chaplain, a 
surgeon, a " botteler," and a cook. According to 
contemporary accounts the proceedings aboard these 
conveyers were of a puritanical description. There 
was morning and evening prayer, and on Sundays 
a sermon and communion in addition. Drinking, 
brawling, " Lastern," and swearing were forbidden, 
and cards, dice, and " Weiber " were not allowed on 
board. In 1691 the Bremen convoyer was a ship 
one hundred and twelve feet by twenty-nine feet by 
twelve. She carried fourteen twelve, one eight, 
nine six, ten four, and four three pounders, as well 
as four metal cannon of three pounds ; eight bombs, 
one hundred and eighty hand grenades, thirty-one 
casks of powder of each one hundred pounds, and 
twenty-one pounds musket balls, forty-two muskets, 
forty-six pistols, and so on. 

In 1777 Cornelis Ris attempted to found a poor 
house at Hoorn, with a school in which useful 


practical subjects were taught. Laspeyres 1 describes 
this interesting practical example of combining 
philanthropy with commercial desires. The cost of 
keeping the school going depended partly on the 
alms of the charitable and partly on the profits to 
be derived from whaling. A whaling company was 
formed, the membership being fixed at one hundred 
florins. Anyone unable to risk the loss of this sum 
is advised to stand out, since the possibility of a 
total loss cannot be overlooked. The company was 
formed, and the whale fishing was successful as 
described in subsequent writings by Ris, who, 
nevertheless, put the goodwill and assets of the com- 
pany at nil. In 1777 he petitions for exemption 
from certain taxes, but in 1779 the company was still 
successful, since there is a " Lobgedicht " of that 
date which describes it as flourishing. 

In addition to the account of Martens, which is 
the best, there are other descriptions of whaling 
voyages to Spitsbergen in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century. There is an account by Maarten 
Mooi 2 of a journey to " Greenland " in 1786 in the 

1 Laspeyres, E. Geschichte der Volkswirthschaftlichen Ans- 
chauung-en der Niederlander, Leipzig-, 1863. Preisschrift der 
Fiirstlich Jablonowskische Gesellschaft. The papers of Ris 
referred to are not in the British Museum. 

a Maarten Mooi, Journael van de reize naer Groenlandt, 
g-edaen door commandeur M. Mooi met het schip Frankendaal, 
behelzende zijne uitreize van Amsterdam 22 April, 1786, bezetting- 
in het ijs, zedert den 10 Junij, het voorg-evallene met de com- 
mandeurs H. C. Jaspers, M. Weatherhead, W. Allen en Volkert 
Klaassen of Jong- Volkert Knudsten, welke twee Eng-elsche 
comm. beide hunne schepen verloren hebben; de g-elukkig-e ver- 
lossing- van den Altonaasvaarder Gottenberg-er en van hem M. 
Mooi, met veel aanmerkelyke byzonderheden, Amsterdam, 1787 


Frankendaal of Amsterdam. It is a description of 
more than ordinarily interesting whaling voyage 
of the period, since they were beset in the ice from 
the loth June to the 27th November. Practically 
contemporaneous with this is the account taken from 
the journal of Jitrgen Roper? published at Altona 
in 1778. The titles of these works sufficiently indi- 
cate their contents. 

It was customary when there were exceptional 
circumstances attending a whaling voyage at this time 
for an account to be published on the vessel's return 
home. Among these are the accounts of voyages by 
Jac. Janssen on the Frau Elizabeth of Hamburg in 
1769, by Marten Jansen on the Witte Paard in 1777, 
and by Hidde Dirks Kat in 1777 and 1778. To this 
period may also be referred the earlier voyage of 
Johann Michael Kiihn, published in 1741 . It is im- 
possible to quote from all these voyages. The titles 
are given in the Bibliography at the end of the book 
(p. 318). Doubtless a diligent search through the 
various Dutch libraries would yield further references 
to voyages of this period. 

Posselt's book (note p. 181) gives a good account 
of the conditions under which the German whale 
fishery was carried on towards the end of the 
eighteenth century. Posselt was Prediger zu St 
Johannis auf Fohr, a small island off the Schleswig- 

1 Wahrhafte Nachricht von den im Jahre 1777, auf den Wall- 
fischfang nach Gronland aufgegangenen und daselbst verung- 
liickten fiinf Hamburger Schiffen, gezogen aus dem Journal des 
Kiipers Jiirgen Roper, auf dem Schiffe genannt Sara Cecilia, 
Kommandeur Hans Pieters, Altona, 1778. 


Holstein coast, the home of a colony of Spitsbergen 
whalers. His information was collected from the 
whalers direct. For the ten years previous to 1796 
it was only the English who were successful at this 
fishery. The reasons he gives are (i) the greater 
courage and skill of her seamen, (2) the better builo 
of her boats which can hunt the whale in the opeu 
sea even in bad weather, and (3) the ice-free harbour^ 
of Britain enable the whalers to start off early so that 
they get the best fishing ; the Dutchmen and Hani- 
burgers only arriving when the whales have been 
hunted a lot and are scarce and shy. Posselt says 
the " Greenland Law " permitted the whaler who was 
fast to a whale to have the sole right of its capture. 
This he regards as natural, and " it is only the proud 
English who look upon themselves as Lords of the 
Ocean and all its inhabitants, who disobey the law 
and according to general complaint they do so 

When the English first went to Spitsbergen for the 
whales in 1609 they took with them Biscayan 
harpooners, and when in 1724 the South Sea Com- 
pany decided to resuscitate the whaling industry they 
had to seek foreign assistance, since, by then the 
original industry had died out, and there was no one 
in the country skilled at the trade of hunting, killing, 
and cutting-up whales. This time the English 
sought expert assistance from the Frisian islanders, 
and it is interesting to see how these men kept in the 
trade while it had disappeared entirely in the neigh- 
bouring island of Great Britain. 


Probably these Frisians learnt their trade in the 
first instance in the early voyages of the Noordsche 
Compagnie. The islands of Sylt and Fohr were 
always unable to sustain a large population, and it 
was long customary for the adult males to seek 
employment as sailors in foreign or foreign-going 
vessels. The Frisians probably shipped in the first 
place as " green-hands," the expert work being done 
by the Basques. In 1634 there was a serious 
dispute between the French and Dutch as to the 
Spitsbergen fishery, and the French Govern- 
ment forbade the Basques to ship in the Dutch 

This, like many arbitrary acts of government, prob- 
ably produced an entirely different effect from what 
was intended. The Frisians after about twenty years' 
experience of the business were probably nearly as 
expert as the Basques, and this order of the French 
Government merely facilitated the substitution of 
Frisians for Basques as harpooners and specksioneers 
on the Dutch ships. This same year (1634) there 
was a tremendous inundation of the Frisian coast, 
causing enormous damage and widespread distress ; 
forcing more men than ever to seek employment 
abroad. The whaling trade at this time, expanding 
rapidly in Holland, absorbed large numbers of these 
men, who were thus enabled to earn a much better 
living than if they had remained at home and followed 
agricultural pursuits. Contemporary writers give 
moving accounts of the annual setting-out and return 
of practically the whole of the adult male population 


of the islands of Fohr and Sylt. During the height 
of the whaling season these islands were deprived of 
their able-bodied male population every summer. 
Old men and young boys took part in the Greenland 
voyages. Jens Jacob Eschels started on his first 
whaling voyage as a cabin boy at the age of eleven 
years two months and twenty-five days. In the 
second voyage a boy was generally promoted to he d 
cabin boy, and subsequently cook's mate, then 
ordinary and lastly able seaman. 

Intelligent men were promoted boatsteerer and 
ship's officer, the final rank being that of " Com- 
mandeur," as the captains of the whalers were 
described. A ship's master or captain had to possess 
" Burgerrecht," but with the rapid growth of whaling 
it was impossible to find sufficient men with this 
qualification, so it became customary to style a 
whaling captain " Commandeur " to avoid friction 
with the captains of the mercantile marine. The 
Commandeur had general command of the expedi- 
tion, the navigating officer being the " Steurmann " 
who never left the ship, not even when all the boats 
were away after whales. Many seamen of sixty or 
even seventy years of age were found on these 
Greenlanders, some of whom had previously been 
ship's officers or even Commandeur. Some of these 
men made very many voyages to the whaling. On 
Kohler's ship there was a " Schiemann " making 
his forty-seventh consecutive voyage. That these 
Frisians regarded whaling as a life-long occupa- 
tion is certain. They were exclusively whalers, 


and this fact is still recorded on tombstones in 

" Ich schiffte auf dem Meer 
nach Gronland hin und her 
die Fahrt ist abgethan, 
ik bin in Kanaan, 
wo Wellen, Eis und Wind 
nicht mehr zu finden sind." 

A navigation school was established for young 
whalers by Pastor Petri on Fohr as early as 1620- 
78. In 1733 at least twenty-five per cent of the 
Dutch crews were Frisians from the islands of Sylt, 
Amrum, Rom, Hooge, and Nordmarsch. At the 
h nght of the fishing's prosperity about three thousand 
Frisians took part annually, of whom one thousand 
five hundred were from Fohr and seven hundred 
from Sylt. When signing on the whalers the names 
of the Frisians were entered in the Dutch form, so 
that when they subsequently engaged in Hamburg 
whalers they were erroneously thought to be of 
Dutch origin. 



The whalers apply for State assistance The South Sea Company 
and the Whale Fisheries Development of the British whaling- 
industry as a result of the bounty stimulus Description of 
Arctic whaling- voyages. 

AT the very commencement of the eighteenth 
century a petition was presented to Parliament by 
the merchants who had raised a joint stock for 
recovering, and effectually carrying on the Green- 
land whale fishery with vigour, in which application 
was made for certain special privileges. 

Notwithstanding the encouragement given by the 
previous Acts (4 and 5 William and Mary; 7 and 8 
William; i Anne, 1702), the Greenland whale 
fishery had been neglected by the English and 
carried on to a vast extent by the Dutch, 
Hamburgers, and others, employing near four 
hundred sail of ships in such service ; by which they 
were enabled to import to this Kingdom vast 
quantities of whalebone and oil, and vend the same 
at exorbitant prices, whereby the subject was 
aggrieved and large sums drawn out of the 
Kingdom. The Greenland whale fishery is of a 

177 M 


different nature from all other fisheries, and requires 
the utmost application of a separate distinct 
company with a considerable joint stock to bring it 
to perfection. 

The joint stock raised by 4 and 5 William and 
Mary to form a body corporate for the Greenland 
trade, and the 7 and 8 William, excusing them from 
duty, failed because of their small stock, want of 
experience, and opposition of foreign ships in 
Greenland Seas, of which there were a hundred or 
more. So the Act of Anne, 1702, made it lawful for 
any of Her Majesty's subjects to obtain the 
privileges of this Company. 

" The present Undertakers will, by the great 
number of adventurers and the extensiveness of 
their stock, be enabled to surmount the difficulties 
which overwhelmed the earlier company, whose 
capital was but forty thousand pounds, and they 
therefore apply for a bill giving them preference 
over others " ; as they claim to know the procedure 
of the former company having their books in their 
possession, they are first in the field and " that the 
design manifestly tending to the increase of nayjga- 
tion, and the benefit of all His Majesty's subjects, it 
is humbly hoped, will receive countenance and 

In a broadside (1720) entitled " Reasons Humbly 
submitted to the Honourable House of Commons 
for A Clause to prevent His Majesty's being de- 
frauded of the great Customs on Whalebone/' it is 
stated that those who design to defraud the customs 


of the duty on whalebone take care to have the fins 
cut up fit for use before they are imported, and so 
being made up in small parcels, usually cast the 
same overboard, in some marked place, where it lies 
until a convenient opportunity occurs of taking it up 
unobserved. This is very generally practised by 
those who cut their fins beyond the sea. 

In a further broadside of this time are set forth 
reasons humbly offered to the Honourable House of 
Commons against laying any impositions on whale- 
bone caught and imported by the Greenland 
Company. The Company say that on the en- 
couragement of certain Acts for the development of 
the Greenland trade (25 Car. II., 4 and 5 William 
and Mary, 7 and 8 George I.) they have, noth with- 
standing all the difficulties, discouragements, and 
vast losses by them sustained, continued their 
endeayours for the recovery and settlement of the 
said trade. 

They complain they cannot carry on the same 
on equal terms with other nations, for they cannot 
fit out their ships, nor victual their men at such easy 
rates as other nations, and yet are forced to employ 
and pay extraordinary wages to foreigners to help 
and serve them in their fishery. 

The Company import but a very small part of the 
whalebone consumed in this country ; they import all 
the fins, pieces, and chucks, good and bad, which are 
all extremely moist and green, and which daily do 
much diminish in weight, so any imposition would 
rise very high. 


So the Company petitions Parliament for 
exemption from any custom, duty, or imposition 
whatsoever on oil, blubber, or whale fins taken, 
caught, and imported into this country in any ships 
or vessels belonging to the Company. 

These agitations and petitions of interested 
parties ultimately led to Parliament granting certain 
privileges to British whalers. These privileges 
were taken advantage of by the South Sea Com- 
pany with what result the following pages 

The South Sea Company, which had been 
established in 1711, with a yjew of restoring public 
credit and providing for the extinction of the floating 
national debt, which at that time amounted to ten 
million, had obtained a monopoly of trade to the 
southern seas. The Company after much debate, 
having before their eyes the former unsuccessful 
attempts on the part of several companies to engage 
in the Greenland whale fisheries, decided in 1724 
to engage in this fishery. 1 The better to ensure 
success the Company obtained an Act of Parliament 
(10 Geo. I. cap. xvi.) whereby the duty of three 
pence per pound on whale fins was repealed and 
whale fins, oil and blubber, caught and imported in 
British ships, whereof the commander and at least 
one-third of the mariners were British subjects, 
should be custom free for seven years, from 
Christmas, 1724. By an Act of Parliament two 

1 The " Court Minutes " Book of the South Sea Company is 
in the British Museum. MSS. Dept. No. 25,501. 


years later this freedom from custom duty was 
extended to " Davis's streights and the seas 
adjacent," and comprised seal oil, seal skins or any 
other produce of seals, or other creatures, taken or 
caught in any of the said seas. 

It was, however, too late to make a start in 1724, 
so the Company directed twelve fine ships of three 
hundred and six tons each, to be built on the Thames, 
and proper quantities of hemp from Riga and cask 
staves from Hamburg to be got ready for the 
ensuing spring. The Company also hired the 
Duke of Bedford's great wet dock at Deptford, for 
the use of their ships and stores, and for curing their 
oil and whale fins. 

In 1725 the South Sea Company commenced 
operations. The twelve ships brought home 
twenty-five and a half whales, and although this 
barely sufficed to pay expenses, it was the best year 
of the eight during which this fishery was carried 
on preceding the passing of the first Bounty Act. 
Owing to the fact that for many years prior to this 
the English had given up the whale fisheries, it was 
necessary to procure all the skilled men, such as 
commanders, harpooners, boat-steerers and blubber- 
cutters from Holstein. 1 ^ One hundred and fifty-two 
Holsteiners cost the Company over three thousand 
and fifty-six pounds, whereas three hundred and 
fifty-three British subjects employed on the same 

1 See K. F. Posselt, " Ueber den Gronlandischen Wallfisch- 
fang aus miindlichen Nachrichten Fohringer Seeleute," g-esamlet 
von K. F. P., Kiel, 1706. 


ships only cost three thousand one hundred and 
fifty-one pounds. 

In 1726 twelve more ships were built for 
the Company, and the whole twenty-four were 
sent out to the whale fishery at Greenland and 
in Davis Strait, capturing sixteen and a half 

The following year (1727) the Company built an 
additional ship and sent out twenty-five to the 
fishery with, disastrous results. Two of the ships 
were lost, the remaining twenty-three bringing home 
twenty- two and a half whales. 

A half whale results when two whalers of different 
nationality strike the same whale which is by custom 

In 1728 the same twenty-three vessels procured 
eighteen whales, undoubtedly a losing voyage. 
The next year one of the twenty-three was lost, the 
remaining twenty-two bringing home twenty-seven 
and a half whales, the net loss this year exclusive of 
wear and tear being over six thousand nine hundred 
pounds. In 1730 the same twenty-two ships 
brought home twelve whales, the net loss being eight 
thousand nine hundred and twenty-one pounds. 
In 1731 one of the twenty-two was lost and the 
other twenty-one ships brought home fourteen 
whales, which was still a losing voyage. At this 
time there was invented a gun for shooting harpoons 
with gunpowder, at a greater distance than they 
could be thrown by hand. This invention was tried 
\\ ith " some success." 


At this time the whale fisheries of New England 
employed about one thousand three hundred tons 
of .shipping. 

The year 1732 witnessed the last attempt of the 
South Sea Company to prosecute the Greenland 
whale fishery unassisted by bounty. Their twenty- 
one vessels brought home twenty-four and a half 
whales, also a very unsuccessful voyage. 

The balance sheet after eight years effort, is 
interesting : 

s. d 

Total issues or disbursements in 8 years .... ... 262,172 9 6 

Sales of oil, etc., and also of the ships ...... 84,390 6 6 

Total loss ... 177*782 3 o 

At this time it was calculated that if a Greenland 
ship brought home the produce of three whales only 
it would be a successful voyage, but the South Sea 
Company whalers did not average one whale per 
ship, taking one year with another. Whalers 
reckoned that one good year would make up th 
deficits of six bad years, so it is particularly un- 
fortunate that the whole of the eight years of this 
interesting experiment were alike bad. 

The Company now endeavoured to persuade the 
Government to grant a bounty to assist them, as it 
appeared evident to the Directors that otherwise 
the fishery must be abandoned. 

The first Act of Parliament granting a bounty for 
the whale fisheries was passed in 1733, but too late 
for the Company to take part in the fisheries of that 


year. Two ships fitted out privately engaged in the 
fishery. A statistical return showing the number of 
ships fitted out for the Greenland whale fishery, 
together with their tonnage and the amount of 
bounty paid, is given in the Appendix (p. 306) from 
the commencement in 1733 to the year 1824, when 
the bounty ceased. 

The bounty first offered consisted of an annual 
sum of twenty shillings per ton on all ships fitted 
c at in Great Britain, of two hundred tons and 
upwards, for the whale fishery, and navigated 
according to law. Just previous to this the 
^utch were very successful at whaling, for the 
forty-six years ending 1721 they employed five 
thousand eight hundred and eighty-six ships, 
capturing thirty-two thousand nine hundred and 
3even whales, which at an average valuation of 
five hundred pounds gives a total of over sixteen 
million sterling. 

According to the Custom House returns four 
vessels participated in the^fishery in 1736, of these 
one ship brought home seven whales while one 
hundred and thirty Dutcn ships caught six hundred 
whales. The number of British vessels engaged in 
die whale fisheries increased but slowly, so in 1740 
the tonnage bounty was increased to thirty shillings 
per ton, the additional bounty of ten shillings to con- 
tinue " during our then war with Spain only," during 
which time it was also enacted that no harpooner, 
line-manager, boat-steer er, or seaman should be 


Even under this increased bounty the fisheries 
remained stagnant (p. 306), so that in 1749 a further 
increase in the bounty was decided upon. The ton- 
nage bounty was now fixed at forty shillings per ton, 
and immediately there was an increase in the number 
of ships fitted out, the average for the ten years 
1740-9 being 37 ships, and that for the ten years 
1750-9 43-3. This bounty was also extended to 
ships built in the British colonies i~ North America, 
of two hundred tons and upwards, on their arrival 
from the whale fishery at some port in Great BrKain, 
subject to certain conditions set out in the Act. In 
1755 the Bounty Act was amended so as to provide 
that every ship should have on board an apprentice 
for each fifty tons burthen, anH that no bou 
shall be payable for i grtaier u^iage lor any 
one ship of more than four hundred tons, and ship! 
under two hundred tons were to be entitled to the 

By 1759 it may fairly be claimed that a regular, if 
small, Greenland whale fishery had been established 
for British vessels. Thirty-four British vessels took 
part in the fishery, the aggregate tonnage being 
ten thousand three hundred and thirty-seven, while 
this same year one hundred and thirty-three Dutch 
ships brought home the produce of four hundred 
and thirty-five whales, a little more than three 
and a quarter whales per ship. The Ham- 
burgers with sixteen ships only captured eighteen 

By this time also there was a small Scottish whale 


fishery as is seen from a reference to the Custom 
House returns for Scotland. Although the table 
(Appendix II.) distinctly refers to Great Britain, it 
is obvious that the return deals with England only, 
since only English ports are specified in the detailed 
statement, and since there is a separate table for 
Scotland. It was in 1750 that the first Scottish 
whale ship, a Leith vessel, applied for the bounty. 
The number of Scottish vessels participating in the 
benefits of the bounty system was never large ; there 
was a steady increase from 1750 with one ship to 
1762 with fourteen (the maximum being sixteen in 
1755 and 1766), and thence a gradual decline to 
1784. Leith, Dunbar, and Dundee were the chief 
ports engaged in the whale fisheries at this 

The increase in 1 749 of the tonnage bounty for 
whalers to forty shillings a ton induced many seaport 
towns to fit out one or more vessels for the whaling, 
but except in the case of London, Hull, and Whitby 
with only transient success. Bristol, for instance, 
though it was engaged for several years in the whaling 
industry, never sent out more than three vessels in 
any one year. It is recorded that in 1750 two whales 
were brought to the Sea Mills Dock at Bristol, and 
the blubber boiled down there. About this time a 
Joint Stock Company was formed in Bristol, the 
capital being divided into ninety shares, all of which 
were taken up. The Company fitted out two ships, 
the Bristol and the 'Adventure, and Felix Farley's 
Journal of the i8th July, 1752, reports the feturn of 


the ships from Greenland with a catch of five whales 
valued at two thousand pounds, " which with the 
bounty money of forty shillings per ton makes their 
voyage a very successful one." This cargo was also 
landed at the Sea Mills Dock. A third ship, the 
St Andrew, was sent out in 1755 and 1756, so 
encouraging were the results. In March, 1757, an 
advertisement for men to sail in the ships puffed the 
healthiness of the voyage, stating that of ninety men 
in the Bristol and Adventure only one had died a 
natural death in six voyages, two others being acci- 
dentally killed. Perhaps the fact that the Adventure 
had been held in the ice for over ten weeks in 1756 
was better known in the port than the Company 
imagined. At any rate the trade soon began to 
fall off, and in March, 1761, the Company was 
wound up. 

The first participation of Liverpool in the Green- 
land and Davis Straits whale fishery is unrecorded. 
In 1764 three vessels were engaged in the trade, but 
it was not until 1775 that the first Greenland ship was 
built in Liverpool in Mr Sutton's yard. 1 This year 
sixty-five vessels sailed from English ports for the 
whale fishing. In 1786 thirteen vessels were sent 
out from Liverpool. In 1788 twenty-one vessels 
with a total tonnage of six thousand four hundred and 
eighty-five tons were employed in the trade, the 
tonnage ranging from two hundred and twenty to 

1 " Liverpool, its Commerce, Statistics, and Institutions, with 
a history of the Cotton Trade," by Henry Smithers, Liverpool, 


four hundred. In 1789 seventeen vessels were fitted 
out from Liverpool, four of which were lost. In 
1793 eleven vessels sailed of a total tonnage of 
two thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight. 
From 1810 to 1816 two vessels were engaged 
each year, the James, Captain Clough, and the 
Lion, Captain Hawkins. In 1818 there were 
still two vessels, the James and the Fame\ with 
the latter the name of Captain Scoresby, Junior, 
is associated. 

The trade was, however, never very successful; 
for the nine years 1814 to 1822 inclusive the average 
number of vessels was only two, the number of whales 
captured averaged seventeen, and the tons of oil 
brought home averaged one hundred and seventy- 
seven. In 1817 both Liverpool vessels, the Lion 
and the Lady Forbes, were lost, the crews in 
each case being saved. In 1821 Manby made his 
voyage to Greenland in a Liverpool ship (p. 205). 
At this time the trade was firmly established at 

In 1772 we have detailed account of a Whitby 
ship's voyage. 1 The Volunteer was a ship of four 
'iundred tons, carrying eight boats with six men to 
each boat ; the total ship's company being sixty-three. 
At this time the bounty was forty shillings per ton 
for Greenland whalers, limited to a maximum tonnage 
of four hundred. 

" An authentic relation of a voyage to Greenland in 1772 of the 
Volunteer of Whitby, by a Gentleman, Surgeon of the said ship. 
Durham, N.D. 


The rates of pay at this period are as follows : 




ton of 


a Fish. 


s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 


22 I O 


6 o 

First Mate .. .. 

o 10 6 

3 10 o 

Second Mate .... 

o 10 6 


Spectioneer .. .. 


o 10 6 

6 o 

Harpooner . . .. 


5 3 

10 6 

Carpenter .. 

o 10 6 

3 10 o 

Carpenter's Mate 


2 IO O 

Boat Steerer .. <- 4 . 


2 O O 

Line Manager 


i 15 o 



I 10 

Surgeon . . 

I I O 

3 10 o 



I 10 

The rate of pay, as is customary in nearly all 
branches of fishing, depends to some extent on a 
share in the profits of the voyage and only partly 
on a fixed wage. Even the cook's and doctor's 
earnings depended largely on the success of the 


voyage. The Volunteer left Whitby on the 24th 
March, 1772. They saw a Sperm Whale in 69 
2O ; N. on the I9th April, which is a high latitude 
for that species. On the 26th they saw two whales, 
one close to the ship, of very large size but not of 
the black kind, " these kind of whales have fins on 
their backs, and are seldom if ever caught, it being 
dangerous to attempt it for as soon as they are struck 
they are so strong and swift in nature that no boats 
can get up to the assistance of the boat that is made 
fast to them before they are gone, and there is great 
danger of the boats oversetting." " I never heard 
of any that attempted striking any of that kind but 
a Dutchman some years since, but he was never 
more heard of, so that it was suspected the whale had 
run him quite off, and he had perished in the 

Evidently the British whalers of this time left the 
Finner severely alone. 

The ice fishery was still flourishing at this time, 
the Volunteer being hi sight of fifty vessels at a 

The Volunteer returned to Whitby on the 
1 9th August, having captured five whales which 
yielded one hundred and eighty-six butts of blubber, 
estimated! to boil to about sixty-five tons of oil which 
would sell at the lowest estimate at twenty pounds a 
ton, so that the oil would yield one thousand three 
hundred pounds. The whalebone of which they 
had between four and five tons would yield two 
thousand three hundred pounds at five hundred 


pounds a ton. The voyage therefore yielded 
four thousand pounds, to which bounty money 
amounting to eight hundred pounds would be 

Another account of a Whitby ship's voyage about- 
this period is given by John Laing 1 who went to 
Spitsbergen in 1806 and 1807 on the Resolution, in 
response to an advertisement which was put on the 
College Gate at Edinburgh, asking for a surgeon 
for a ship engaged in the North Sea whale fishery. 
The Resolution was captained by Scoresby senior, 
Scoresby junior being chief mate. Already the 
whaling trade at Whitby was declining, and it was 
only the skill and perseverance of the Scoresbys that 
prolonged what was really an artifically created 

Laing's account is very readable, but is remark- 
able for two things only. In 1806 the Resolution 
reached, on 28th May, the latitude of 81 50' north, 
and it was apparently an extremely mild season 
since " had our object been the making of 
discoveries, there was not, apparently, anything to 
have prevented us from going a goo3 way farther 
to the north." They also met with a party of 
Russian trappers who used to make periodical 
visits to Spitsbergen about this time and were the 
pioneers of the Spitsbergen hunters of the twentieth 

1 " A Voyage to Spitsbergen, " containing- an account of that 
country, .the zoology of the North, of the Shetland Isles, and of 
the whale fishery. Edinburgh, date ? Also an edition published 
in London in 1815, with slightly different title. 


Bacstrom 1 made two voyages to Spitsbergen for 
the purpose of killing the black whale fish (1779 and 
1780). The first yoyage was in the whaler Sea 
Horse, the second in the Rising Sun, a vessel of four 
hundred tons, with a crew of ninety men, armed with 
twenty nine-pounders mounted on the main deck; 
with nine whale boats. Bacstrom was surgeon. 
They left London at the latter end of March, 1780, 
calling at Lerwick, where there were twenty or more 
English " Greenlanders " at anchor. It was 
customary to call at Lerwick to take aboard fresh 
provisions for the voyage. The custom at this time 
was to sail thence to 79 or 80 north and then make 
fast to the ice. In June they killed seven large 
whales, and went with them into Magdalena Bay to 
cut the blubber up into small bits to fill the blubber- 
butts, which is called making-off. After this they 
sailed north to 82 and beyond, the season being 
exceptionally open. They saw no whales here, so 
put the ship about for Smeerenburg Harbour, where 
they saw plenty of Finners, White Whales and 
Unicorns, " which is a sign that the season is over 
for killing the Black Whale, which then retires to the 

They landed at Smeerenburg and saw the remains 
of some brickwork, which had been a furnace, 
obviously the remains of the old Dutch cookeries. 
According to the Russian trappers who were 
encamped in the vicinity, " In winter time the Black 

1 S. Bacstrom, " Account of a Voyage to Spitsbergen in the 
year 1780." The Philosophical Magazine, July, 1799. 


Whales come into the harbour and play close inshore 
where we kill now and then one with harpoons fired 
out of a swivel." The Rising Sun left for England 
in July, arriving in the Greenland Dock, London, in 

It was in the second half of the eighteenth 
century that Hull commenced to take a prominent 
part in the northern whale fishery. 1 The first ship 
from Hull for the northern fishery set out in 1598, 
and there are records of Hull whalers in 1610, 1612, 
and 1613. 

In 1618 King James privileged the Hull 
merchants with a grant of the Jan Mayen Island 
whale fishery. The earlier efforts were, however, 
somewhat spasmodic, and it was not until after the 
passing of the Bounty Act of 1750 that a regular 
fishery was established from Hull. 

In 1753 a whaling company was established there 
with a subscription of twenty thousand pounds. 
From 1754 to 1762 the Hull merchants sent vessels 
every year to the whale fishery, but the circumstances 
were not favourable. During most of the time 
England was at war with France, so the whalers 
had to be well armed and protected by warships. 
In 1758 the Humber and York of Hull, returning 
from Greenland, were captured off the coast by 
French frigates and taken to Dunkirk. In 1761 
the Hull whaler Leviathan, which carried a letter 
of marque, recaptured a ship off the Scottish coast 

1 See Hull Museum Publications, No, 31, " Hull Whaling 
Relics," Hull, 190$, 



from a French prize crew. In 1762 the Samuel of 
Hull whilst engaged in the ordinary trade was 
captured by the French. Subsequently there seems 
to have been a decline, partly due to the losses aboy.e 
enumerated, and partly to the American war (1774- 
81) when most of the Hull whalers were taken up by 
the Government for transport service. In 1779 
only four whalers left Hull, and ten Whitby, all 
well equipped with guns. 

In 1784 the Truelove, the most famous of all 
whalers, made her first voyage as a whaler from 
Hull. This vessel had so remarkable a career that 
she deserves more than passing reference. She was 
built and launched at Philadelphia, U.S.A., in 1764, 
captured by a British cruiser in the American war 
and sold by the Government about 1780. First 
employed in the wine trade between Hull and 
Oporto, she started a whaling career in 1784. She 
survived the disastrous seasons of 1835 and 1836, 
making her seventy-second and last whaling trip in 

In 1873 she made the voyage to Philadelphia, 
where the citizens held a demonstration and 
presented her with a flag in honour of her birth 
there, one hundred and nine years before. Accord- 
ing to Barren, 1 who was apprenticed in the barque 
in 1849, the Truelove was of two hundred and 
ninety-six tons register, and in shape much like the 
barque in which William Penn arrived in America 
at the time he made the treaty with the Indians, 
1 " Old Whaling Days," Hull, 1895, 


The sides batter in to the top of the gunwales, this 
making the vessel much broader at the water line 
than the deck. Her bulwark was called pigsty 
bulwark, i.e., every other plank out to allow the 
water to run freely off the deck. The following 
description appeared in her papers : " One deck, 
three masts, length from main stem to stern post, 
ninety-six feet; breadth at the broadest part above 
the mainwales, twenty-seven feet half an inch ; depth 
of hold sixteen feet two inches; square rigged, 
standing bowsprit, square sterned, carvel built, no 
galleries, no figure-head." 

The Truelove saw practically the whole of the 
Hull fishery from beginning to end. 

By 1786 the industry was thoroughly well 
established at Hull, twenty vessels being fitted out 
for the fishery. Three of these met with extra- 
ordinary success. Whales were abundant in those 
days, since the Gibralter killed eleven whales, the 
Manchester ten, and the 'Molly six in one day. 
There are detailed statistics of the Hull whale 
fisheries from 1772 to 1833 (see Appendix VI.). 
One of the drawbacks to whaling at this time was the 
importunities of the press gang, which used to wait 
for the whalers on their return from the Arctic and 
board them at sea. Instances of this occurred in 
1794, 1797, and 1798, so that it became customary 
to land some of the crew at Dunbar, leaving on 
board barely sufficient men to navigate the vessel 
back to the Humber. 

In 1798 most of the whalers were captured by 


French and Dutch privateers. In the following 
year the Molly made a record voyage, returning 
to Hull after an absence of only eighty-seven 

The first three decades of the nineteenth century 
were the high water mark of Hull whaling. At the 
commencement of the century the capture or 
destruction of the Dutch ships led to the growth 
and prosperity of the trade from Hull and other 
ports. According to Scoresby " the greatest cargo 
ever brought into Hull from Greenland was pro- 
cured by Captain Sadler in the Aurora " in 1805; 
twenty-six whales yielding six hundred butts of 
blubber and nine tons of bone, the blubber when 
boiled yielding two hundred and forty-four tons of 

The following year the Truelove made her first 
voyage to Davis Strait, her previous twenty-one 
Arctic voyages being to the Greenland Seas in the 
direction of Spitsbergen. 

The first participation of Hull in the Southern 
fishery took place towards the end of the eighteenth 
century. In 1812, twenty years after Colnett's 
exploratory voyage, the Comet (Captain Scurr) left 
for the fishery. She took three hundred barrels of 
sperm oil and put into Talcahuano at the time of the 
war between the Chilians and the " Patriots." She 
was requisitioned from time to time and detained for 
over a year. Afterwards she resumed fishing, made 
a successful voyage, returning to Hull after an 
absence of three years a.nd three months. 



Towards the end of the eighteenth and com- 
mencement of the nineteenth centuries, there was 
still a considerable Arctic whale fishery from the 
Dutch ports and Hamburg. 

In a letter to Lord Auckland 1 from the Hague 
dated 2nd December, 1791, Mr H. T. Spencer 
describes the condition of the Dutch fishery. The 
statistics show the following returns for the years 
1787-91 : 








Davis Straits . . 







Davis Straits . . 










of Blubber. 

Davis Straits . . 






of Blubber. 

Davis Straits . . 






Of these ships thirty-four have come home empty 
from Greenland, eleven from Davis Strait and 
three have been lost. Amsterdam alone sent in the 

1 Auckland Papers, Vol. xxix., correspondence Oct. -Dec., 1791 
British Museum Add. MSS. 34,440, ff. 291-302. 


year 1787, twenty-five ships; in 1788, twenty-three 
ships; in 1789, nineteen ships; in 1790, eighteen 
ships, and in the year 1791, seventeen ships. At 
this time the ships engaged in the Dutch whale 
fisheries were about one hundred and twelve feet 
long, twenty-eight and a half feet wide, with a depth 
in the hold of twelve and a half feet, between decks 
even and a quarter feet ; the burden being one 
10 two hundred lasts or three hundred and sixty to 
f our hundred tons. 

The expense of an Arctic voyage was about nine 
thousand eight hundred florins, made up of ordinary 
outfit and victualling, two thousand nine hundred 
florins, wages advances, one thousand three 
1 jndred florins, and further wages, five thousand 
six hundred florins. It will be noted that there is 
no account of the cost of repairs, insurance, and 
other expenses. Details of the wages paid to the 
crew, who work on shares, are given, but as 
hey follow similar lines to those already given 
>y Zorgdrager there is no need to recapitulate 


At this period the whale fishery was subsidised by 
the Dutch Government; a ship that returns empty 
biing allowed five thousand florins compensation, 
or alternatively fifty florins for every cask of blubber 
snort of a hundred, so that a ship that returns with 
but fifty casks of blubber receives two thousand five 
hundred florins. Exact notes of the quantity of 
whalebone were unobtainable. A full-sized fish is 
estimated to yield one thousand five hundred 


pounds, but as they have generally run small for 
several years the fish of these catchings have 
yielded on the average only from seven hundred and 
fifty to eight hundred and fifty pounds. The 
Dutch ships at this period were not provided wiih 
instruments for the capture of seals, nor are the 
men at all trained to that business. Spencer states 
that the quantity of oil and fins exported fiom 
England to Holland this year was " very incon- 
siderable," though of importance the four preceding 

" Your Lordship will premise from the above 
statement that this is, upon the whole, a losing 
trade, and that the last year has been less 
productive than any of the former. It is, however, 
compensated to some sharers by supplying their 
ships with tackle, provisions, etc., and the hope of 
great gains induces others to risk their money in 
this speculation." Then follow detailed statistics of 
the fishery, as well as some collected from German 

An interesting side-light on the condition of the 
German whale fishing at the commencement of the 
nineteenth century is given by Kohler, 1 a sail- 
maker of Rirna, who took part in an Arctic voyage 
in i8oi.l?<K6hler, one of the world's unconscious 
humorists, writes in a naive fashion eighteen years 
after the event. He warns his readers not to take 

1 Reise ins Eismeer und nach den Kiisten von Greenland und 
Spizberg-en im Jahre 1801, nebst einer g-enauen Beschreibung- 
des Walfischfang-es von F. G. Kohler, Seilertneister in Pirna, 
mit zwei Kupfertafeln, Leipzig 1 , 1820. 


part in the Greenland fishery on any account, and 
his book is certainly the most unsophisticated, and 
in many respects the most intimate account of a 
whaling voyage. In a company of eighteen ships 
he sailed on the three-master Greenland from 
Altona on the i6th March, 1801. From the 
outset Kohler makes no attempt to conceal his 
apprehensions; in many features he resembles 
Tartarin de Tarascon, that inimitable character of 

Of the crew of forty-two, only five were Germans, 
so it is evident that the German whaling trade at 
this time was carried on mainly by " Dutch, Danes, 
and Jutlanders." Kohler's opinion of sea life is 
worth recording, " es ist ein Gott recht wohlge- 
falliges Leben, so lange dass Schiff ruhig auf dem 
Meere schwimmt." 

The ship's crew was divided into three watches, 
each having four hours on duty and eight hours off. 
Like Martens on an earlier occasion he describes 
the method of announcing the results of their 
fishing to passing whalers. " On these occasions I 
have often remarked the pride of the English. 
Every English ship waits until the other ship has 
first given its account of the fishing, so that they 
(the English) always give a pair of fish in excess. 
On one occasion, as I stood on the poop to give the 
signal our captain said, ' Give the number ten and 
you will see that the English ship will announce 
eleven or twelve/ And so it happened." But he 
pays the English a compliment. " As seamen they 


are skilful navigators, and I have often observed 
with pleasure how on their ships they set to work 
with skill and agility." 

Kohler describes the process of committing the 
body of a dead seaman to the deep, explaining that 
the corpse is not tied to a board, but sunk by means 
of a stone or other heavy substance. " Der 
Seeman halt es,fur Schande und Schimpf wenn sein 
Korper auf der See herum schwimmen sollte." 
The cook-house (galley) next occupies his attention. 
" There is no fear of my making my readers' mouths 
water. At four o'clock in the morning we get 
coarse groats with some butter, and so one morning 
like another. Dinner shows very little variation. 
On Sunday grey peas with pickled meat, Monday 
yellow peas and Stockfish, Tuesday grey peas and 
meat, Wednesday yellow peas and Stockfish, 
Thursday the same, Friday grey and meat, Satur- 
day yellow and Stockfish ; and so the loathsome 
grey and yellow change about one week with the 
other." Only twice did they get white beans and 
twice sauerkraut; they rejoiced for several days 
when it was anything but peas. On the 28th May, 
the captain's birthday, they had a feast with twenty- 
two bottles of wine, with which they drank the King 
of Denmark's health. The captain also supplied 
a few potatoes for some of the crew, and Kohler 
was in luck's way for once, for he got a whole 
potato and a piece. " Das war ein kostlicher 

The ship's bread was bad, and often so old as to 


be full of worms. It looked exactly like peat, and 
had to be washed before it could be eaten. The 
water was as bad as the bread, since the empty 
water casks were filled with whale oil, and after a 
perfunctory cleaning used for water again in the 
following year. " Manches Pass stinkt wie eine 
Kloake und dennoch darf kein Tropfen davon 
vergossen werden." 

The feeding conditions on merchant vessels 
generally were at this period extremely bad, and it 
does not appear that whalers were much worse off 
than other sailors. The whalers were overcrowded, 
poorly ventilated, and very wet when there was any 
sea on. The sleeping quarters were dark, and 
provisions as a rule of inferior quality. The men 
were often without a change of clothing and 
suffered much from scurvy and skin diseases. 
Probably the whalers were, if anything, rather better 
off than the average merchant seaman. 

There were, at any rate, possibilities of varying 
their food. Occasionally whale flesh was tried; 
Martens tried it, but preferred beef. J. J. Janssen, 
whose crew were compelled to eat whale flesh, took 
to it well. Sometimes seagulls were eaten; bear's 
flesh was also eaten. Christian Bullen, who wrote 
the first account of a German whaler's voyage to 
Greenland, complained that it tasted to him 
" grimmiglick wie ein Bar. 1 ' Bullen was, however, a 
consistent grumbler, the only dish that pleased him 
being " seal's heart with liver and lights." 

In the bays of Spitsbergen the whalers obtained 


many fat ducks (Bergenten) and enormous numbers 
of birds' eggs. Reindeer were sometimes shot, and 
a plant known as " Greenland salad " gathered as a 
preventive against scurvy. The chief drink was 
beer, branntwem being reserved for extraordinary 
occasions. Tea and coffee were also drunk, each 
man providing his own supply. 

Their amusements when laying to among the ice 
are graphically described by Kohler. They had 
gymnastics and trials of strength, and the Germans 
(wir Teutschen) played many a joke on the 
Jutlanders, and it was their delight to master those 
under whose orders they were at the time. " Ich 
will euch nur sehen, sagte der Kapitan, als wir 
Teutsche einst recht Munter waren wenn wir 
wieder ins Warme kommen." 

Finally, when they saw their first whale off 
Spitsbergen, Kohler says he was so unfortunate as 
to be in the boat which set out to harpoon it. 
" Mein Herz klopfte als wir fortrudeten ; ich fing an 
zu beten, und je naher wir dem Ungeheuer kamen, 
desto deutlicher horten sein blasen und meine Angst 
stieg." When they got near the whale got restive 
and caused some commotion, with the result that it 
escaped. Kohler openly rejoices at this (Ich war im 
Herzen froti) although the captain was greatly 
disappointed with the loss, since he estimated the 
whale at eight thousand thalers. 

On the whole Kohler's description of the whaling 
grounds and operations is good. It is only when 
his personal feelings are concerned that his descrip- 


tion becomes biased, as in the case of the whale 
which, in its struggles, smashed up three of the 
" shaloups " and kept the others, in which Kohler 
was engaged, fighting from twelve to sixteen hours 
until it was killed. During this time, as Kohler 
laments, they were without bread or water, and 
thought that every minute would be their last. 
The Greenland caught three whales in all, from 
which they extracted sixty-four, forty-five, and two 
barrels of oil. The first whale, which was fifty feet 
long, was captured in August towards the end of 
the voyage. This was the beast that smashed the 
three sloops above. The forty-five kardels whale 
was an easier capture, the third was a young whale, 
still a suckling. Dead whales were occasionally 
met with. Kohler's ship found one. As they 
proceeded to flense it, Kohler complained of the 
abominable stink. One of the ship's company 
replied that this stink was quite bearable, and 
nothing to the smell of a dead whale they had 
encountered on a previous voyage, the odour of 
which was so powerful that " der Mannschaft waren 
die Kopfe von den scharfen Ausdunstungen 
angeschwollen." From which it would appear that 
the crews of whaling ships occasionally indulge in 
a little exaggeration. 

This pleasant reminiscence did not satisfy 
Kohler, who goes on to lament " Das Walfisckaas 
st'inkt uberhau-pt sehr widrig" but the most abomin- 
able of all is the smell of those whales which have 
expired for some days prior to their flensing. Had 


Kohler been contemporaneous with Mark Twain 
they might have compared notes in this respect on 
the relative merits of dead whales and Limburger 

On the 23rd August, being then ice-free, they set 
sail for home. Kohler says it was impossible to 
describe their feelings of joy at this welcome news, 
the ship's doctor breaking out into poetry to com- 
memorate their farewell to the world of ice. 
Ultimately they reached Heligoland where they 
declined a pilot, owing to the expense (eighty-eight 
thalers to Cuxhaven). They held on, and running 
away from an English convoy, went ashore, only 
getting off with some difficulty. 

Kohler's pay for his services on this voyage 
(performed under circumstances of the greatest 
danger) amounted to ten shillings. 

In 1821 Manby 1 made a voyage to Greenland in 
Scoresby's ship, the Baffin, from Liverpool, for the 
express purpose of trying a new gun harpoon. Up 
to this time there was great prejudice among the 
whalers against the use of gun harpoons, the hand 
harpoon being invariably preferred. 

At this time it is evident the Greenland whale 
fishery was rapidly declining ; due in the first place 
to the substitution of coal gas for oil gas, and in a 
lesser degree to the diminution of the whales and 
the losses of ships crushed amongst the ice. 
Manby remarks on the superior advantages of oil 

1 G. W. Manby, " Journal of a Voyage to Greenland in the 
year 1821," London, 1823, 


gas : " The advantage of gas produced from oil, 
compared with that obtained from coal, is so great 
that it is astonishing that oil gas is not in general 
use. The gas from oil has no bad nor disagreeable 
quality, it gives a far more brilliant light than the 
other, one cubic foot of gas from oil going as far as 
twice that quantity of coal gas, and it is, moreover, 
much cheaper. That from coal, on the contrary, is 
extremely offensive to the smell, dangerous to the 
health on being inhaled, and injurious to furniture, 
books, plate, pictures, etc." In spite of all these 
advantages whale oil gas was soon worsted in the 
struggle. There is, however, a considerable volume 
of evidence that at this time the real drawback to 
whaling was the increased difficulty of taking 
whales. To remedy this, the gun harpoon was 
invented, but it does not appear to have been tried 
on the voyage, though Scoresby expresses a guarded 
appreciation of it, remarkable in one respect since 
he foreshadows the use to which the gun harpoon 
was put many years later, i.e., " for attacking wicked 
fish, fish at the edge of packs, finners, razorbacks, 
etc., these destructive implements might be of 
uncommon service." As will be seen later, the 
improved gun harpoon of the Norwegians has led 
to an extensive fishery of F inner Whales. 



The capture of the Sperm Whale ^Commencement of a southern 
fishery The voyages of Colnett, Beale, and Bennett. 

THE first Sperm Whale taken by American fisher- 
men was captured in 1712 by a Nantucket whaleman 
who had been blown out to sea by a strong northed}' 
wind. 1 This led to an improvement in American 
whale boats, which had been previously engaged if; 
coastal whaling. In 1730 there were twenty-five 
vessels of from thirty to fifty tons engaged in deep- 
sea whaling./ The improved oil obtained from the 
Sperm Whale induced whalers to endeavour to fit 
out vessels exclusively for this fishing, and ultimately 
originated the great southern fishery. The Ameri- 
can whalers are said to have extended their opera- 
tions as follow: Coast of Guinea 1763; Western 
Islands 1765; coast of Brazil 1774. American 
tradition says that the first whaler to cross " the line " 
arrived home on the day of the Battle of Lexington 
and Concord (iQth April, I775). 2 This, however, 
does not agree with Burke's famous speech on 
American affairs (1774), when he stated that 

1 Macy, " History of Nantucket," p. 44, 1836. 
a Tower, " History of the American Whale Fishery," p. 28, 
Philadelphia, 1907. 



American whalers " are at the Antipodes, and 
engaged under the frozen serpent of the south." 

In 1775 the first British attempt was made at the 
southern fishery. 1 Ships of from one hundred to one 
hundred and nine tons burthen were sent to South 
Greenland, the coast of Brazil, the Falkland Islands, 
and the Gulf of Guinea, but as the principal resorts 
of the Spermaceti Whale were not then known they 
met with little success. 

In 1776 the Government extended the benefits of 
the bounty system to the southern whale fishery, and, 
consequently, the Custom House returns show the 
number and tonnage of vessels fitted out in Great 
Britain. The table opposite shows the number and 
tonnage from the commencement of the bounty 
system up to 1783. 

A statistical table for the southern whale fishery 
for the years 1800 to 1834 is given by McCulloch 
(see Appendix III.). 2 

It will be noticed that there is a marked discrep- 
ancy between the number of ships at sea and the 
number of ships returned in any year. 

According to McCulloch the southern whale 
fishery consisted (in 1835) f three distinct branches ; 
the chase of the Spermaceti Whale (Physeter 
macro cephalus], that of the common black whale of 
the southern seas, and that of the sea elephant or 

1 Beale, " Natural History of the Sperm Whale," p. 143, 
London, 1839. 

a " Dictionary of Commerce," 1832 edition. Supplement, 
1835. P- 57- 



southern walrus. According to information collected 
by Scoresby the fishery for the Spermaceti Whale 
was conducted off the coasts of Chile, Peru, and Cali- 
fornia, in various parts of the Pacific about the 
Gallipagos and Marquesas islands, in the Indian and 



No. of 


Place from 
whence fitted 

Bounty paid. 

1763 to 1775 






















500 j 





















1782 J 













783 | 








1 From Third Report on the State of the British Fisheries, 
1785, App., pp. 132 and 133. 

3 There would be no returns in the Custom House Books, 
because no bounties were paid. Nevertheless it is certain 
vessels took part in this fishery in 1775. 



China Seas particularly about the island Timor. 
The Right Whale, which was hunted by the Sperm 
whalers, was found on the Brazil Bank from latitude 
36 to 48 S., in the former parallel in the months 
of November, December, and January, in the latter 
in February, March, and April. In the same months 
they are to be found in the Derwent River, New 
Holland, also about the Tristian Islands; and in 
June, July, August, and September in Walwick 
(Walfisch) Bay and other inlets on the African coast. 
They are also found near the island of St Catharine 
(Brazil), in some of the bays to the westward of 
Cape Horn, and to the north of Coquimbo on the 
west coast of South America. 

Detailed descriptions of early whaling voyages in 
the southern fishery are given by Colnett 1 (1792), 
Beale 2 (1830-3), and Bennett 3 (1833-6). 

The term " southern " was applied to the Atlantic 
fishery, in fact to all voyages which were not to 
Greenland (Spitsbergen), these latter being distin- 
guished as the northern fishery. As already men- 
tioned the bounty system originally applied only to 
the northern fishery but was extended to the southern 
in 1776. 

1 " A Voyage to the South Atlantic and round Cape Horn 
into the Pacific Ocean for the Purpose of Extending the 
Spermaceti Whale Fisheries, and other Objects of Commerce," 
London, 1798. 

3 " The Natural History of the Sperm Whale," to which is 
added a sketch of a south-sea whaling voyage, by Thomas 
Beale, London, 1839 (2nd edition). 

8 " Narrative of a Whaling Voyage round the Globe from the 
year 1833 to 1836," 2 Vols., London, 1840. 


Although the southern fishery was at first confined 
to the Atlantic, after a time whalers rounded Cape 
Horn, and hunted whales in the Pacific. Precisely 
when this first occurred is not known. One of the 
earliest, if not the earliest English whaling voyage 
to the Pacific was that of Colnett, but there is some 
reason to think that the Spaniards were there before 
him for the same purpose. A search of the records 
at Madrid would probably give further information 
on this point. We know from the voyage of Anson 
round the world (1740-4) that there was an extensive 
Spanish trade in the Pacific at this time. Many of 
the earlier Spanish voyages were precisely through 
those areas where the Sperm Whale was most 

The same year that Colnett was fitting out in 
London for his whaling voyage to the Pacific, Sanez 
Reguart 1 published his monumental work on the 
Spanish fisheries. This dictionary contains in the 
third volume under the heading " Harpon " one of 
the most complete and best illustrated accounts of 
whaling as practised in the eighteenth century. 
Special reference is made to the attempts of the 
Spaniards to resuscitate their whale fisheries by 
means of a company founded to fish for whales off 
the Patagonian coast and the Straits of Magellan, 
Chiloe, and the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish Com- 
pany was given a charter by Charles IV. in 1789. 

1 " Diccionario historico de los artes de la pesca nacional," 
Madrid, 1791-5. 5 Vols., 4to. The third volume containing the 
section on whaling was published in 1792. 


There is, therefore, reason to think that the 
first Spanish whaling in the Pacific preceded the 

Colnett was a naval officer, who had taken part 
in one of Cook's voyages. In 1792 the merchants 
of the city of London, interested in the South Sea 
Fisheries, prepared a memorandum, and submitted 
it to the Board of Trade, in which they planned a 
voyage round Cape Horn to discover whaling 
grounds for whalers who had rounded the Cape. 
The Admiralty were induced to look with favour on 
the scheme, H.M. sloop the Rattler was sold to the 
merchants, and Colnett was nominated to take com- 
mand of her, being granted leave for the purpose. 
A crew of twenty-five men were engaged, and the 
vessel was equipped and made ready for sea by the 
nth November, 1792. Colnett purchased a half- 
share in the vessel, the other half of the undertaking 
being in the hands of Messrs Enderby & Sons, 
^at that time the largest firm in the whale fishery. 
Owing to trouble with the French at this time there 
was a delay in clearing the Rattler, and she was sent 
to Portsmouth to await her commander, who joined 
her on the 24th December, 1792. In the meanwhile, 
owing to the bounty offered by the Admiralty to 
seamen for enlisting in the navy, the crew of the 
Rattler was depleted by the desertion of three sea- 
men, who left to join the navy. Three landsmen 
were secured in the Isle of Wight, and the Rattler 
set out on her voyage with a crew of seventeen 
officers and men, three landsmen, and five boys ; her 


normal naval complement being one hundred and 
thirty men! 

The sloop arrived at Rio de Janeiro on the 24th 
February, 1793, where they repaired and took on 
board provisions, including " two live bullocks," and 
on the 5th March set out for the voyage round Cape 
Horn in company with another whaler, the Mediator. 
The Cape was doubled on the nth April, 1793, and 
a course set for the coast of Chile. On ist May they 
saw Sperm Whales off Mocha Island, where the sea 
was covered with them. The crew of the Rattler 
killed six, four of which were secured alongside, but 
the weather turning bad, only two were saved. 

Colnett next decided to cruise off Mocha Island 
for several days, during which time large numbers 
of Sperm Whales were seen. The Rattler, however, 
only killed two additional whales here, of which one 
was secured. Thence a course was set to 26 
30' N., keeping the coast in sight, but as far as 
St Felix and St Ambrose Islands no further whales 
were seen (2Oth May, 1793). 

Subsequently they sailed to the Peruvian coast 
near Lima and thence to the Gallipagos Islands. 
Up to this time their search for whales had not been 
very successful, so they doubled back to Peru, and 
then sailed in a general northerly direction along 
the west coast of Mexico. They cruised off the 
Cocos Islands which was the most northerly point 
recommended by the Admiralty, but Colnett disre- 
garded his instructions and explored the coast as far 
north as the Gulf of California, including the islands 


of Socoro, Santo Berto, and Rocka Partida. " This 
was an undertaking that few who had suffered, as I 
had done, from the yellow fever in the prisons of 
New Spain, as well as from all the horrors of a 
rainy season on that coast; and it was very evident 
that if successful in killing them in the rainy season, 
it must be much more easily done in the dry 
season." On the iQth August off Point Angles 
(Mexico) they encountered a large school of Sperm- 
aceti Whales, none of which was captured. Here 
they cruised for sixteen days, killing three whales. 
The heart of one was cooked in a large " sea-pye," 
and afforded an excellent meal. On the 4th October 
they made the coast of California, where they found 
the " species of whale on this coast is of no value." 

Between Cape Corrientes and the Maria Islands 
they saw large numbers of Spermaceti Whales, but 
were again unfortunate, only killing two. On the 
return journey, near Quibo (January, 1794), they 
fell in with several Spermaceti Whales, killing four. 
This induced Colnett to prolong his cruise in this 
neighbourhood until the 8th February, but with- 
out further success. By this time Colnett recognised 
that his whaling business had definitely failed, 
largely, it would appear from the unskilfulness of 
his crew, and he decided to return to the Gallipagos 
for salt for salting seal skins which he proposed to 
get at the St Felix and St Ambrose Islands. While 
at the Gallipagos, however, in April, they saw many 
Spermaceti Whales, especially young ones. They 
killed five here, and Colnett believed he had dis- 


covered the general rendezvous of these whales from 
the coast of Mexico, Peru, and the Gulf of Panama 
who came there to calve. 

He definitely recommends these islands as the best 
meeting place for British whalers seeking the Pacific 
grounds. The Rattler returned to England after an 
absence of twenty-two months. It does not appear 
that the voyage was successful from a whaling stand- 
point, though much surveying was done, and this 
doubtless proved useful to subsequent whalers. 

Thomas Beale was a Surgeon and Demonstrator 
of Anatomy to the Eclectic Society of London. On 
the 1 6th October, 1830, he left England on board the 
South Sea whaler, Kent. They sailed straight for 
Cape Horn, passing it on the 5th January, 1831, and 
thence up along the west coast of South America to 
Valparaiso and Coquimbo. The latter town was left 
on the 1 6th February, 1831, and a course set for the 
Pacific whaling grounds, along the Peruvian coast. 

The whalers appeared to be in no particular hurry, 
and it was not until the 28th March, 1831, that they 
left Monta Christa, four days afterwards encounter- 
ing their first school of Sperm Whales. Four of 
these were killed, nearly six months after leaving 
England. The course was now for the Sandwich 
Islands, sighted on the 4th May, 1831, en route for 
the Japan grounds which the captain desired to reach 
in June. 

The " off-shore " Japan fishery lies in the Pacific 
Ocean between 140 to 160 E. and 28 to 
32 N. latitude, the best time of the year being from 


the beginning of June to the end of September, 
during which time the usual catch is from eight 
hundred to one thousand four hundred barrels of 
sperm oil, though up to two thousand barrels have 
been taken. 

From June to September Beale's ship fell in with 
large numbers of whales on these Japan grounds, 
seeing them every day for weeks. 

At this time the ships employed in the whaling 
industry were vessels from three to four hundred tons 
burthen, with a crew of twenty-eight to thirty-three 
officers and men, including a surgeon. They started 
from London at all times of the year fully provi- 
sioned for three years. Each whaler carried six 
whale boats, each about twenty-seven feet long by 
four beam; sharp at both ends for rapid motion in 
any direction. Near the stern was an upright 
rounded piece of wood, the " loggerhead," at the bow 
a groove exactly in the centre, through which the 
harpoon line ran. Each boat was provided with two 
harpoon lines of two hundred fathoms length, coiled 
in tubs ready for use, three or four harpoons, two or 
three lances, a keg with lantern, tinder-box, and 
other small articles, two or three small flags, the 
" whifts " to be inserted in the dead whale for ready 
detection in case the whale was abandoned for chase 
of a second, and one or two " drougues," quadri- 
lateral pieces of board with a central handle by which 
they are attached to the harpoon line to increase its 
resistance when running out, and so to check the 
speed of the whale in sounding or running. Each 


boat had a crew of six men, two of whom in the stern 
and bow respectively were the " headsman " and 
" boat-steerer." 

Four boats were generally used in the chase 
under the command of the captain and mates 
respectively. The headsman has command of the 
boat, and steers it until the whale is reached. The 
boat-steerer pulls bow oar, until near the whale, when 
he quits the oar and strikes the harpoon into the 
animal. The line attached to the harpoon runs 
between the men to the stern of the boat, and after 
passing two or three turns round the loggerhead is 
continuous with the coils lying in the tubs in the 
bottom of the boat. 

The boat-steerer now comes aft, and steers the 
boat by means of an oar passed through a ring 
attached to the stern, he also watches the line. The 
headsman at the same time passes forward and takes 
up the lance to plunge into the whale at the first 

During the time the ship* is on the whaling 
grounds, men are placed at each mast-head, who are 
relieved every two hours; an officer is also on the 
fore-top-gallant-yard, so that there are four of the 
crew constantly on the look-out from the most 
elevated parts of the ship. 

In mid-September the weather changed for the 
worse and whales became scarce, until at the end of 
the month they disappeared. A course was then 
set for the Bonin Islands in 141 30' E. 
Longitude, and 26 30' N. Latitude, where several 


whales were taken. Beale thought that the whales 
were now migrating south-west (October, 1831). 
The Bonins were left on the loth December, 

1831, for New Guinea, and, after passing to the 
windward of the Ladrones, they fell in with the 
Carolines on the 24th December, " a range of large 
islands scarcely known, and not even placed 
correctly on the charts." 

On the ist January, 1832, the Kent crossed 
the Equator for the third time, and made New 
Ireland on the 6th, having passed St John's Island 
on the 5th. On the 7th they found themselves 
in St George's Channel, separating New Ireland 
(Neu Mecklenburg of the late German colonies) 
from New Britain (late German Neu Pommern). 
No whales were met with here, so the course was 
continued to the southward, towards the north-east 
of Australia, passing the Louisiade Archipelago en 
route. Here again no whales were encountered. 
On account of the lack of success, the course was 
now set in a northerly direction and Bougainville 
Island reached on the 2Oth January, 1832. 

Here, on the 22nd January, the first whale, since 
the Kent left the Japan grounds, was taken, yielding 
sixteen barrels of oil. The Ladrones were now the 
next objective, New Ireland being sighted on the 
29th January, and St John's on the 3ist. 

The line was again crossed on the 8th February, 

1832, and Rota, one of the Ladrones, sighted on the 
2ist, Guam the chief island being reached on the 
following day. Here the Kent remained some 


time to refit; only leaving for the Japan grounds on 
the 6th April. 

The Bonins were again reached on the 2ist April, 
in which neighbourhood the Kent continued to 
cruise for whales. By this time there was consider- 
able friction between Beale and the captain of the 
Kent on account of the latter's brutal treatment of 
the crew; so when the London south-sea whaler, 
Sarah and Elizabeth , was fallen in with, off the 
Bonins, on the ist June, 1832, Beale effected an 
exchange with the surgeon of that vessel. The 
Kent subsequently went to the Japan fishery, But 
met with little success. Off the coast of California 
they were equally unsuccessful, ultimately reaching 
England after a voyage of three and a half years 
with only half an average cargo. The Sarah and 
Elizabeth was much more fortunate, for in about 
six weeks after Beale joined her six hundred 
barrels of sperm oil were obtained, sufficient to 
complete the cargo. The ship then went north-east 
to the Sandwich Islands, sailing into latitude 40 
north in order to take advantage of the north-east 

During this part of the voyage large numbers 
of Sperm Whales were encountered, apparently 
migrating in schools to the southward. The 
meridian of 180 was crossed in latitude 38 39' north 
on the 6th August, 1832; and one of the Sand- 
wich Isles sighted on the 3<Dth. The course was 
now homeward bound, but via the Friendly Islands 
and the neighbourhood of New Zealand. On the 


26th October when near the latter islands the 
course was set direct for Cape Horn, which was 
sighted on the i8th November, 1832; Beachy Head 
being sighted on the 3rd February, 1833. Beale 
had been away two years and four months, the 
Sarah and Elizabeth thirty-two months only, a very 
successful and, for those days, brief yoyage. 

The narratives of Colnett and Beale give a 
personal touch to the history of the southern whale 
fishery, and their accounts are supplemented by 
Bennett, who sailed from London on the I7th 
October, 1833, on the south-seaman Tuscan. The 
Tuscan was a whaler of the usual type, being about 
three hundred tons burthen. Contrary to the 
experience of the Rattler and the Kent, the Tuscan 
met with Sperm Whales in the Atlantic in the latter 
half of November, in latitude 9 N. and 23 
W., one of which was killed and secured. 

A second encounter with Sperm Whales also 
occurred in the Atlantic in 38 S. and 51 W. 
(off the South American coast) on the 24th 
December, when another was captured. Bennett 
rounded Cape Horn on the i9th January, 1834. 
Early in February, when near Juan Fernandez, the 
first Sperm Whales in the Pacific were seen. 

The course of the Tuscan was now to Pitcairn 
Island, Tahiti, Society Islands, Raiatea, thence to 
the Sandwich Islands from April to 22nd May, 1834. 

Subsequently the Tuscan met with schools of 
Sperm Whales to the north-east of the Sandwich 
Isles in 40 N., two specimens being secured, 


each of which yielded fifty barrels of oil. The 
course was now set for the Queen Charlotte Islands 
off the west coast of North America in 50 N., 
but no whales were encountered there. 

Returning south they saw a solitary Sperm 
Whale on 23rd July in latitude 31 N. and 153 W. 
A few days later many Cachalots were observed, 
and several secured. The ground north of the 
Sandwich Islands seems at this time to have 
swarmed with Sperm Whales, and the Tuscan was 
very successful between 23 and 31 N. and 154 
and 1 60 W. 

A return was now made to the Sandwich group, 
where they remained until the 2Oth October, 1834, 
on which date they left again, steering north to get 
advantage of the prevailing westerly winds from 
the American coast and the Equator. Off Guada- 
loupe and Cape St Lucas (California) a fleet of 
American south-seamen were cruising; from here 
on an indirect course to the Marquesas many 
Cachalots were seen, and a few captured by the 

Bennett devoted much space in his journal of 
the voyage to a description of the various Pacific 
Islands touched at, together with an account of 
their history, and the manner and customs of their 
inhabitants, and the whaling episodes occupy a 
relatively small portion of the description of the 
voyage, but there is an Appendix with a detailed 
account of the whale fishery. 

In the nineteenth century the French Government 


assisted both cod and whale fisheries, by means of 
bounties. Nearly twenty-five and a half million 
francs were giyen as bounties to industries in one 
year, to which must be added nearly three and a 
Half million francs for the fisheries. 

The law of the 22nd July, 1851, was voted to 
keep in existence the French whale fishery, consist- 
ing at that time of seventeen vessels with six 
hundred men. Fishing was encouraged in two 
ways. The markets in France and the colonies 
were exclusively reserved and bounties (budget de 
secours) were paid. Lajonkiere 1 complains that the 
French whalers were no good (malpropres et 
indisciplines). This system of bounties produced 
poor results, and was unsuccessful in resuscitating 
the French whale fisheries. 

1 " Des primes a la peche." 



Importance of whales to the early colonists Gradual extension 
of the fishery Firmly established in 1775 Set-back caused 
by the Revolution Gradual recovery Checked again by the 
war of 1812 Subsequent rapid expansion Mid-nineteenth 
century American whaling fleet the largest ever know 
Gradual decline of the industry, and the reasons for it. 

THE American whale fisheries, at one time t\ 
greatest in the world, originated, like that of tl i 
Basques, as a coastal and inshore fishery. Captai 
John Smith in 1614 found whales so plentiful alon 
the coast of New England that he turned from tl> 
original object of his voyage in order to pursue ther 
Richard Mather, who went to the Massachusetts Ba 
colony in 1635, saw " mighty whales spewing up 
water in the air like the smoke of a chimney, of such 
incredible bigness that I will never wonder that th 
body of Jonah could be in the belly of a whale." 

The earliest references in the history of the Masse 
chusetts Bay colony refer exclusively to drift whale j 
which had been cast ashore, and it is uncertain whe i 
the inhabitants first took part in the capture of these 
cetacea at sea. It is certain, however, from contem- 



porary records, that the fishing had been inaugurated 
before the end of the seventeenth century. In 1688 
Secretary Randolph wrote home to England : " New 
Plimouth Colony have great profit by whale killing. 
I believe it will be one of our best returns, now 
beaver and peltry fayle us." Whaling was early 
recognised as a regular vocation in the Connecticut 
and New York colonies. It seems probable that the 
first organised prosecution of the whale fishery by 
Americans was made by the settlers at the eastern 
end of Long Island. Sometime between 1650 and 
1670 the practice of taking only drift whales, that 
had been cast ashore by the sea, was superseded 
by the taking of whales by harpooners from small 
open boats. These boats were designed for whaling 
along the coasts ; they were fitted out for voyages 
Casting two weeks, but did not venture far out to 
sea, the men usually camping on shore for the night. 
The only other place to engage in whaling prior to 
1700 was Nantucket. Here the whales came right 
( nto the harbour, and early efforts were made to 
rapture them by means of harpoons. With the early 
years of the eighteenth century Nantucket rapidly 
1'ecame the foremost whaling station. At first 
whales were so plentiful that all the oil required 
could be obtained without the boats having to go out 
of sight of land. Naturally at this time all the 
captured whales were towed ashore where the trying 
out works were erected. A look-out was kept from 
a prominent place on the land, and when a whale was 
seen the boats were sent out in pursuit. Many 


Indians were employed, each boat's crew being 
composed partly of aborigines. 

As already related, in 1712 one of the whalemen 
was blown out to sea where he captured a Sperm 
Whale, the first of the species taken by American 
whalers. This led eventually to a great develop- 
ment of the whaling industry. The people of Nan- 
tucket immediately began to build whaling sloops of 
about thirty tons burden to whale in deep water. 
These vessels were fitted out for cruises of six weeks' 
duration, the blubber being stripped off, stored 
aboard in hogsheads and brought back to the trying 
out works on shore. By 1715 Nantucket had six 
sloops engaged in this fishery; by 1730 
twenty vessels of from thirty to fifty 
About this time schooners were introcpced, and the 
size increased up to seventy tons. Tfce shore fishery 
now reached its maximum development, the whales 
near the coast becoming gradually scarcer and 
scarcer owing to over-fishing. 

The introduction of sperm oil, so superior to all 
other oils, was a great stimulus to the development 
of the industry. With the addition of larger vessels 
to the fleet longer voyages were made and more 
distant areas visited. At first it was the custom of 
the whalers to go to the southward where they fished 
until July. Then they returned, refitted, and 
finished the season to the eastward of the Grand 
Banks. Davis Strait was visited by American 
whalemen in 1732, and in 1737 the Boston News 
Letter records the voyages of several vessels to that 



neighbourhood. It will be understood from the pre- 
ceding chapters that the Atlantic was fished for 
Sperm Whales, the order of development of* the 
grounds being Carolina coasts, Bahamas, West 
Indies, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Azores, Cape 
t Verde Islands, and the coast of Africa, whereas in 
Arctic waters it was the Right Whale which was 
sought. This development was very gradual; 
according to Macy the Nantucket whalers extending 
their operations as follows: coast of Guinea 1763; 
Western Islands 1765 ; coast of Brazil 1774. 

The chief product of the fishery in the seventeenth 
and opening decades of the eighteenth centuries was 
whale oil. When Sperm whqiing was commenced 
whalebone was not consideredito be of much value. 
The oil trade naturally developed at first between 
the colonial ports (as they then were) ; in 1720 there 
is record of an export of a cargo of Nantucket whale 
oil in London, but whether that was the first venture 
is l iot certain. 

With the development of whaling which followed 
the enterprise of the deep-sea whalers, the export 
trade in whale products grew rapidly since the 
whalers obtained far more than was required to meet 
the limited colonial demand. There is evidence 
about 1730 of a regular export trade in train and 
whale oil and whalebone to England and British 
West Indian ports. In 1737 a dozen vessels were 
fitted out at Provincetown for the Davis Straits 
fishery, some of them of one hundred tons burthen. 
" So many men are going on these voyages that not 


more than twelve or fourteen men will be left at 
home." After 1741 the whalers were interfered 
with by French and Spanish privateers, and for some 
years the voyages to the distant grounds were inter- 
rupted ; at any rate, there are no records of the Davis 
Straits fishery. The participation of England in the 
war of the Austrian succession gave France ana 
Spain an opportunity of preying on English and 
English colonial commerce, and this was precisely 
the time at which the New England whaling interests 
were developing rapidly. This development was 
naturally hindered by the presence of these privateers 
off the North American coast. Under this pressure 
of adverse circumstances the Davis Straits fishery 
was entirely abandoned, the Western Isles fishery 
seriously crippled, so that the bulk of the whalers' 
operations was confined to the vicinity of the Grand 
Banks and the Bahamas. 

In 1748 the colonial fishermen benefited by a 
Bounty Act passed by the British Parliament. This 
bounty amounted to twenty shillings per ton; Li 
order to receive it the vessels had to be built ami 
fitted out in the colonies, and to fish in Davis Strait 
and the vicinity from May to August unless they 
secured a full cargo or met with an accident. 

At first the colonial whaling vessels were manned 
almost exclusively by colonists and Indians. As the 
fishery developed the supply of hands became inade 
quate, so that in 1750 the Nantucket vessels had to 
secure men from Cape Cod and Long Island. 

The whaling industry gradually spread along the 


coast including before the revolution, Cape Cod 
towns of Wellfleet, Barnstable, and Falmouth; 
Boston and Lynn ; the Rhode Island towns of New- 
port, Providence, Warren, and Tivertpn; New 
London (Connecticut) ; Williamsburg (Virginia) ; 
Martha's Vineyard, and New Bedford (then Dart- 
mouth), all fitting out vessels for the whaling. 

At the time of the outbreak of the Revolution 
whaling had become firmly established in what were 
then the American colonies. At New Bedford whal- 
ing probably commenced about 1755. Ten years 
later there were four sloops employed, and in 1775 
eighty vessels with a tonnage of six thousand five 

In 1755 the colonial whalemen were restricted by 
an embargo placed on the Banks' fishermen, and this 
was continued in 1757 when the Nantucket whalers 
were given permission to resume their whaling 
voyages. The Gulf of St Lawrence and Straits of 
Belle Isle were opened to the colonial fishermen in 
1761. By 1762 Nantucket alone had seventy-eight 
vessel^ engaged in whaling. About this time the 
British Parliament laid a duty on all whale products 
exported to England from the colonies with a view 
to assist the British whalers in their struggles against 
the supremacy of the Dutch. 

British whalers were also granted a bounty in 
which the colonists did not share. Shortly after the 
colonists were forbidden to send their exports to any 
other markets so they were practically compelled to 
pay the English duties. Both the colonial and 



London merchants protested against this, sending 
petitions to Parliament, but it was not until 1767 that 
conditions were much improved. 

Just before the Revolution broke out the America^ 
whale fishery was very prosperous. The annual pro 
duction from 1771 to 1775 was estimated at not less 
than forty-five thousand barrels of sperm oil, eight 
thousand five hundred barrels of whale oil, am ; 
seventy-five thousand pounds of bone. Sperm oil 
fetched forty pounds per ton, head matter fifty 
pounds per ton, whale oil seventy dollars per ton, 
and whalebone fifty cents per pound on the average. 
Most of the exports went to Great Britain where the. 
increasing consumption of oil in lamps and in vario ./ 
industries led to a large demand for whale product?. 

The revolution of 1775 put a stop to whaling, and 
the trade in oil and bone practically ceased, except 
to the West Indies. The previous year the colonial 
whale fishery had reached its high-water mark with 
a fleet of three hundred and sixty vessels of thirty- 
three thousand aggregate tonnage. Of these at 
least three hundred sail belonged to Massachusetts 
ports. In 1775 in order " to starve New England " 
the British Parliament passed an Act to restrict 
colonial trade to British ports, placing an embargo 
on fishing on the banks of Newfoundland or on any 
other part of the North American coast. When 
hostilities commenced the only port to carry on 
whaling was Nantucket, the people of which town 
were compelled to endeavour to follow this industry, 
since it was the only one which yielded them any 


means of subsistence. The history of whaling 
during the War of Independence is therefore an 
account of the struggle of the Nantucket men against 
adverse circumstances. Early in the war the British 
vessels made several forays along the New England 
coast, capturing and burning the whale ships, and 
destroying property on shore at Nantucket, Martha's 
Vineyard, and Dartmouth. 

The privations at Nantucket were so excessive 
that in 1781 the British Admiral granted the islanders 
permission to etnploy twenty-four vessels unmolested 
by the British cruisers. 

In 1783 the Continental Congress granted permits 
for thirty-five vessels to engage in whaling, but very 
soon after the treaty of peace was signed. 

The end of the war found the whaling industry 
practically extinct. 

Except at Nantucket the whalers were ruined, and 
even there not much had been saved. When war 
broke out one hundred and fifty vessels were fishing 
i;om Nantucket. In 1784 only two or three odd 
>hips remained; one hundred and thirty-four had 
been captured or destroyed by the English and 
fifteen lost by shipwreck. 

The recovery of the American whalers for the 
first two decades after the signing of peace was 
slow. The. whales were less shy and more easily 
Billed, and whale products fetched good prices for 

few years after the war. The boom was short- 
lived, and prices dropped considerably. The 
British market was to all intents and purposes closed 


by an alien import duty of eighteen pounds per ton. 
Oil which fetched thirty pounds per ton before the 
war now barely made seventeen pounds, and since 
twenty-five pounds was the minimum required by 
the whalers in order to clear their expenses it 
follows that the industry languished. A number 
of the American ports which had entered the 
whaling business speedily withdrew from it, and it 
was due to the courage and enterprise of the 
Nantucket men that at this stage the industry did 
not expire. 

When the state of the industry appeared hope- 
less, the Massachusetts legislature came to the 
rescue, and in 1785 passed a Bounty Act. For 
every ton of oil imported into the States the whale- 
men were to receive a bounty of five pounds on 
white spermaceti oil, sixty shillings on brown or 
yellow sperm oil, and forty shillings on whale oil. 
The vessel had to be owned and manned wholly by 
the inhabitants of Massachusetts, and landed at a 
port in that state. During the war the lack of oil 
had induced the people to use tallow candles, so 
that the increased landings of oil which were the 
result of this bounty could not be absorbed by the 
population, with the result that over-production led 
to a sharp fall in prices. 

Scammon states that by 1787-9 there were only 
one hundred and twenty-two vessels engaged in 
whaling from Massachusetts ports, and even this 
list includes small vessels not engaged in reguta" 


At this time the English were trying hard to 
build up a whaling trade, paying heavy bounties for 
the purpose. A commercial treaty with France in 
1789 opened up a prosperous trade, but after a few 
shipments thither the outbreak of the French 
Revolution upset all calculations, and^nce more 
the whaling industry received a check. Under the 
stimulus of this French trade the American whalers 
extended their voyages in the Atlantic, and even 
rounded Cape Horn in their search" for whales. 
The first American whalers to enter the Pacific did 
so in 1791, about four years after English ships had 
ypen'ed up Pacific whaling. After 1792 the ship- 
x ments of whale products from America to France 
lid not pay costs, and this branch of the trade 
ceased. In 1798 the prospects of war between the 
United States and France induced French 
privateers to prey upon American commerce, 
including the whalers. 

From this time to the war of 1812, the whaling 
ii dustry fluctuated considerably. Up to 1806 or 
1807, the Fleet was gradually developing from 
year to year, but after that the decline was 

The embargo of 1807 stopped the exportation of 
whale products and thus kept down the price of oil 
and candles in the States. In 1810 things appeared 
more settled, and whaling was extensively resumed, 
so that when war broke out between the English 
and the Americans in 1812 a large number of 
whalers were at sea, some in the Pacific, whither 


they had gone on voyages of two and two and a 
half years' duration. Some of the vessels returned 
on receiving the news of the outbreak of war, to be 
laid up for its duration. Others were captured at 
sea. Nantucket and New Bedford, the chief 
whaling ports, suffered severely. The war again 
affected whaling in an adverse manner, though the 
early years of the nineteenth century witnessed the 
rise of several influences which benefited the 
whalers. The general increase in prosperity of 
America 4ed to a demand for whale oil, and sperm 
candles in preference to tallow candles. There was 
an increasing demand from all the seaports on the 
coast, the export trade, especially to the West 
Indies, developing rapidly. 

The war lasted three years (1812-5)^ and again 
the whaling trade shrank to zero, except at Nan- 
tucket, where perforce a little coastal whaling was 
indulged in, and an occasional vessel sent out on a 
longer yoyage. 

At the close of the war in 1815, the Nantucket 
whaling fleet numbered twenty-three vessels; in 
1819 there were sixty-one, and in 1821 eighty-four. 
The success of the Nantucket whalers stimulated 
other ports to follow their example, and there was a 
general recrudescence of American whaling at this 
time. The Pacific whalers, which up to this time 
had frequented only the " onshore grounds," in 
1818 first visited the " offshore grounds." In 1820 
the first vessels sailed for the Japanese coasts ; by 
1822 from thirty to forty vessels were whaling there. 


Nantucket and New Bedford were now the leading 
whaling ports. 

Between 1820 and 1835 tne development of the 
American whaling was steady; towards the latter 
portion of this period, owing to the generally 
prosperous condition of the industry, a large number 
of ports engaged in the enterprise. In 1835 there 
were nearly thirty ports, with .whalers numbering 
from two or three to over two hundred sail. Growth 
by this time was exceedingly rapid, the total number 
of whalers rising from two hundred and three in 1829 
to four hundred and twenty-one in 1834. 

The two decades following 1835 marked the 
zenith of the American whale fisheries. This year 
whaling was commenced by a Nantucket vessel 
along the north-west coast of America. In 1848 a 
Sag Harbour whaler passed through Behring Strait 
into the Arctic, this being the last whaling ground 
opened up 4 by the American whalers. In 1835 the 
Nantucket fleet went mainly to the Pacific, after 
1840 it went almost exclusively there, and by 1850 
the New Bedford fleet had followed its example. 

By this time new uses had been found for whale- 
bone, and the oil was steadily and increasingly in 
request as an illuminant for sperm candles and 
whale oil lamps. In fact, it was not until the dis- 
covery of petroleum in 1859 that there was any 
serious ri^al to whale oil in this respect. This 
discovery, however, sealed the fate of American 
whaling. The struggle between the two oils was 
short and sharp. Kerosene came rapidly in 


general use, lubricating oils were manufactured 
from the residuum, and the introduction of the wax 
or paraffin for making candles finally sealed the 

But before this happened the American whale 
fisheries were founded on whale products. From 
1835 to !86o the whaling fleet averaged six hundred 
vessels annually with an aggregate tonnage of 
190,500. The annual imports averaged 117,950 
barrels of sperm oil, 25,913 barrels of whale oil, and 
2,323,512 pounds of bone a total annual value of 
over eight million dollars. 

In 1846 the fleet numbered six hundred and eighty 
ships and barques, thirty-four brigs, and twenty-two 
schooners, with a total tonnage of 233,262. The 
value of this fleet exceeded twenty-one million 
dollars, whfle the whole business interests connected 
with the trade were estimated at seventy million 
dollars, giving employment to 70,000 persons. After 
1847 tne P r i ce f sperm oil never fell below a dollar 
a gallon for thirty consecutive years. 

Although 1846 was the year when the largest fleet 
was employed, the real value of the fishery con- 
tinued at a high level for many subsequent years. 
Between 1846 and 1856 sperm oil rose from eighty- 
eight cents to $1-62 per gallon; whale oil from 
thirty- four to seventy-nine cents; and whalebone 
from thirty-four to fifty-eight cents a pound. In 
1857 a financial crisis in the country brought a 
sudden slump in the price of oil, and this was really 
the beginning of the end of American whaling, as a 


decline set in, gradual at first, but more rapid 

The whaling boom of 1846-7 coincided with the 
opening of new grounds for Bowhead Whales in 
the Seas of Okhotsk and Kamschatka, the Arctic 
fishery commencing two years later. 

Detailed statistics and records of American 
whaling voyages are available. 1 Many ships saw the 
whole of the fishery through practically from 
beginning to end. Quite a number of the New 
Bedford whalers were in commission for over fifty 
years, the four heading the list being the ship Maria 
(ninety years), the ship Rousseau (eighty-seven 
years), the barque Triton (seventy-nine years), and 
the ship Ocean (seventy-five years). The Maria, 
which was built by Ichabod Thomas on the North 
River in Pembroke, Mass., in 1782, sailed the seas 
of the globe until 1872, when she was broken up at 
Vancouver Island. 

The record of the New Bedford whaler Lagoda 
is of great interest since she participated in the 
fishery in the boom years, and was only sold by her 
owners when the decline had unmistakably set in. 
The Lagoda made twelve voyages between October, 
1841, and July, 1886, of which ten resulted in a 
profit, and two (the tenth and twelfth) in a loss ; the 
net gain to the owners being $652,000. The 
dividends on the individual yoyages were in 
percentages: 29-6; 120-5; 669; I 77 >2 5 100596-9; 

1 Old Dartmouth Historical Sketches, Nos. 2, 14, 43, 44, 45, 
and 50, New Bedford, Mass., U.S.A. 


363 5; 219; 115-2; loss; about 10; loss. Of course 
it must be remembered that the voyages lasted 
several years, but even so, in the case of the seventh 
voyage, which lasted forty-four months, the average 
monthly profit was eight and a quarter per cent. 

Some idea of the relative importance of the 
various fishing grounds may be obtained from a 
consideration of the statistics for 1847. About sixty 
small barques, brigs, and schooners fished in the 
Atlantic for Sperm Whales, and there was one ship 
at Davis Strait. Thirty- two barques cruised in 
the Indian Ocean for Sperm Whales, and there was 
one schooner similarly employed in the Pacific. A 
dozen whalers were engaged in the merchant service 
or as tenders to the fleet. 

The remaining six hundred vessels were on the 
various grounds of the North and South Pacific, a 
fifth engaged in Sperm whaling, the rest in both 
Sperm and Right whaling. Within fifty years of 
the discovery of the Pacific whaling grounds over 
six-sevenths of the American whaling fleet were 
engaged there. 

At this time a large number of American ports 
were engaged in whaling. In 1847 there were 
thirty-four American ports at which whalers were 
registered. The total number of vessels was seven 
hundred and twenty-seven with a tonnage of 
230,218. The chief ports were New Bedford, two 
hundred and fifty-four; Nan tucket, seventy-five; 
New London, Conn., seventy; Sag Harbour, N.Y., 
sixty-two; Fairhaven, forty-eight; Stonington, 


Conn., twenty-seven; Warren, R.I., twenty-three; 
Provincetown, eighteen; and Mystic, Conn., with 
seventeen ships. 

After 1847 there was a gradual decline in the 
number of whaling vessels, the smaller ports drop- 
ping out rapidly. 

The following table gives the number of vessels 
and the aggregate tonnage for each tenth year after 
1846, when the number of yessels was a maximum : 

No. of Vessels. Tonnage. 

1846 736 233,262 

1856 635 199,141 

1866 263 68,535 

1876 169 38,883 

1886 124 29,118 

1896 77 16,358 

igo6 42 9,878 

Although the smaller ports declined after 1847, 
New Bedford continued to increase its fleet until 
1857, when its maximum was attained with three 
hundred and twenty-nine sail, valued at twelve 
million dollars, giving employment to ten thousand 

Soon after the introduction of the mineral oils 
referred to above, and which of itself was beginning 
to prove a severe handicap to the American whalers, 
the outbreak of the Civil War proved a formidable 
blow to industry. At this time most of the fleet was 
at sea, some of the vessels being in the Pacific on 
voyages of four years' duration. The Atlantic 
whalers soon felt the effect of the war, some of them 
being captured by Southern privateers as early as 


1862. The "Shipping List" for 1862, states: 
" That Southern pirate, Semmes, has already made 
frightful havoc with whaling vessels, and his 
piratical ship the Alabama threatens to become 
the scourge of the seas." This privateering con- 
tinued throughout the war, especially by the 
Alabama, and the Shenandoah. The latter entered 
Behring Sea, capturing and burning twenty-five 
whalers, taking four others for transport. 

Fifty whalers were lost in the war ; another forty 
were purchased by the Government to form the 
Charleston stone fleet, which was sunk in the attempt 
to blockade Charleston harbour. The decline in 
the whaling fleet during the Civil War was fifty per 
cent in vessels and sixty per cent in tonnage (514 
vessels to 263; 158,745 tons to 68,535). 

After the end of the Civil War there was a revival 
of whaling, partly due to the prevailing high prices, 
and San Francisco now began to take part (1869) 
in the whaling trade, though by this time the Atlantic 
whaling ports showed a marked and serious decline, 
Nantucket to give one example practically 
dropping out altogether. 

From 1869 to 1880 the rise of San Francisco as 
a whaling port was very gradual, the number of 
vessels averaging eight; after 1880 the growth was 

The English first used steam in whalers in 1857, 
but it was not until 1880 that the Americans adopted 
it, when it speedily effected a revolution in Arctic 
whaling. Prior to this, the Arctic fleet had wintered 


at San Francisco or some other Pacific port, either 
re-fitting or engaging in short cruises in neighbour- 
ing waters, e.g., in the " lagoon whaling " in the 
arms of Magdalena Bay. In 1848 no less than 
fifty boats were engaged in lagoon whaling, the 
yessels being anchored and the whales captured by 
boats, thus recalling the early days of the Spits- 
bergen fishery. In spring the vessels went north, 
and waited for the ice to break up in Behring Strait. 
In the autumn the cargoes were transhipped to the 
east from San Francisco, Panama, Honolulu, and 
other ports. 

With the steam whaler it was customary to remain 
in the Arctic during the winter so as to be the first 
in the field when the ice broke up in the spring. 

By 1893 one-fourth of the vessels whaling in the 
North Pacific and Arctic wintered off the mouth of 
the Mackenzie River. 

With the opening of the transcontinental railways, 
the importance of San Francisco as a whaling port 
increased, and, although New Bedford still 
possessed the larger fleet, a great many of its 
vessels carried on the trade with San Francisco as 

Originally all the refining of the Pacific oil was 
done at New Bedford, but in 1883 refineries were 
built at San Francisco together with works for the 
manufacture of sperm candles. Since 1880, then, 
there has been a gradual supersession of the eastern 
by the western ports. The San Francisco fleet 
grew- while all the other fleets declined, so that in 


1893 there were thirty-three vessels at that port, of 
which about twenty-two were steamers. What 
really happened was a transfer of the whaling 
interests. Instead of being owned in New Bedford 
and New London and working out of 'Frisco, the 
eastern interests were transferred to vessels 
registered at the latter port. 

For the ten years ending 1905 the whaling fleet 
averaged fifty-one sail with a tonnage of 10,184, 
yielding whaling products yalued at a million 

In 1906 there were three whaling ports employing 
fleets, namely, New Bedford twenty-four vessels, 
tonnage five thousand six hundred and eighteen; 
San Francisco fourteen vessels, tonnage three 
thousand six hundred and twenty-six ; and Province- 
town three vessels, tonnage three hundred and forty. 
Norwich, Connecticut, had one brig with a tonnage 
of two hundred and ninety-four, its first reappear- 
ance as a whaling port after a lapse of seventy years. 

A few American whalers still follow Sperm 
whaling in the Atlantic, but the bulk of the fleet, 
practically all the large vessels, work the Arctic 
grounds from San Francisco. 

One cause of the downfall of whaling has been the 
uncertainty of the business. In no other occupation 
does the element of chance enter so largely. In 
1866 two New Bedford ships each made a profit of 
one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars on a 
capital of twenty-five thousand dollars. 

On the other hand, out of sixty-eight vessels due 



to arrive at New Bedford and Fairhaven in 1858, 
forty-four were calculated as making losing voyages, 
the total loss being one million dollars. In 1871 
the entire Arctic fleet was destroyed by pack ice with 
a loss of over two million dollars, thirty-four vessels 
becoming a total loss. 

Two other adverse circumstances for the whalers 
were the discovery of gold in California in 1 849, and 
the commencement of the manufacture of cotton 
goods in New Bedford in 1846. 

It was customary for the Pacific whalers to touch 
at a Pacific port to refit, and during the gold boom 
whole crews of whalers deserted, so that shipping on 
a whaler came to be recognised as a cheap means 
of reaching the goldfields from the eastern states. 
The whaling capitalists lost large sums of money 
through their ships being laid up owing to these 
desertions. The cotton manufacture afforded a 
steadier yield to capital than the enormously fluctuat- 
ing whaling industry, so there can be no question 
but that its establishment in New Bedford led to 
the withdrawal of capital from the latter, to say 
nothing of the diversion of new capital that other- 
wise might have been devoted to the development 
of whaling. 

In the fifties and sixties of the nineteenth century 
the Pacific whalers made Honolulu their rendezvous. 
Twice a year the harbour was full of whalers, firstly 
in March, when they fitted out for the summer season 
in the Arctic, in Behring Strait, off Japan, and in 
the Sea of Okhotsk, and secondly in November, 


when they fitted out for the Sperm whaling in 
tropical and sub-tropical waters. Some of the 
vessels fitted out exclusively for the Sperm whaling, 
and did not take part in the Right Whale fishery of 
northern waters these were known as the " Sperm 

After fitting out in November and December in 
Honolulu the vessels engaged in Sperm whaling left 
late in December or early in January, usually taking 
the following route: southwards to the Marshall, 
Solomon, and Caroline Islands, and then northwards 
to Marian and Bonin groups in Japanese waters. 
Off Japan there were two courses. Some vessels 
went into the Sea of Okhotsk, others to the Arctic 
through Behring Strait. Some vessels went direct 
from Honolulu to the Marianne Islands, anchoring 
off Tinian Island in February and March, and 
sending out their boats after the Humpback. After 
March the Japan grounds were abandoned. 

A small fleet consisting mainly of brigs and 
schooners sailed from Honolulu to the Californian 
coast to take part in the Grey Whale fishery (p. 29). 
At this time the Grey Whale was reported to be very 
fierce and shy, and consequently difficult to capture. 
The whalers attempted to capture the young ones 
first, aiming to wound and not to kill. If the young 
were wounded the mother endeavoured to protect it, 
and so rendered herself liable to capture, but if the 
young were killed outright the mother became so 
desperate in her anger as to render any approach to 
her on the part of the whale boats an absolute impos- 


sibility. This whaling was dangerous, and a lot of 
lives were lost at it. 

In April these whalers returned to Honolulu, 
leaving a few weeks later for the north. 

A good average catch (in the sixties) in northern 
waters was ten Bowheads or Right Whales, which 
yielded one thousand barrels of thirty gallons each 
of oil, and sixteen thousand pounds of whalebone. 
Landed in Europe this oil fetched three pounds nine 
shillings a barrel, and the whalebone three shillings 
and sixpence a pound. At this time the winter 
fishery for the Sperm Whales was not of much 
account. A vessel that obtained one hundred barrels 
of sperm oil was fortunate, though occasionally much 
larger captures were made since the Sperm Whale is 
naturally a gregarious animal. 

When a Sperm Whale is in distress its companions 
seek to succour it, the Right Whales on the contrary, 
leave a stricken comrade. The Sperm whalers took 
advantage of this, and once a whale had been struck 
the other boats endeavoured to kill as many of the 
school as speedily as possible. 

The Sperm Whales in the schools are stated at 
this time to be small on the average, the older larger 
individuals keeping more to themselves. 

The Bowheads were gradually driven farther and 
farther north, right up into polar waters where the 
sailing vessels could not follow them. The whales 
kept more and more to the ice, leaving it later in 
succeeding years, so that the whalers were compelled 
to keep near the ice later in successive seasons. 


The Finners were not much chased in these waters 
on account of the difficulty of taking them with the 
hand harpoon. 

The American whaling industry at the end of the 
nineteenth century was in a bad way. 

A small fleet still hunted the Sperm and Right 
Whales in the North and South Atlantic. In 1892 
this consisted of thirty-two ships ; in 1898 of fourteen 
only. Of these four were from eighty to one hundred 
tons, six of one hundred to two hundred tons, four 
from two hundred to two hundred and fifty-five tons. 
The crew consisted of fifteen on two vessels, sixteen 
on five, twenty-five on six, and thirty on one vessel. 
A sad decline from the hey-day of the American 
Atlantic whale fishery. The vessels still fitted out 
for a three years' cruise, and garnered their harvest on 
the old whaling grounds. The decrease in the yield 
of sperm oil from this fishery was from seventy-three 
thousand seven hundred and eight barrels in 1860 to 
twelve thousand five hundred and twenty in 1 898. 

This industry was very rapidly dying out. The 
West Indian fishery and that of the Southern Indian 
Ocean was no longer followed by the Americans. 
In fact, the only fishery remaining to the Americans 
of any magnitude was that from San Francisco, 
which still sent out ships to the North Pacific and 
Arctic-American Oceans. 

The American fishery in Davis Strait and Hudson 
Bay consisted of one vessel in 1890, one in 1892, five 
in 1895, one m 1896-97, and two in the summer of 
1897, both making losing voyages. 


The first American whaler passed through Behring 
Strait in 1848, and this polar fishery has been well 
described by Scammon. 

At the end of the nineteenth century the fishery in 
polar waters was to a large extent coastal, in this 
respect resembling the early days of Spitsbergen. 
The ice off the north coasts of America and Asia 
comes down much farther south than in Spitsbergen 
waters, so that the whalers never went beyond 74 N . 
in the former waters. The fishery off the north 
coasts of Alaska and Asia was much more dangerous 
than in Northern European waters, and the return 
journey through the narrow Behring Strait much 
more difficult than the homeward journey of the 
Spitsbergen whalers, and consequently many more 
ships were lost at this American fishery. 

These American whaling steamers usually made 
nine knots, sailing vessels with auxiliary engines six 
only. The whaling grounds were much farther from 
San Francisco than the Spitsbergen grounds from 
Norway or Great Britain. From San Francisco to 
the Diomede Islands in Behring Strait is two thou- 
sand eight hundred and sixty miles, from thence to 
the mouth of the Mackenzie a further eight hundred 
and seventy. The first part of the journey was 
usually made under sail alone, the coal being reserved 
for battling through the ice. A few whalers went 
even farther than the Mackenzie; one hundred and 
seventy-five miles to Cape Bathurst, and even two 
hundred and twenty miles farther to Banks Land. 

The whalers aimed to reach the Gulf of Anadyr on 


the Asiatic side of the Strait in the middle of May. 
In the middle of June they were able to enter the 
Arctic, and this they usually did on the Asiatic side 
as the ice conditions were generally more favourable 
there. Whilst waiting for the ice to disappear from 
Point Barrow, the whalers cruised westward along the 
Siberian coast, occasionally getting a whale. After 
this between-season they went for Point Barrow and 
thence to Point Hope, north of Behring Strait, and 
then east along the coast to winter quarters off 
Herschel Island, which lies near the coast somewhat 
to the west of the mouth of the Mackenzie. Some 
went still farther to the north-east to Franklin Bay. 

Those vessels which wintered off Herschel Island 
generally got free of the ice by the loth July, whereas 
those frozen up in Franklin Bay were fast until 
August. Usually there is open water from Point 
Barrow to Cape Bathurst, north-east of Franklin 
Bay, for three summer months. 

Steamers find very little difficulty in making this 
passage, but for sailing vessels it is troublesome. 

In autumn the whalers went west to Herald Island 
in north-east of Behring Strait in 70 N. and 171 E. 

The details of this fishery show that even at the 
end of the nineteenth century it was possible to make 
profitable voyages, though on the whole there is an 
evident decline. 

The statistics show clearly that the American 
whalers at this time hunted the whale chiefly for the 
whalebone, and on many occasions took no trouble 
to recover the oil. This is seen when the number 


of whales killed is compared with the number of 
barrels of oil obtained in the earlier and later years : 



Whales killed. Barrels of oil obtained. 





































It is perhaps hardly necessary to point out that 
this is an extravagant method of fishing and a great 
waste of natural resources. 

The average yield of a Polar Right Whale in 1897 
was estimated in oil at thirty cents a gallon, and four 
dollars a pound for whalebone, those being the prices 
at San Francisco. The total value of the whale was 
about eight thousand dollars (one thousand six 
hundred pounds). Against this must be set the very 
high cost of fitting out ships for this fishery. A sail- 
ing vessel with four boats had a crew of thirty-eight 
men, a steamer with five boats forty-four men. They 
were provisioned usually for a year. Only the 
engineers were paid by wage, the others by " lays," 
i.e., a share in the profits. These lays varied at this 
time from an eleventh in the case of the captain, to 
a hundred and fiftieth for a greenhand or cabin boy. 

The first engineer received one hundred and 
twenty-five, the second ninety dollars monthly. 
Insurance was high from ten per cent for steamers, 


to sixteen per cent for sailing vessels. The cost of 
fitting out a steamer for a season was estimated at 
fifteen thousand dollars; the first cost of such a 
steamer from twenty to twenty-five thousand dollars. 
To fit out a sailing vessel cost eight thousand 
dollars. This was much cheaper than the expense 
of a steamer, for the latter the coal alone cost from 
six to ten dollars a ton. Before starting from 
'Frisco each sailor received an advance of forty 
dollars, each boat-steerer from fixe hundred to one 
thousand dollars. If the ship returned clean, i.e., 
empty, then the crew were paid off on return at the 
rate of one dollar per man. A whale which yielded 
from fifteen to seventeen hundred pounds of whale- 
bone usually gave from seventy to ninety barrels 
of oil. A certain amount of trade was done with the 
natives, Esquimaux, and Indians, along the coast. 
On an average, a whaler could reckon on getting 
from seven to eight hundred pounds of trade bone 
from the natives in exchange for meal, biscuit, 
provisions generally, knives, and old whale boats, 
the latter being much sought after. 

There is much information of this fishery in the 
San Francisco newspapers of the last decade of the 
nineteenth century. Though of great interest, the 
details cannot be quoted here. There was also a 
small Russian whale fishery at this time in the North 
Pacific. It does not appear to have attained any 
considerable magnitude. 

Although not an American fishery, it is 
convenient to mention here that one of the few 


remaining, flourishing whaling industries was that 
for the Cachalot or Sperm Whale, at the Azores, 
by the inhabitants, who killed the whale not far 
from land, towing the carcass ashore for treatment. 
In 1898 there were no less than twenty-nine whaling 
companies working at the Azores. The hunting 
was done by means of small sailing boats three 
feet long each with a crew of six. Of the six, one 
was officer and steersman, one a harpooner, the 
other four sailors. The crew of these boats were 
paid by share, the boats themselves being the 
property of the various companies. The statistics 
of the number of wHales killed and the amount of 
spermaceti obtained are not available, but from 1895 
to 1897 no l ess tnan 480,000 litres of whale oil were 
exported from the Azores. 

An intimate view of life in American whalers may 
be obtained by a perusal of the works of Olmstead, 
Ross Browne, and Nordhoff. There are also a 
number of other writers ; in many cases it is difficult 
to separate fact from fiction. 

It was customary to recruit the whalers' crews 
from landsmen, the captain and officers alone being 
experienced seamen and whalers. Advertisements 
of the following type were scattered broadcast over 
the eastern states in the hey-day of the American 
whale fisheries : 

" WANTED LANDSMEN. One thousand stout young men, 
Americans, wanted for the fleet of whale ships now 
fitting out for the North and South Pacific Fisheries. 
Extra chances given to Coopers, Carpenters, and 
None but industrious young men, with good recom- 


mendations, taken. Such will have superior chances 
for advancement. Outfits, to the amount of seventy- 
five dollars, furnished to each individual before 
proceeding to sea. 

Persons desirous to avail themselves of the present 
splendid opportunity of seeing the world, and at the 
same time acquiring" a profitable business, will do 
well to make early application to the undersigned." 

It is to be feared that the treatment of these green- 
horns was in general of a very brutal nature. Their 
earnings, too, were contemptible. The system of 
payment was by " lays." Average lays varied from 
about a twelfth for the captain to a hundred and 
seventy-five for a greenhand. It was by no means 
uncommon for an ordinary seamen to receive two 
or three dollars, or even nothing at all, as his 
share after a long and hazardous voyage. He had, 
of course, been kept, and received advances 
during the voyage ; what the food and conditions 
were like can be estimated by reading the works 
above named. 

Olmstead's book was published at New York in 
1841, and describes a voyage made in the barque 
North America of New London. 

J. Ross Browne's book, which, in many respects, 
is the best personal description of a voyage in an 
American whaler, was published at New York in 
1850; Browne joined a New Bedford whaler as a 
landsman or greenhand (in 1842). The brutalities 
to which the greenhands were subjected is relieved 
by the humour of some of the scenes on board, one 
of the seamen, Bill Man by name, who had 
previously been a scene shifter in a Bowery theatre 


in New York, being by no means without humour 
when drunk. 

NordhofFs book was published at Cincinnati in 
1856, and is a description of whaling life by a man 
who had previously been a sailor. 

In 1918 owing to the prevailing shortage of the 
world's food supply, the American whaling 
companies were encouraged to save and market 
whale meat, and the United States Bureau of 
Fisheries issued a pamphlet on the use of whales 
and porpoises as food. 1 The west coast whaling 
companies provided a cold storage and distributing 
plant, with a capacity of about three thousand tons, 
a five hundred ton freezing plant, a refrigeration 
steamer, and a cannery with a capacity of fifty 
thousand cases. In 1918 a beginning was made 
with thirty thousand cases of canned meat, and for 
1919 an output of fifty thousand cases of canned 
meat, and one thousand tons of frozen meat is 

The equipment and method of canning are 
similar to those used in Pacific coast salmon 
canneries, with certain differences in the preliminary 
handling. The whales for canning are hauled out 
on a special concrete slip, constantly flooded with 
fresh running water, and here the meat is removed 
in the same way as for freezing. After cooling it 
is placed in mild brine for about thirty-six hours, 
which removes all blood, at the same time elimin- 

1 Whales and Porpoises as food. U.S. De-pi, of Commerce, 
Bureau of Fisheries Economic Circular, No. 38. Issued 
6th November, 1918. 


ating the gamy taste. The strips of meat are then 
passed through a salmon cutter of ordinary type, 
which cuts up pieces of the right size, for one pound 
flat cans. The cans are then put through the 
exhaust box for thirty minutes, sealed and cooked 
in the retort for an hour and twenty minutes, after 
which they are ready for labelling and shipping. 

The fishery for the California Grey Whale by 
the Makahs or Cape Flattery Indians has been well 
described by Swan. 1 Since their methods are 
distinct from those of Europeans, and have been 
independently evolved, a short description is 

The harpoon consists of a barbed head, attached 
direct to the rope or lanyard. The rope, which is 
five fathoms long, is made of twisted whale's sinews, 
and is about an inch and a half in circumference, 
covered with twine wound around it very tightly. 
This rope is exceedingly strong and very pliable. 

The harpoon head is a flat piece of iron or copper, 
usually a saw blade or a piece of sheet copper with 
a couple of barbs of elk's or deer's horn secured to 
it, and the whole covered with a coating of spruce 

The staff is made of yew in two pieces, joined in 
the middle by a neat scarf, firmly secured by a piece 
of bark tied tightly round it. The length is 
eighteen feet, thickest in the centre at the join, and 
tapering at both ends. To be used the staff is 

1 James G. Swan, " The Indians of Cape Flattery, at the 
Entrance to the Strait of Fuca, Washing-ton Territory," Wash- 
ing-ton, 1869, No. 220, Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. 


inserted into the barbed head, and the end of the 
lanyard fastened to a buoy, which is simply a seal 
skin taken from the animal whole, the hair being 
left inwards. The apertures of the head, feet, and 
tail are tied up airtight, and the skin inflated like a 

When the harpoon is driven into the whale, the 
barb and buoy remain fast to him, but the staff comes 
out and is taken into the canoe. The harpoon 
thrown into the whale's head has but one buoy 
attached, but those thrown into the body have as 
many as can conveniently be tied on; when a 
number of canoes join in the attack it is not unusual 
for thirty or forty of these buoys to be made fast to 
the whale, which cannot then sink, and is despatched 
by lances. The buoys are fastened together by 
means of a stout line made of spruce roots, first 
slightly roasted in hot ashes, then split by knives 
into fine fibres and finally twisted into ropes, which 
are very strong and durable. These ropes are also 
used for towing the dead whale to the shore. 

The whaling canoe invariably carries eight men, 
a harpooner, steersman, and six rowers. The canoe 
is divided by sticks, which serve as thwarts, into six 
spaces. The fishery is, of course, carried on near 
the land, and it is customary to have a look-out on 
a conspicuous position, and this look-out signals to 
the canoes when one of their number has struck a 
whale, so that all may join in the kill. When the 
whale is dead, it is towed ashore, as near a village 
as possible, and hauled up on the beach. When the 


tide recedes all hands attack the carcass with knives, 
and remove the blubber in blocks about two foot 
square. The blubber, after being cut up into small 
pieces, is boiled to extract the oil, which is skimmed 
from the pots with clam shells. The blubber is then 
hung in the smoke to dry, and when cured looks 
very much like citron. It is somewhat tougher than 
pork, but sweet and not of unpleasant taste. 



The introduction of steam The harpoon gun and the capture of 
Rorquals The disappearance of the old right whalers The 
Norwegian whalers Gradual extension of their operations 
The Scottish and Irish whaling- stations Antarctic whaling. 

THE first two steam vessels employed in Arctic 
exploration were the Pioneer and the Intrepid, which 
under the command of Sherard Osborn took part in 
the search for Franklin in 1850. 

The experience gained by these vessels led the 
whalers to attempt the introduction of steam into the 
Arctic whalers with extraordinary results. The first 
attempts were made in the fifties of the nineteenth 
century, when ships fitted with auxiliary steam 
engines engaged in combined sealing and whaling 
cruises in northern waters. The seals were looked 
for at the west ice off Greenland, and subsequently 
the ships went to the whale fishery at Davis Strait. 

The first Hull whaling steamer set out in 1857; 
in 1858 there were several steamers mainly engaged 
in sealing, but it was not until 1859 that a really 
determined effort was made to establish a steam 
sealing and whaling trade. The results were almost 



uniformly unsuccessful, and steam whaling suffered 
a serious setback. 

One of the Peterhead whalers attracted much 
attention. The Empress of India, built of iron, was 
specially fitted out for the trade. She was strongly 
fortified, being twelve feet thick forward and carried 
eleven boats. The bottom of the captain's gig was 
bronze. No expense was spared in her outfit, her 
crew consisting of one hundred and ten men. All 
the crew expected to make a small fortune, and 
looked on the old sailers with contempt. Some of 
the officers were so sure of getting full of seals that 
they made all their plans for the future ; they were 
going to fall in with the north end of the main body 
of seals and sweep through the centre, leaving the 
rest for those who were fortunate enough to be in 
their company. However, the first piece of heavy 
ice penetrated their port bow, and they foundered 
in four hours, all hands being saved by the despised 

Several iron steamers of Hull, the Emetine, 
Gertrude, Corkscrew, Labuan, and Wildfire, pro- 
ceeded to the seal fishery, but most of them came 
back empty and damaged. According to Barren this 
year proved that iron steamers, however strongly 
built, were not suitable vessels to contend with the 
Greenland pack ice. A few years later (1861) 
Barron changed his opinion, and now writes that 
" this year would prove the death-blow to sailing 
vessels. Men having experienced the great differ- 
ence between steam and sail, few will go hereafter 



in a sailing ship if they can possibly get into a 


In the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay fishing it was 
customary for the whalers to commence operations 
off Resolution Island off the south-west extremity of 
Baffin Land, and afterwards make up through Davis 
Strait and Baffin Bay to the whaling grounds off 
Melville Bay and down Lancaster Sound on the east 
side of Baffin Bay. Now the entrance to the north 
water was often closed in Melville Bay by pack ice of 
varying density even though there was open water 
beyond (to the northward). Working through this 
pack ice was a laborious and lengthy job for a sailing 
vessel, though the time varied considerably from 
year to year according to the state of this drift ice. 
For a steamer the passage of this ice was in any but 
the most extraordinarily severe seasons a matter 
which could be accomplished with certainty and 
safety in a few days, and it was this fact which, more 
than any other, proved the immense superiority of 
the steamer over the sailer. This is quite clearly 
brought out by Barron in his account of his voyage 
in 1 86 1, when he was master of the famous True love. 
" After toiling all day we only succeeded in getting a 
mile. The s.s. Narwhal came to our relief, and 
towed us into clear water without the least difficulty. 
This showed the superiority of steam over sailing 

Markham, 1 writing of his experiences at the Arctic 

1 " A Whaling Cruise to Baffin Bay and the Gulf of Boothia," 
by A, H. Markham, London, 1875. 


whale fishery in 1873, proves in a remarkable manner 
how much the introduction of steam power in whaling 
ships has reduced the risk of navigation in Baffin Bay 
and Barrow Strait. Markham took a passage in the 
Arctic of Dundee, a vessel of five hundred tons and 
seventy horse power. The Dundee fleet this year 
consisted of ten vessels all equipped with steam 
power. Seven were ships varying from three hun- 
dred and fifty-eight to four hundred and thirty-nine 
tons and from sixty to seventy horse power. Of the 
seven, six were built for the trade, the seventh being 
a converted ship. The three barques varied from 
two hundred and seventy-eight to three hundred and 
ninety-four tons, and from thirty-six to sixty horse 
power. All three had been converted into steamers 
for the whaling trade. Incidentally it may be noted 
that while Markham describes the Arctic as a ship 
the illustrations in his book show her to be barque 
rigged. At any rate she voluntarily entered the ice 
in Davis Strait until there were some fifty miles of 
heavy pack ice between her and open water, and then 
when no more whales were to be found she fought 
her way by steam power through the ice fields until 
the open sea was again reached. 

The middle ice, which for over half a century 
had proved a serious obstacle to the whalers, was 
easily overcome even by the moderately powered 
vessels of the Dundee fleet of 1873. The old 
whaler under sail thought himself lucky in travers- 
ing it once in three years, with an enormous amount 
of labour, in from a month to sixty days. The 


Arctic and her sister vessels had for nine years suc- 
cessively got through this middle ice in as many 

The crew of the Arctic consisted of fifty-five men, 
a fourth part of whom were Shetlanders, most of the 
remainder being Scotsmen, principally Highlanders. 
They carried eight harpooners, including the mate, 
second mate, and specksioneer (the officer under 
whose direction the whale was cut up). There were 
eight boat-steerers, including the boatswain and skee- 
man, the latter being the officer who superintends 
between decks the stowing away of the blubber in 
tanks. The word is derived from the Dutch 
" Schieman," the captain of the forecastle. There 
are also eight line-managers. 

When all the boats were away whaling there only 
remained on board the captain, doctor, engineer, 
ship-keeper, cook, and steward. The men were paid 
by a combination of wage and share in profits. 

At this period the vessels left Scotland in the first 
half of May, earlier or later according to whether 
they took part in the sealing or not. They all 
stopped at the Shetlands to complete the crew and to 
obtain fresh provisions. Then a course was made 
for Cape Farewell, the south point of Greenland, 
where the whalers commenced the so-called south- 
west fishery in the Frobisher Straits area north of 
the Labrador coast. Then they followed the plan 
outlined above for the Hull whalers, working their 
way through the ice in Melville Bay to the north 
water, thence to Lancaster Sound and Prince Regent 


Inlet. In August and September the whales were 
followed on their southerly migration to Home Bay 
and Cumberland Sound on the east side of Baffin 
Land. The return voyage commenced in the early 
days of November, though some lucky ships occa- 
sionally obtained full cargoes in September or 
October. Some ships, both British and American, 
wintered in Cumberland Sound in order to be ready 
for the early summer fishery. 

The voyage of the Arctic was a very successful 
one, thirteen female and fifteen male whales being 
captured. The weight of whalebone was fourteen 
tons seventeen hundredweights, and that of the oil 
two hundred and sixty-five and a half tons, the total 
value being eighteen thousand nine hundred and 
twenty-five pounds. 

The Scottish whalers at this time brought the 
blubber back to Dundee in large tanks. There it 
was filled into casks and taken to the boiling yards 
to have the oil extracted. This was done by steam 
in large coppers holding sufficient blubber to yield 
ten tons of oil. The seal blubber is so fresh when 
landed that it is necessary to wait six or eight weeks 
until it is so decomposed that the oil might be 
extracted easily. But in 1873 the Dundee Seal and 
Whale Fishing Company fitted up machinery for 
cutting and crushing the blubber, so that it could be 
utilised as soon as landed. For some purposes the 
oil thus reduced is more valuable. After boiling the 
oil is allowed to settle in coolers, and then run into 
storing tanks ready for delivery as required. 


Prior to the introduction of steam there was a 
marked decline in the Arctic whale fishery as shown 
in the statistical returns from 1830 onwards. 
Towards the end of the sailing days it was only the 
Norwegians who took part in it to any extent. The 
English and Scottish fishery gradually declined. In 
1831 the greater part of the English fleet (nineteen 
vessels) was lost in the ice in Melville Bay. The 
harbours taking part in the whaling trade declined 
until practically only Dundee and Peterhead were 
left. In 1 830 there were ninety-one Scottish whalers 
hailing from thirteen ports; in 1857 tne number had 
declined to sixty from seven ports, and in 1868 to 
thirty vessels from six ports, and of this thirty Peter- 
head and Dundee claimed twelve each. The 
Dundee vessels at this time were steamers which 
visited the Greenland coasts for seals, and subse- 
quently went round into Davis Strait for the whale 
fishery. Dundee's interest in this fishery persisted 
beyond that of other Scottish towns since her chief 
industry, the jute manufacture, required the whale 
and seal oil, so that the town's two main industries 
were in a sense interdependent. Dundee's require- 
ments at this time (circa 1858) were two thousand two 
hundred tons of oil annually. 

In 1868 the Scottish whaling fleet consisted of four 
steamers and eight sailing ships from Peterhead, the 
former of two hundred to two hundred and ninety- 
five tons, the latter from one hundred and thirty to 
three hundred and eighty tons ; two sailing vessels 
of two hundred and ninety-two and two hundred 


and ninety-seven tons from Fraserburgh ; eleven 
steamers (two hundred and seventy-eight to four 
hundred and fifty-five tons) and one sailing ship from 
Dundee, and one steamer of four hundred and fifty- 
two tons from Kirkcaldy. This was the year in which 
Hull finally dropped out of the whaling industry. 
At this time the Scottish fleet in part went sealing 
and whaling between Greenland and Spitsbergen, 
another part, especially the Dundee steamers, went 
first to the sealing grounds off Jan Mayen, and 
returned home starting off in the middle of May for 
their second voyage to the whaling grounds in Davis 
Strait up to Cumberland Strait, wintering there so 
as to be ready for the early fishing in the following 
spring. In 1868 fifteen ships which took part in 
the sealing and whaling off Greenland caught only 
three whales and fifty-one thousand eight hundred 
and sixty-three seals, altogether six hundred and 
thirty-seven tons of oil. Ten of the ships returned 
quite empty, a very bad result. In Davis Strait the 
results were better, ten steamers catching one hun- 
dred and four whales with an oil yield of eight 
hundred and eighty tons; the Cumberland Strait 
ships got twenty-two whales and eight hundred and 
eighty White Whales; of these ships two had 
wintered out and were away eighteen months. The 
vicissitudes of the whale fishery are enormous; in 
1867 the Dundee whalers in Davis Strait only caught 
two whales; in 1868 they caught seventy-nine. 

Modern whaling dates from the year 1880. At 
that time the Right Whale (Balcena mysticetus) 


valuable on account of its whalebone, was nearly 
extinct, and whalers sought principally the Sperm 
Whale, the other species not being much utilised. 

Fin and Blue Whales and the common Rorquals 
were of little or no value for whalebone, and their 
oil was of small account. Their great activity 
rendered their capture by the old methods of har- 
pooning extremely hazardous. Whaling appeared 
to be dying out completely, when a harpoon gun, 
invented by Svend Foyn, a Norwegian sailor, 
came into use. This gun was invented by Foyn in 
1860, but does not appear to have come into common 
use until twenty years later. This invention was 
considerably improved in the course of time, but the 
earlier guns were muzzle-loaders of steel with steel 
coils and mounted on swivels. Its length was about 
four feet, and it was fired at a distance of twenty-five 
to fifty yards, the gunner trying to hit the whale 
between the ribs as near the spinal column as 

The gun-harpoon consisted of the shell with 
charge, the barb-holster and pole. The shell was 
screwed to the barb-holster, which contained a glass 
filled with sulphuric acid. To the pole a rope was 
attached, of four hundred fathoms' length and 
weighing about three thousand pounds. 

The whole apparatus when it left the gun was 
solid; when the harpoon penetrated the whale the 
barbs turned so as to crush the glass tube, the sul- 
phuric acid escaping, and causing the shell to 

Fig. I. 


J >" 



This harpoon gun rendered the capture of the 
smaller and more active species of whale a com- 
mercial possibility, so that what they lacked in 
weight of oil as individuals, they made up in 
quantity. Some of these Finners and Rorquals 
could be captured fairly near to the land, so it 
became customary to build small, but seaworthy 
steamers, whose sole function was to shoot the 
whale, and then tow it ashore to a factory, where 
all the subsequent operations were carried out. 

About the year 1880 the Norwegians built 
steamers of iron, of about thirty-two registered tons, 
and twenty-five to thirty-five nominal horse power 
for this purpose. About thirty feet in length, with 
a beam of twelve to thirteen feet, and a draught of 
eight to nine feet, these steamers were rigged as 
fore and aft schooners. Below deck there was 
accommodation only for engine, cabins, and stowage 
for warps, etc., the whales being towed ashore. 

The crew consisted of nine men, viz., the captain, 
three engineers, steward and three sailors; the 
speed was nine knots. 

These vessels were subsequently much improved 
(p. 264). 

Longitudinal section, deck-plan and below- 
deck plan of a modern type of whaling steamer : 


i. Store-room. 2. Ballast tank. 3. Crew's quarters. 
4. Store-room. 5. Hatchway. 6. Space for harpoon 
lines. 7. Fresh - water tank. 8. Reserve bunker. 
Q. Coal Bunker. 10. Boiler. n. Galley. 12. Chart- 
room. 13. Chain locker. 14. Engine-room. 15. Cabin. 


16. Fresh-water tank. 17. Tank. 18. Dining-room. 
19. Skylight. 20. Meat safe. 21. Compass. 22. Speak- 
ing tube. 23. Engine-room telegraph. 24, 25, and 
26. Airpipe for signalling, etc. 27. Harpoon gun. 
28. Steam winch for the harpoon lines. 

2. DECK PLAN:--. 

i. Pump. 2. Signal apparatus (to bridge). 3. Speaking 
tube. 4. Rings. 5. Bits. 6. Gangway to crew's 
quarters. 7. Chain brake. 8. Mast. Q. Locker. 
10. Chain locker. u. Hatch. 12. Steam winch. 
13. Bunker lids. 14. Lavatory. 15. Lid. 16. Salt-water 
pump. 17. Steps to bridge. 18. Bath-room. 19. Bunker 
hatch. 20. Funnel. 21. Entrance to engine-room. 
22. Engine-room skylight. 23. Boat. 24. Lifeboat. 
25. Gangway. 26. Galley. 27. Coal-room. 28. Provi- 
sion-room. 29. Fresh-water pump. 


i. Ballast tank. 2. Bench. 3. Table. 4. Crew's 
quarters. 5. Hatch to store-room. 6. Engineers' 
cabin. 7. Writing-table. 8. Chain locker. Q. Mast. 
10. Accumulator for the harpoon line. u. Fresh-water 
tank. 12. Reserve bunker. 13. Bunker. 14. Ventilator. 
15. Fan for ventilator. 16. Oil tank. 17. Store-room. 
18. Captain's cabin. IQ. Writing-table. 20. Wardrobe. 
21. Store-room. 22. Lavatory. 23. Table. 24. Har- 
pooners' cabin. 

Before proceeding to consider the last phase in 
the history of whaling, the Norwegian fisheries of 
the twentieth century, it is desirable to summarise 
the position at the end of the nineteenth century, 
when whaling appeared to be dying out all over the 

In the European Arctic waters the capture of the 
Greenland Right Whale had long been abandoned. 
Vessels fitting out for the Arctic " fisheries " 
captured seals, walruses, and any other oil or skin- 
yielding animals, which would help to make a 
voyage profitable. Amongst these creatures was 


the White Whale, which appeared in the waters of 
Spitsbergen and Nova Zembla as soon as the ice 
began to break up in June. In schools of about 
two hundred individuals they entered the bays, 
where the female gave birth to the young in June 
and the first half of July. The White Whale's 
visit to Spitsbergen waters is not a food migration, 
since at this time the stomach is empty. The 
young when born are from four to five feet long 
and of a dark brown colour. This colour gradually 
becomes paler until in the adult it is quite white. 
The White Whale is valuable, not only on account 
of the oil it yields, but also for its skin, which can 
be concerted into excellent leather. 

When a school is met with in the bays, an effort 
is made, by surrounding them with boats, to drive 
them into shallow water, where they are driven on 
shore or captured by nets. On one occasion fifty 
whales were driven ashore, killed, and the blubber 
removed within thirty hours. 

The coastal fishery for Finners had by now com- 
menced in Finmark, Tromso, and Iceland. The 
whales were killed by means of an explosive 
harpoon fired from a gun fixed in the bows of a 
small steamer. These steamers gradually under- 
went an evolution to the type figured, described, 
and illustrated above. The whales being killed, 
were towed ashore to a coastal station for treatment. 
The Finmark fishery, which commenced about 
1889, was concerned with four species of Finner 
Whale; the Blue Whale, which was estimated at 


this time to be worth one hundred and fifty pounds, 
of which the whalebone furnished sixty pounds ; the 
common Finner (B. musculus) worth one hundred 
and twenty-five pounds (whalebone fifteen pounds) ; 
the Humpback worth also one hundred and twenty- 
five pounds ; and the Sei Whale worth forty to forty- 
five pounds, to which the whalebone contributed 
ten pounds. These estimates are, of course, 

In 1896 there were twenty-nine steamers off 
Finmark, and eighteen off Iceland, engaged in the 
slaughter of Finner Whales. In 1897 the 
numbers were respectively twenty-fi^e and twenty- 

In 1896 the number of Finners slaughtered was 
two thousand, in 1897, it was one thousand nine 

The average number of Finners killed per 
annum by the Norwegians was : 

For the whole area: 1876-1885 347 

1886-1895 1,107 

1896 2,081 

1897 1,888 

In Finmark alone, thirteen thousand four hundred 
and ninety-one whales were killed in twenty-seven 
years. A third whale fishery practised in northern 
waters at this time was that for the Grindhval or 
Pilot Whale, which was captured by the inhabitants 
of the Faroes, Orkney, and Shetland Islands. 
From 1801 to 1879 no less than seventy-eight 
thousand two hundred and ten Pilot Whales were so 
killed; an annual average of nine hundred and ninety. 


The hunt for the Bottlenose Whale commenced, 
according to the Norwegian official fishery statistics* 
in 1 88 1, when a vessel, which was specially fitted 
out for this fishery, captured thirty-one Bottlenose 
Whales. In 1884 nine vessels, one of which was 
a steamer, captured two hundred and eleven Bottle- 
nose Whales. These vessels were quite small, the 
average crew being about ten men. The Bottle- 
nose does not swim in schools, usually a small 
number of individuals, from three to six, swimming 
together, keeping to water in which the average 
temperature is 39 F., i.e., where the Gulf Stream 
and Arctic waters mix. The first hunter of the 
Bottlenose was the well-known Scottish whaler, 
David Gray, who, in 1881, in the steamer Eclipse, 
captured twenty of this species. The oil of this 
whale is of superior quality, and the chase for it 
consequently developed very rapidly, so that by 
1891 there were seventy Norwegian ships in the 
trade, killing two thousand whales of this species 
annually. The Bottlenose, in July, was found 
between 72 and 64 N. Latitude and 2 and 
12 W. Longitude, wKere the temperature of the 
water varied from o to 8 C. In this area the 
vessels engaged in the chase of the Bottlenose 
cruised to and fro. It was especially numerous 
on the boundary of the Gulf Stream and Arctic 
waters, where the temperature varied greatly in 
small areas. According to the whalers the Bottle- 
nose goes north in spring and early summer, in mid- 
summer it migrates south, where it is captured off 


the Faroes in July. The Bottlenose feeds entirely 
on cephalopods. 

The Scottish fishery in Arctic waters and between 
Greenland and North America has a long and 
interesting history. By 1898 this industry was 
obyiously moribund. Mainly, and originally 
exclusively, devoted to the capture of the Green- 
land Right Whale, the Scottish whalers, towards 
the end, omitted no opportunity of making a 
paying voyage, and consequently were not above 
taking the White Whale, the Narwhal, and the 
Bottlenose; even seals were captured. 

The Greenland Right Whale, the White Whale, 
and the Narwhal, are exclusively Arctic creatures. 
In 1870 an average Greenland Whale was worth 
from one thousand two hundred to one thousand 
five hundred pounds. Since then the price of oil 
has materially diminished the whalebone, on the 
contrary, increased in price. 

According to David Gray the Peterhead whalers 
killed from 1788 to 1879 no less than four thousand 
one hundred and ninety-five Greenland Whales; 
the Dundee fleet for the similar period capturing 
four thousand two hundred and twenty. These 
statistics should be contrasted with the slaughter 
of the Finners by the Norwegian whalers, which 
at the end of the nineteenth century reached the 
annual figure of two thousand. 

The decline of the Scottish whaling fleet towards 
the end of the nineteenth century was most marked. 
In 1868 there were thirty-nine vessels, of which 


fifteen were steamers. In 1873 Dundee sent out 
ten steamers of three hundred to four hundred tons, 
and thirty-six to seventy horse power. The 
voyage of the Arctic described by Markham, has 
already been referred to (see p. 256). 

The last years of the nineteenth century showed 
the Scottish Arctic whaling fleet to have practically 
reached its vanishing point: 

No. of vessels. No. of whales captured. 

1890 17 12 

1891 12 17 

1892 ii 9 

1893 7 33 

1894 9 20 

1895 8 17 

1896 9 ii 

1897 10 13 

1898 7 8 

In 1901 there were five steamers from Dundee 
and one from Peterhead. By this time the whalers, 
finding it did not pay to confine themselves 
exclusively to whaling, captured any other animal 
which would help to make a profit. The total 
catch of these six steamers was fourteen and a 
half Greenland Whales, seven hundred and thirty- 
eight White Whales, four hundred and twenty 
walrus, three thousand four hundred and thirty 
seals, one hundred and forty-nine polar bears, 
yielding altogether two hundred and sixty tons of 
train oil and one hundred and sixty-three and a 
half hundredweights of whalebone, the price of the 
latter being one thousand two hundred and fifty 
pounds per ton. 


Coastal whaling has been practised in Japan for 
centuries, and the industry there is at least as old 
as the earliest Basque fishery. The whale is 
extensively used as human food in Japan. There 
are several Japanese books dealing with this fishery, 
notably one published by Koyamada at Yedo in 
1829. In 1889 the Japanese whale trade was worth 
seven thousand five hundred pounds. Since then 
the Japanese have adopted the modern type of 
whaling steamer, and the industry has developed 

Before the end of the nineteenth century 
attention was directed to the last virgin field for 
whalers the Antarctic. 

In the autumn of 1891 the Tay Whale Fishing 
Company of Dundee sent four of their steamers to 
the Falkland Islands, and thence to the Antarctic, 
where they remained from December, 1892, to 
February, 1893. The Scottish oceanographer and 
explorer, W. S. Bruce, was on board one of these 
vessels, the Balcena. Many seals but no whales 
were captured, and the voyages were not successful 
financially. Right Whales were not observed, but 
Blue and Bottlenose Whales were numerous. In 
1893 a Hamburg company sent a steamer to try 
whaling and sealing in the Antarctic, and in 1894 
two additional steamers. These vessels occupied 
themselves exclusively with sealing; only a few 
Bottlenose Whales were seen. 

The next attempt was Norwegian, on the steamer 
Antarctic, from 1893 to 1895. This vessel, which 


together with its outfit, cost five thousand pounds, 
was well equipped with boats, gun harpoons, and all 
the apparatus necessary for the capture of the Sperm 
or Right Whale. On their voyage to Kerguelen 
they encountered large schools of Finners, for the 
capture of which their equipment was not suitable. 
After a between-season's Sperm whaling, the 
Antarctic set off in winter (Antarctic summer), of 
1894 to a cruise in the Antarctic opposite Australia. 
Many Finners were again seen. 

As a result of an expenditure of over five thousand 
pounds the Norwegians concluded that the Right 
Whale was not present in summer-time in the 
Antarctic pack ice in sufficient numbers to make 
commercial whaling profitable. In fact, they do 
not appear to have reported the Right Whale at all 
in Antarctic waters. The whales they saw off Cape 
Adare (South Victoria Land) in January, 1895, were 

Only half a century before this Ross (1843), on 
his return journey to Cape Town from the Ant- 
arctic, mentions seeing from five hundred to six 
hundred whalers fishing off Kerguelen for Right 
Whales. Most of these ships were American, and 
the bulk of them made good voyages. Such an 
enormous destruction had taken place that in 1893 
only a few small vessels prosecuted this fishery with 
doubtful success. 

The voyage of the Antarctic, however, made it 
clear that with suitable equipment a profitable fishery 
for Finners could be carried on in the Antarctic, since 



hardly a day passed without these whales being 
observed. The great development of this fishery 
followed in the twentieth century. 

The modern development of whaling through the 
instrumentality of small specially built steamers for 
the killing and capture of the whale was extra- 
ordinarily successful for a time. From its com- 
mencement in 1880 in northern Europe it made 
enormous strides. From Norway it extended to 
Iceland (1889), the Faroes (1892), and ultimately 
to the British Isles. A Norwegian company com- 
menced in the Hebrides in 1895, but it was not until 
1903 that the industry became firmly established in 
the Hebrides and Shetlands. This was a direct 
result of the prohibition of the pursuit, shooting or 
killing of whales by the Norwegian Government in 
the territorial waters of the districts of Nordland, 
Tromso, and Finmarken, or the landing of whales in 
these districts for a period of ten years from the 
ist February, 1904. This legislation was due to the 
protests of the local fishermen of those districts 
against the whalers, culminating in the " Mehavn 
Riots." The fishermen believed that the presence 
of whales was coincident with the appearance of fish 
off the coast, and they attributed the decline of the 
fishing to the great destruction of the former by the 
whalers. Whatever view be taken of the fishermen's 
complaints, there can be no doubt that this legislation 
caused the migration of the whalers to the British 

In 1903 two Norwegian companies, the " Nor- 


rona " and the " Shetland," commenced operations 
on Ronas Voe, a narrow winding inlet of the sea 
on the north-west of Mainland (Shetlands). In 
1904 two other companies set up stations in the 
Shetlands, the " Alexandra " (Norwegian) at Colla 
Firth, and the " Olna " (Danish) at Olna Firth. 
The first three had one steamer each in 1904, and 
the last named four. 

In 1904 two stations were also started in the 
Hebrides, one being Norwegian, the other a Dane. 
At first these companies worked without any restric- 
tions, but speedily complaints were heard from the 
local herring fishing interests; so that in 1904 the 
Secretary of State for Scotland appointed a Com- 
mittee of Inquiry into whaling and whale curing in 
the north of Scotland. 

The whale first sought by these Norwegians was 
the large Finner (Balcznoptera musculus) which is 
found from thirty to eighty miles from land to the 
north and north-west of the Shetlands. The next 
important species was the Sei Whale (B. borealis) 
with occasional Sperm, Blue, Bottlenose, Hump- 
back, and Northcaper Whales. (See return, 
Appendix V.) The complaints of the local fisher- 
men were of two main kinds: (i) That the harrying 
of the whales injured the herring fishing. (2) That 
the treatment of the carcasses caused a nuisance and 
danger to health. 

The latter complaint is clearly one which is capable 
of being properly controlled and, indeed, the whaling 
companies practically admitted that any serious 


nuisance was solely due to the difficulties attending 
the inauguration of the industry. At the same time 
it is obvious that any treatment of huge carcasses 
such as those of the whale is bound to be associated 
with offensive odours, and the works are only allow- 
able in remote districts as far as possible from human 
habitation. The real ground of complaint was that 
of interference with the herring fishing, an important 
industry in the Shetlands. In 1903 there were one 
hundred and fifty-seven herring curing stations in the 
Shetlands, the total herring cured amounting to 
four hundred and sixty-six thousand and forty- 
eight barrels ; employment being afforded to 
seventeen thousand four hundred and ninety-one 

The herring fishermen object to the killing of the 
whales because the spouting of the whale is often 
an indication of the presence of the shoals of herring. 
There is, however, some conflict of opinion as to 
whether the whale indicating the presence of the 
herring is of the same species as that sought by the 
whalers. The whalers state that their operations 
are carried on as a rule above thirty-five miles from 
the land, whereas the herring fishery of the Shetlands 
is in the main carried on within that distance. The 
whalers specialise in the capture of the F inner, and 
they state that it is the smaller " Herring Hog," 
worthless from their point of view, that points out 
the herring shoals to the Shetlanders. Other points 
urged by the herring fishermen were that the whales 
drive the herrings towards the shore and the nets, 


and that the whaling steamers disturb the shoals 
both with their propellers and their harpoon 

The Departmental Committee took evidence at 
several places in the Shetlands and at Peterhead. 
They also visited and inspected the Colla Firth and 
Ronas Voe whaling stations. As a result of their 
inquiries they decided that while unrestricted whaling 
might be a possible danger to the herring fishing, 
there were no valid reasons for the total prohibition 
of whaling. The latter would probably lead either 
to the establishment of floating factories or to the 
working of the Shetland grounds from the Faroes 
where the whalers would be beyond British control. 
The Committee believed that the new industry might 
prove to be beneficial, and afford a source of employ- 
ment to the inhabitants of the Shetlands. Whaling 
ought, however, to be restricted. " Unrestricted 
whaling would be an evil on other grounds than its 
possible danger to the herring fishery. It could not 
last long. The Basque and the Greenland whaling 
industries came to an end by the practical extermina- 
tion of the species pursued. With the means of 
destruction now brought to deadly perfection the 
same fate would overtake the Finners off our coasts 
in a very short time. That would be an evil in 
itself, and, while a few companies might go 
out of the business with a large profit, the local 
industry would be brought into being only to 
perish in a few years, and leave the inhabitants worse 
off than ever." It should be clearly understood that 


the capital and labour of these companies is entirely 
Norwegian. The local inhabitants are only em- 
ployed in insignificant numbers as labourers and 
unskilled workers. Even the stores are brought 
from Norway. 

The Committee made the following recommen- 
dations : 

That no person or company shall kill whales off 
the coast of Scotland or land them in Scotland with- 
out a licence from the Secretary of State for 

That the licensee shall be a British subject or a 
company registered in Great Britain. 

That a licence duty of substantial amount (that 
in Canada is five hundred pounds) be imposed and 
paid to the County Council, on which the cost of 
inspection shall be a first charge. 

That no licensee shall haye more than one 
steamer, to be registered in Great Britain, and that 
tow-boats shall be prohibited. 

That the six existing companies may obtain 
licences for three years, but liable to be withdrawn 
within that period on payment of compensation, and 
subject to these other regulations. 

That for three years no more licences be granted. 

That the licensee shall be bound to make such 
returns on any matter connected with the whaling 
business, as the Secretary of State for Scotland 
shall require. 

That the regulations shall not apply to the 
capture of the small " Ca'ing " Whale, but that 


that shall be subject to regulation by the Local 
Authority under the Public Health Acts. 

That regulations for the treatment of carcasses 
of whales in the stations or factories shall be made 
by the Local Authority with the approval of the 
Local Government Board. 

That such regulations shall include provisions 
(a) that any whale brought to the station shall be 
carried into the factory and flenched within forty- 
eight hours after the arrival of the steamer, and all 
the meat removed from the bones, and the bones 
boiled within sixty hours, (b) that no part whatever 
of the carcass, including the blood, is to be returned 
to the sea or exposed on the beach or ground except 
as regards the blood, in such quantity as the Local 
Authority may consider unavoidable and innocuous. 

That whaling shall be prohibited within the 
three mile limit of the territorial waters. 

That whaling shall be prohibited from ist 
November to the 3ist March. 

That no person shall pursue or kill a whale 
within a mile of a boat anchored or engaged in 
fishing, or half a mile of any other boat. 

That it shall be lawful for His Majesty by Order 
in Council to prohibit the capture and killing of 
whales during the summer herring fishing, within 
forty miles from land, and the landing of whales 
captured and killed within that limit for such 
period, not longer than five weeks, as he may 

That it shall be unlawful to kill whales under 


forty feet in length, or whales accompanied by a 

Many of these recommendations were embodied 
in the Whale Fisheries (Scotland) Act of 1907, 
which empowered the Scottish Fishery Board to 
exercise a general control over the industry. 

Whaling is only allowed under licence from the 
Board ; the conditions under which the industry may 
be carried on are prescribed, as are the penalties 
to be imposed for infringements of the regulations. 
The Board are also authorised to collect statistics 
of the industry. 

In 1919 the Scottish Fishery Board appointed 
another Committee to inquire into the Scottish 
Whaling Industry. This Committee reported 
early in 1920, and recommended that, having 
regard to the practically unanimous belief of the 
fishing industry, and the inhabitants of Shetland 
generally, concurred in by the fishing and curing 
interests of both Scotland and England as to the 
injurious effects of whaling operations, such 
operations from stations in Shetland should now 
be prohibited; and they further recommended that 
the Whale Fisheries (Scotland) Act of 1907 should 
be amended, so as to exclude whaling from 

In 1920 there were three whaling stations at work 
in Scotland, at Bunaveneadar in the Island of 
Harris, at Olna Firth and Colla Firth in the 
Shetlands. There was one whaling station in 
Ireland, at Elly Harbour in County Mayo. All 


are under Norwegian management. The whaling 
stations at Bunaveneadar and Elly Harbour cannot 
possibly be injurious to the herring fisheries. 










Blue (B. sibbaldi) .. 








Finner (B. musculus) 








Sei (B. borealis) 







(Megaptera boops) . . 



Right (Balaena 



Sperm (Physeter 















1 Only one company was engaged in whaling in 1914. There was no 
whaling in Irish waters in the period 1915.19. 

A similar Whale Fisheries Act was passed for 
Ireland in 1908. It gave the Department of 
Agriculture and Technical Instruction power to 
issue licences for the establishment of whaling 
stations in suitable places, and to impose restrictions 
for the better control of the industry. The same 
year a licence was issued to the Arranmore Whaling 
Company to establish a factory in the Inishkea 


Islands. This Company had been at work prior to 
the passing of the Act, and its operations during 
1908 resulted in the capture and treatment of 
seventy-six whales of five species. This work gave 
considerable employment to the islanders. A 
licence was also issued to the Blacksod Whaling 
Company for a station to be erected at Ardelly 
Point, County Mayo. 

The results of the operations of these two 
companies are given in the above table. 

In 1904 there were six Norwegian whaling 
stations at the Faroes with ten whaling steamers. 
The station at Lojpra on Sudero was the most 
successful, its whaling grounds being ten to fifteen 
miles to the southward towards the Shetlands, 
where, indeed, whalers from the Shetlands were 
encountered. The best month for whaling is 

This year at least two Norwegian companies 
fished in Spitsbergen waters, one taking eighty-two 
whales, and the other forty-five whales, in each 
case mostly Blue Whales (B. sibbaldi). The 
whaling commenced in the middle of June, and 
lasted till the 25th August. Several companies 
worked off Bear Island, one steamer capturing 
seventy whales, of which fifty were Blue Whales. 

Newfoundland whaling companies at the time 
were hayjng small whaling steamers built in 
Norway, of length ninety-six feet and beam 
seventeen feet. The crew, consisting of ten men, 
were Norwegians. These steamers captured 


whales off the Newfoundland coast, towing them 
ashore, where the preparation of the products took 
place. It was in 1904 that the Norwegians com- 
menced their operations in South Polar Seas, a 
company being formed at Buenos Ayres to establish 
a station on South Georgia. A whaling steamer 
of considerably larger size than usual (one hundred 
and five by twenty by thirteen feet deep) was 
built in Norway for the South Polar whaling. 
This was necessary on account of the longer 
distance to be covered. The steamer could carry 
one hundred tons of bunker coal, and was capable 
of towing six Blue Whales. There were also two 
vessels (a barque and schooner) to transport pro- 
visions and other material from Buenos Ayres to 
South Georgia and carry oil back. The personnel 
was entirely Norwegian, but the capital Argentine. 

This year the Scottish whaling fleet from Dundee 
consisted of seven vessels, which fished in Hudson 
Bay and Davis Strait. They captured eleven 
Greenland Whales (Black Whales) with one 
thousand one hundred and fifty barrels of train 
oil and twelve thousand five hundred pounds of 
whalebone, as well as one hundred and sixty-eight 
White Whales, one thousand one hundred and 
thirty-five seals, one hundred and nine polar bears, 
two hundred and eleven foxes, and thirty musk-ox. 

In 1904-5 the first Norwegian wintering expedi- 
tions to Spitsbergen took place. These expeditions 
were for general hunting and fishing purposes, and 
were not confined to whaling. 


One expedition captured twenty polar bears, 
one hundred and five foxes (of which forty-seven 
were blue fox), nine hundred pounds of bird-down, 
one hundred and thirty reindeer, and sixty-five ton 
of blubber. This vessel filled up with whale 
skeletons, which the whaler had abandoned the 
previous summer as worthless. A second wintering 
exgedition in Storfiord captured sixty-eight polar 
bears, twenty-three foxes (of which twelve were 
blue fox), one hundred reindeer, twenty-five seals 
(Phoca barbatd), one walrus, three hundred skins, 
and four hundred and fifty kilograms of bird- 

In 1905 the whaling at Iceland was excellent; 
in Spitsbergen the whalers took from eighty-three 
to one hundred and twenty-three whales, the latter 
number including eighty-six Blue Whales, and 
yielding four thousand seven hundred and eighty- 
two barrels of blubber. 

The total catch of whales by the Norwegians in 
Spitsbergen in 1905 was five hundred and fifty- 
three. The number of steamers at work was fifteen, 
and the barrels of oil produced were seventeen 
thousand four hundred and sixty, all of first quality. 

The total Norwegian catch at Spitsbergen, 
Iceland, the Faroes, and the Shetlands amounted 
to two thousand five hundred and ten whales, and 
seventy-three thousand three hundred and twenty 
barrels of oil. 

The whaling station started in the previous year 
in South Georgia was extraordinarily successful, 


one hundred whales being captured up to June, 
1905 (six months' fishing), comprising Finners, 
Blue, and Humpbacked Whales. This company, 
the " Sociedad Argentina de Pesca " was managed 
by a Norwegian whaling captain, Larsen. 

Prior to 1906 the Norwegians had gone in 
extensively for whaling off the Japanese and 
Korean coast, but in that year the Japanese 
Government forbade foreigners to whale in 
Japanese waters. Whaling is only permitted to 
Japanese companies flying the national flag. At 
this time, off the Japanese coast near Sendai, the 
Spermaceti Whale was still captured. 

In 1906 the British Government issued an order \, ' 
regulating the whale fisheries of the Falkland 
Islands and neighbouring waters. A permit or 
licence to fish had to be obtained at a cost of 
twenty-five pounds. There was a royalty on each 
whale caught at the following rates: Right Whale 
ten pounds; Sperm Whale ten shillings; other 
whale five shillings. The Ordinance was repealed 
and the whale industry is now regulated by 
Ordinance 5 of 1908 and amending Ordinances. 
A licence fee is payable, but no new licences are 
granted, other than renewals of annual licences 
already issued. The killing or shooting of any 
whale calf, or any female whale, which is accom- 
panied by a calf, is prohibited. 

In 1910 whaling was successful at all the 
customary stations, viz., the Shetlands, the 
Hebrides, the west coast of Ireland, the Faroes, 


Spitsbergen, Iceland, South Georgia, South 
Shetlands, the Falkland Islands, Kerguelen, the 
Chile coast, South and West Africa. As this was 
one of the most successful years for the Norwegian 
whalers, leading to an enormous development and 
expansion in the next two years, a short resume is 

Seven companies were at work in the British Isles, 
and these, with sixteen steamers, killed sqven 
hundred and twenty-four whales, yielding twenty 
thousand eight hundred and sixty casks of whale oil. 
The average yield per steamer was one thousand 
three hundred casks of oil, compared with one 
thousand seven hundred and fifty in 1909, one 
thousand three hundred and eighty-three in 1908, 
one thousand five hundred and seven in 1907, one 
thousand three hundred and eighty-eight in 1906, 
one thousand four hundred and thirty in 1905, and 
one thousand four hundred and seventy-seven casks 
in 1904. In addition to this there was manure and 
cattle food. Of the rarer whales, eight Sperm 
Whales and seventeen Nordcapers were killed. 

At the Faroes there were six companies engaged 
with fourteen steamers, yielding ten thousand one 
hundred and fifty casks of oil, the number of whales 
is not given. The average per steamer was seven 
hundred and twenty-five casks against eight hundred 
and fifteen in 1909, seven hundred and three in 1908, 
one thousand in 1907, eight hundred in 1906, one 
thousand two hundred and forty-seven in 1905, and 
one thousand and eighty-eight in 1904. In 1909 


the Sei Whale formed eighty per cent of the total, 
whereas in 1910 these whales were relatively fewer. 
In 1909 the Common Finner (Balcend'ptera mus- 
culus) was relatively scarce, whereas in 1910 it 
formed over sixty per cent of the total whales 
captured. Four Sperm Whales and two Nordcapers 
were killed in 1910 at the Faroes. In Iceland six 
companies worked with thirty-two steamers, killing 
six hundred and forty-nine whales, which yielded 
twenty-two thousand six hundred casks of oil. 
Four of the companies had factories for the manu- 
facture of guano. Four of the companies had their 
stations on the east side of the island, and only two 
on the west side. The average yield of oil per 
steamer was seven hundred and fifty casks, compared 
with one thousand and sixty in 1909, nine hundred 
and seventy in 1908, one thousand three hundred and 
seventy in 1907, eight hundred and sixty-four in 
1906, and one thousand five hundred and forty-five 
in 1905. The whales were chiefly Finners, but 
several Blue Whales and Humpbacks were captured. 
At Spitsbergen there were two Norwegian whaling 
companies at work in 1910 with six steamers, killing 
one hundred and sixty-five whales, yielding five 
thousand four hundred casks of oil. One of the 
companies had a shore station in Green Harbour in 
Icefiord, the other company working a floating 
factory. The average yield of oil per steamer was 
nine hundred casks, compared with seven hundred 
and sixteen in 1909, four hundred in 1908, six 
hundred and nineteen in 1907, seven hundred and 


five in 1906, and one thousand and sixty-six in 1905. 
The floating factory had only twenty-seven casks of 
oil per whale, whereas the shore station produced 
thirty-six casks per whale. The ice conditions in 
1910 were fairly good. Most of the whales captured 
were Blue Whales, but four Bottlenose were among 
the slain. 

The total yield in northern waters in 1910 was 
about fifty-eight thousand five hundred casks of oil, 
and about sixty thousand sacks of guano and cattle 

In southern waters there was a marked increase of 
whaling. In South Georgia six companies worked 
with fourteen steamers, yielding one hundred and 
three thousand casks of oil; two of the companies 
also producing guano. 

One of the shore stations erected here was the 
largest hitherto known. Over four thousand whales 
were killed, mostly Humpbacks, the average yield 
per whale being twenty-six casks of oil. 

At the South Shetlands there were three 
Norwegian companies at work in 1910, with eight 
steamers, killing one thousand five hundred and 
sixty-one whales yielding thirty-two thousand five 
hundred casks of oil. In addition, there was another 
company worked by Norwegians with Chilian 
capital, employing three steamers, killing four 
hundred whales and yielding eight thousand casks of 
oil. The majority of whales killed here were also 
Humpbacks, but one hundred and fifty Blue and 
three hundred Finners were among the slain. The 


greatest catch was made on the coast of Graham's 
Land, from whence the whales were towed to 
Deception Island. 

On the Chilian coast there was one Norwegian 
company working with a shore station at Corral i 
Valdivia. With two steamers they got seven 
thousand casks of oil and about three thousand sacks 
of guano. The whales killed were principally Blues 
and Humpbacks; Sei Whales were also seen, but 
not hunted. A second company had a station south 
of San Pedro, and a third (Chilian) company worked 
from Puntas Arenas. This last company obtained 
four thousand casks of oil, killing amongst others 
twenty Right Whales. 

At Kerguelen one Norwegian company was at 
work with a fixed station, hunting sea-elephants as 
well as whales. Only eight-two whales were killed, 
which yielded two thousand eight hundred casks of 
oil, two steamers being engaged in the slaughter. A 
floating factory, employing one whaling steamer, 
utilised the carcasses of forty-one whales yielding 
one thousand casks of oil. In South Africa a 
company established stations at Durban and Saldana, 
at which twenty thousand five hundred casks of oil 
and large quantities of guano were prepared. Other 
stations were established in Portuguese West 
Africa; a summary of the Norwegian stations and 
the dates of founding is given in Appendix VII. 

A company at work in Newfoundland in 1909 
employed seven steamers, killing five hundred and 
eighteen whales (including eighty Blue Whales). 


The Dundee Right Whaling Fleet is now reduced 
to three vessels, which killed respectively five, three, 
and seven Right Whales, returning with six thousand 
five hundred, two thousand five hundred, and 
fourteen thousand pounds of whalebone. 

In 1910 the Norwegian Bottlenose Fleet consisted 
of forty-two vessels, of which six ships from Tons- 
berg killed one hundred and fifty-six whales, i.e., 
twenty-six each; twenty from Sandefjord killed six 
hundred and fifty-seven whales or thirty-three each ; 
thirteen from Aalesund killed three hundred and 
forty-nine whales or twenty-seven each, and three 
vessels from Stadten which accounted for forty-two 
whales. Most of these whales were killed at Spits- 
bergen. In 1909 there were thirty-eight ships, which 
killed one thousand three hundred and seventy-eight 
Bottlenose Whales. 

The price realised for whaling products in 1910 
was excellent. Most of the whale oil made in Japan 
and Newfoundland was sold to the United States. 
The world's production of whale oil can be estimated 
at three hundred thousand casks in 1910. Of this 
quantity about seventy thousand casks (barrels) was 
disposed of in Christiania, one hundred thousand 
casks or barrels were sold in Germany, Holland, and 
Belgium, and a similar quantity in Glasgow. The 
average price for quick delivery was forty-four ore 
(about sixpence) per kilogram. Most of the oil of 
the following season was sold in advance at 
Glasgow at twenty-two pounds ten shillings per ton. 

By 1911 it was estimated that over twenty 


thousand whales were being slaughtered annually. 
It is unnecessary to give detailed statistics each year, 
those just given for 1910 give a fair idea of the 
position at the end of the first decade of the twentieth 
century. 1 

At the end of the first decade of the twentieth 
century the whaling industry had practically passed 
entirely into Norwegian hands. 2 Prior to the out- 
break of the great war (1914-8) this fishery had 
attained extraordinary dimensions. 

The prohibition of whaling off the Norwegian 
districts of Nordland, Tromso, and Finmark by the 
law of the 7th January, 1904, led to a great dispersal 
of Norwegian whaling interests. This is seen to be 
particularly noticeable in the southern hemisphere 
from the following statistical table: 


Northern Southern 

hemisphere. hemisphere. 

igo6 47,200 barrels 4,200 barrels 

1907 57,750 7,5oo 

iQo8 69,000 21,000 

iQog 57,ooo 7!7oo 

igio 45,500 137,600 

igii 38,000 306,000 

At the commencement of 1912 there were sixty 
Norwegian companies at work, mostly with their 
headquarters on the south coast of Norway at 

1 For detailed statistics for igii, see C. Rabot, " La Nature," 
igi2. Translated into English in the Smithsonian Institution 
Re-port for 1913 (1914)- 

2 Hval-fangsten i. 1912. Sigurd Risting, Bergen, 1913. 


Sandefjord, Larvik, and Tonsberg, though some 
hailed from Christiania. Two firms were established 
in the United States of North America and one in 
Chile. The companies possessed in the aggregate 
one hundred and fifty-seven whaling steamers of the 
general type described (see p. 264) with eleven 
transport vessels and thirty-seven floating factories, 
thirty land stations, nine guano works with thirteen 
factories for the preparation of canned whale meat 
and cattle food products. 

The capital of these concerns differs considerably. 
That of the smallest was nominally one hundred and 
twenty thousand kronen (about six thousand seven 
hundred and fifty pounds), the largest two million 
kronen (one hundred and twelve thousand five 
hundred pounds). The dividends varied greatly, 
but that of one company established on the South 
Georgian coast was one hundred per cent. 1 

The chief whaling areas are in the northern 
hemisphere, Alaska, the Shetlands, Ireland, 
Iceland, the Faroes, the Hebrides, Spitsbergen; 
in the southern hemisphere, 2 the Australian coasts, 
Chile, South-east Africa, West Africa (Elephant 
Bay), East Africa (Mozambique), the South 
Shetlands, South Orkneys, South Georgia, the 
Sandwich Isles and Kerguelen. 

Concessions are obtained for lengthy periods, 

1 See Emil Diesen, " Tabellarisk Oversight over de vigtig-ste 
norske hvalfang-erselskaper," Feb. ,^1912. (I kommission hos 
Grondahl u Son, Christiania.) 

8 T. E. Salvesen, " The Whale Fisheries of the Falkland 
Islands and Dependencies," Scottish National Antarctic Ex- 
pedition, Edinburgh, 1914, PP- 479-86, with 4 plates. 


mostly for fifty years. Prior to the outbreak of 
war the general opinion in whaling circles was that 
future prospects were good, although, since the 
industry is highly speculative, there is no certainty 
about it. In many districts, especially in the 
extreme south, success is dependent to some extent 
on the weather, which in the Antarctic is extra- 
ordinarily inclement. 

A considerable fall in the price of whale oil 
owing to increased production was at the time not 
improbable. This price also depends to some 
extent on what other oils are on the market, such 
as cotton seed oil, linseed oil and others. In 
1911-2 whale oil had declined in a comparatively 
short time from twenty-four pounds to eighteen 
pounds per ton. 

The table (Appendix VII.) shows the position 
of the Norwegian whaling companies in 1912, 
following the boom year in 1911. 

Generally speaking, one ton of whale oil fills 
six barrels. The species of whale yield oil at the 
following rate : Blue Whale (Balcenofotera sib- 
baldi} fifty to sixty barrels; the Greenland Whale 
sixty to seventy barrels; the Finner (Balcenoftera 
musculus) thirty-five to forty; the Humpback 
(Megaptera) twenty-five to thirty-five; and the Sei 
Whale (Balceno'ptera borealis) five to ten barrels. 
All these, it will be noted, are whalebone whales. 
One ton of whalebone would be worth from thirty- 
nine to forty-five pounds. 

Recently the Norwegian whaling interests have 


formed a combine " Den norske Hvalfanger- 
lorening " under the direction of members from 
Christiania, Tonsberg, Sandefjord, Laryik and 
Haugesurid. Just before the war broke out, this 
combine was seeking to get in touch with other 
whaling companies and associations. Their main 
object was to control the selling price of the articles 
produced by the whaling companies. 

Quite recently State control of whaling has been 
Hr- inaugurated in those countries, the coastal waters 
of which have been the resort of whalers. In Natal 
the operations of whalers have of late been particu- 
larly numerous. Commencing with the South 
African Whaling Company of Sandefjord in 1908, 
which paid a dividend of twenty-five per cent after 
its first year's operations, a second Norwegian 
Company the Union Fishing and Whaling 
Company was founded in 1910. This company 
was even more prosperous, paying a dividend of 
fifty per cent after its first year's work. 

The exports of whaling products from Natal 
were : 

In 1909, 27,414 pounds whalebone, value 325, to England. 

171,693 pounds whale oil, value ,11,184. 
In 1910, 10,000 barrels and 1,600 tons oil. 

700 tons fertiliser, and 1,600 tons whale meat for 

preparation of the same. 
37 tons whalebone. 

For the whole of British South Africa, 1910: 

879,852 pounds oil worth 61,403 

Whalebone ,.. j, .*- 1,840 

Fatty Acids ... . 18,708 

Miscellaneous ... ... ... ... ... 1,446 


In 1911 a local company African Whales, Ltd. 
was founded, in Park Rynie between Durban 
and Port Shepstone, and proposals were afoot for 
the formation of another company the Durban 
Whaling Company, Ltd. at Durban. Early in 
1912 there were four whaling companies in Durban, 
with fifteen whaling steamers. The chief species 
of whales off the Natal coast are the Humpback 
(Megaptera doops), the Western Right Whale 
(Bal&na australis), the Blue Whale, the Rorqual 
or Sei Whale and the Sperm Whale. Of these the 
Humpback is the commonest, the other four being 
much scarcer. 

The yield of the Natal whalers was : 

1908 106 whales (including 104 Humpbacks). 

1909 155 149 

1910 3d8 whales. 

Up to this time whaling had been carried on near 
the coast where the whales are found in the winter 
months, from the middle of June to the middle of 
November, and in the first two years with two, and 
in 1910 with four steamers. In summer the whales 
forsake the coast and seek colder waters. It is 
reported that they are now getting more and more 
shy and difficult to approach. There is a distinct 
tendency on the part of the whales to abandon the 
coast altogether, so that floating factories are 
coming more into favour. 

Whaling in Natal was in 1912 subject to a 
licence fee of fifty pounds per annum, this super- 
seding the older tax of five pounds per whale 


caught. There is no close time for whaling. Up 
to 1912 there was no evidence of any falling off in 
the numbers of the most numerous species, the 
Humpback. There is some reason to believe that 
the local Government is not prepared to grant 
further concessions for whaling off the Natal coast. 

The Portuguese colonies regulated whaling in 
the Mozambique waters by a decree dated 27th 
May, 1911, amended on 3ist August, the same year. 
Up to that time the Government had granted seven 
whaling licences for the Mozambique coast-line of 
nine hundred miles. 

Of these only one was at work, a Norwegian 
company at Linga-linga in the district of Inham- 
bane ; this company in its first year killed two 
hundred and sixty-four whales, which were prepared 
at a floating station. 

A station at Angoche, after obtaining eight 
thousand pounds worth of oil, removed to Mokambo 
Bay on account of the lack of harbour facilities at 
the former place. The New Transvaal Chemical 
Company were about to start on an island off 
Lorenzo Marques. The other four licences had 
not been utilised up to the commencement of 1912. 

Since the whaling industry in the Dependencies 
of the Falkland Islands (i.e., South Georgia, the 
South Shetlands, and the South Orkneys, being the 
principal centres) is now one of the most important 
of those yet remaining, a brief resume of the 
conditions obtaining there is appended. 

This whaling field has of recent years been more 


productive than all the others in the world put 
together, and its regulation is therefore a matter of 
considerable importance. 

Reference has already been made to the first 
attempts at whaling in the Antarctic and to the first 
company which worked at South Georgia in 1904. 
The first whaling, in a modern sense, at the South 
Shetlands, was in the season 1905-6. From 1909 
to 1911 seven other leases were granted at South 
Georgia. In both these localities whaling was 
extraordinarily successful. By 1912-3 the number 
of whale catchers in South Georgia had increased to 
twenty-one, and in the South Shetlands to thirty- 
two, to which totals the whalers were restricted by 
the Government. 

The following table gives the return of whales 
captured at the Falkland Island Dependencies for 
the nine last seasons for which the statistics are 
available : 


Right. Sperm. Blue. Fin. Humpback. Sei. Bottlenose. 


























I9I3-I4 1 


































1 Statistics incomplete. 715 whales not accounted for in 
detailed statistics. 


During the war whale oil became of importance 
as a source of glycerine, so Government restrictions 
were relaxed and the number of whale catchers 
allowed at South Georgia was temporarily increased 
to thirty-two. Floating factories were, however, 
diverted to war services elsewhere, and the number 
of whale catchers at the South Shetlands fell off. 
The whaling fleet suffered severe losses from 
German submarines. 

As will be seen from the above table, the great 
majority of whales killed are Blue, Fin, and Hump- 
back Whales. There has been a great decline in 
the number of Humpbacks, and it would not be 
detrimental to the industry if the slaughter of this 
species were prevented for a number of years. 
Experienced whalers can readily distinguish the 
different species of whales, the Humpback, for 
instance, being recognised by its spouting a very 
short and broad jet of vapour. 

It is doubtful how soon the ceaseless hunting of 
the other Rorquals will lead to a serious diminution 
in their numbers, but judging from the results in 
other localities the time cannot be far distant when 
other restrictions will have to be enforced if the 
industry is to survive in this region, one of the last 
haunts of the whale. 

The practice of granting annual licences is 
unquestionably correct, since it would be unwise for 
the Government to tie itself down to granting 
privileges for a term of years, by which time the 
industry might become moribund. At South 


Georgia the Humpbacks were not to be hunted 
during the whaling season of 1918-9, and though 
the F inner and the Blue Whale do not yet require 
such protection, the statistics need careful study so 
that Government action may be taken before it is 
too late. 

A close season would also appear to be desirable. 
From the detailed statistics it is seen that the 
whaling seasons slackens off considerably during 
the Antarctic winter, and no hardship would be 
involved if the period from the i5th May to the 3Oth 
September were declared a close season. That the 
dangers to the continued existence of the whale and 
ipso facto of the whaling industry are not imaginary 
a reference to the first chapter of this book will 

The policy of the Government of the Falkland 
Island Dependencies is also directed to the preven- 
tion of unnecessary waste, since the uneconomical 
use of material may involve the slaughter of three 
whales where two would have sufficed to obtain the 
same results. An extreme instance of the reckless 
exploitation of a valuable natural asset is given 
above in the description of the practice of the 
American whalers off the Arctic coasts of America. 

Evidence is forthcoming that the economy effected 
is in inverse proportion to the number of whales 

In seasons when whales are plentiful, the average 
number of barrels of oil per whale of a given species 
is conspicuously lower than in seasons when the 


whales are less abundant. Floating factories are 
less efficient in working up the products of the whale 
than the shore stations, and consequently it is 
desirable to restrict the use of floating factories as 
far as possible. The fee for a whaling licence is 
one hundred pounds ; for a floating factory not less 
than one hundred pounds, or more than two hundred 

In 1921, owing to the great fall in the price of 
whale oil, none of the Norwegian whaling companies 
associated to the whaling combine (Den Norske 
Hvalfangerforening) commenced operations at Ice- 
land, the Faroes or the British Isles. One company, 
Messrs H. M. Wrangell & Company, of Hauge- 
sund, worked at the Faroes; this firm was not 
a member of the combine. I am indebted to the 
courtesy of Messrs Wrangell and their manager, 
Captain J. Ellingsen, for a visit to this station at 
Thorsvig in 1921. This year about ninety-seven 
per cent of the catch were common finners, the 
remainder being Blue Whales. Only one Nord- 
caper had been taken up to the end of July, The 
Sei Whale was not hunted owing to the abundance 
of the larger and more valuable species. 

A Spanish company, the Compania Ballerena 
Espanola, opened a station early in 1921 near 
Algeciras, early reports from this station recorded 
abundance of whales. 








PERIODS), 1670-1794. 








(Patent Rolls, 19 Elie., pt. xii.) 

ELIZABETH by the Grace of God, etc., To all 
manner our officers true liege men ministers and 
subjects, and to all other our people as well within 
this realm as elsewhere under our obeisance juris- 
diction and rule or otherwise, to whom these our 
Letters Patents shall be seen read or shewn. 

We being given to understand by our faithful and 
loving subjects Sir Rowland Heyward and Sir 
Lionel Duckett, Knights, Governors of the Fellow- 
ship of English Merchants for Discovery of New 
Trades, that the said Fellowship do mind shortly to 
attempt the killing of whales in the ocean and other 
seas, for to make train oil to the great commodity 
and benefit of this our Realm of England, And for 
that purpose have already to their great costs and 
charges procured certain Biscayans men expert and 
skilful to instruct our subjects therein. We well 
liking and allowing of this their attempt and enter- 
prise as a thing likely to be very beneficial both for 
the increase of our Navy and mariners and also for 
furnishing of this our said Realm and Dominions 



with so necessary a commodity, of our certain 
knowledge free will mere motion special grace and 
of our regal authority for Us our heirs and successors 
by these presents do grant to the Governor or 
Governors Consuls Assistants and Fellowship afore- 
said and their successors for ever That they the 
said Governors and their successors, by their factors 
servants ministers deputies and assigns and none 
other shall and may from henceforth for the space 
of twenty years next ensuing the date hereof use 
and exercise the killing of whales within any seas 
whatsoever, and thereof to make train oil to their 
most commodity and profit ; And further for Us our 
heirs and successors, We do expressly enjoin 
prohibit forbid and command all and singular person 
and persons whatsoever as well denizens as strangers 
and all other persons being in any wise subjects to 
the Crown of England, being not of the said Society 
or Fellowship, that they nor any of them shall kill 
any whale to make train oil thereof, or shall hire or 
set on work or cause or procure to be hired or set on 
work directly or indirectly any person or persons to 
kill any whale or make any oil thereof Upon pain 
that all and every person or persons whatsoever 
doing the contrary shall suffer imprisonment during 
the will and pleasure of Us our heirs or successors 
and not to be discharged thereof without special 
warrant from Us our heirs or successors And also 
to forfeit and pay to Us our heirs or successors the 
sum of Five pounds of lawful money of England for 
every ton of oil so made, one half to be to the use 


of Us our Heirs or successors the other half to the 
use of the said Fellowship and their successors. 
And to the intent this present grant may the better 
effect to the encouragement of the said Fellowship 
in this their enterprise and attempt our further will 
and pleasure is and We straitly charge and command 
all our Customs officers Comptrollers and other our 
ministers of our ports that they nor any of them in 
any wise during the said term of twenty years do 
take any entry or make any composition of or for 
any oil commonly called train oil which shall be 
made of any whale that shall be killed or caused to 
be killed by any Englishman or other person 
inhabiting within this our Realm and brought into 
this our Realm of others than the said Fellowship of 
English Merchants for the Discovery of New 
Trades or their successors factors or assigns upon 
pain of our high displeasure. Provided always that 
if the said Fellowship (etc.) by the space of four 
years in time of peace shall discontinue or surcease 
the killing of whales and making of train oil as is 
aforesaid that then it shall be lawful to and for 
every other of our subjects whatsoever to enterprise 
and attempt the killing of whales and making of 
train oil where they might lawfully have done it 
afore this our special grant or license Anything in 
this our special grant to the said Fellowship made to 
the contrary notwithstanding. 

In witness whereof, etc., witness ourself at 
Westminster the XII day of February, per breue de 
private sigillo. 






(England only. The " British " or " Greenland " Fishery.) 


Rate of 

No. of 





20/- per ton 





30/- ,, 




)3o/- per ton dur- 
ing war with 



4<>/- .. . 





4<>/- .. . 






4<>/- .. . 





30/- ,, ,, 





4/- . . 





3/- ,. .. 



\ No information. 



25/- .. 



destroyed in 

Custom House 


20/- ,, 



J Fire. 


No documents 


20/- ,, 




NOTE. The number of ships and tonnage (1733-84) are from a return 
issued by the Custom House, London, of ships fitted out from Great 
Britain for the Greenland Whale Fishery. The places from which the 
ships were fitted out are in all cases given and the table clearly refers 
to ENGLAND ONLY. Moreover, there is a separate return for 
Scotland. The amount of bounty is from a separate table and refers 
to the British Whale Fishery (1734-82). There is an additional table 
showing the amount of bounty (all monies) paid in England for the 
British Whale Fishery for 1783 and also for the Southern Whale 
Fishery from 1777 to 1784. For 1789 and subsequent years the 
statistics are taken from McCulloch " Dictionary of Commerce and 
Commercial Navigation," London, 1832. 











H- 1 











00 O M 

CO yj 
N *> 



> o A 

J 1 8 

W ro fO 

1 & 






<3H w 






"^ O^ CO 

S^co % >o 

1 1 






t? ^ co 

CO -* 


a o 


2> 6 

P r*" p 


s 1 

4) ? 

Cu o S 


fO M 

> c 


(0 B 




CO t- N 
M t>. VO 

O\ O 
*S V? 

.;; .3 


^ C/D 

2 l ~ l 



.rtep to 



^ it J 


C ^ * 

^f 00 

O ^""* f>4 



E H 

O t-t 

b in K 

M -5- VO 
C? % 



t> 8 

1 21 5 


"C Si *M 


u rf 


en !L 

.5 oo o 

*" ^* 

"S -2 

c N b\ 


o co >o 


M t> O 
W 1 CO M 

S * 


oS ^H 

CO C^ M 

o in M 

S * 

s ^ 


it 1 

^ ( 

0, vo 

CQ o co 






p p 



cb irj vb 

CO C4 


C/) * 




VO ^- O 

^- If) 


51 i? 



w rt 



fO\ N 







03 CO 

00 OO 






O 1-1 N 

00 00 00 
M M M 

W co 

oo oo 

M M 





sailed to 


sailed to 






f War stopped whaling 
(in 1672-74. 







f War stopped whaling 
(in 1691. 

















I739-I74 8 


I0 4 lJ 























f War stopped whaling 
(in 1781-2. 






Six years only. 

NOTE. The years 1709 and 1719 are included twice over in the 
above table. 

The statistics from 1670 to 1719 are from Zorgdrager " Bloyende 
Opkomst der aloude en hedendaagsche Groenlandsche Visschery " ; 
1719 to 1738 from Brandligt ' Geschiedkundige Beschouwing van 
de Walvisch-visscherij " from 1737 to 1750 from the " Europische 
Mercuur," the remainder from the " Nederlandsche Jaarboeken." 




















" " 


















M M 













M 1 







M | 







1 * 





































O N 








* " 































1 2 









1 1 










Balaeoptera mus 

Iseoptera borealis 


ose, Hyperoodon 

lalseoptera sibbal 

per, Balsena biscz 
>ack, Megaptera 







ca ^J 

'S S 






1 S 




^ W 

X! ffi 

LJ C/) 

^ i 

Q fa 

w w 

P.. < 

<: a 





o m M o M M N 
O ro -* o O M M 




3 ,gp 


* o *> t^ oo o\ * 

00 t*> VO <<- ro N HI 


! s 


g : 

H n o> oo m M rt- 
^- ^- m ^- T}- rj- vo 






O\O\O OO> 
O O M M n ro ' 






oo^oo^o o*oo ^iS 






r^* ro t^ I st * 01 ^* O 


L-4 Q 

<** co ^*- <* ^- -^- to 




M M M M M CO ff) 















M H 

g O 















1 1 














1 1 









1 1 







1 1 















1 1 


































1 2 












' 1 










1 I 








Z 8 

M O 



















00* 8^ 










o o 

M O 




















^ H 





Manure . . 


Salted meat 







No. of 

Value of Oil 
and Bone. 



4O/- per ton 




30/- ,, 












25/- ., 




20/- ,, ,, 












No Bounty 










1 Munroe. Journal of the Statistical Society, London, March 1854, p. 34. 

The years have been grouped to afford comparison with the pre- 
ceding table of the whaling statistics for England under the bounty 
system (App. No. 2). It will be seen that the Hull Whaling Trade 
fluctuated considerably and apparently independently of the bounty 
system. It was in 1834 that the great decline set in. The number of 
vessels decreased from 27 in 1833 to 8 in 1834. The annual averages 
of values of oil and bone are based on estimates made by Munroe and 
are of doubtful reliability. 




Name of Company. 
















Larvik . . 

in go's 





Emma .. 



























Hekla .. 







Talkna .. 





Victor .. 











Arctic . . 


Larvik . . 











Kastor .. 





South Atlantic 




South-east dp 
East Africa . 

Viking .. 
South Africa . . 
Mossel Bay . . 








Mozambique . . 


















l^erguelen .. 











New Zealand . . 

Larvik . . 




West Australia 




Tasmania . . . % 













South Pacific . . 






N. America (east) 







do. (west) 

Alaska .. 









United States . . 




S. America (east) 







do. (west) 

Corral .. 

Bergen . . 




Pacific .. 





South Georgia 

Soc. Ballenera^ 
Bryde andDahls 













Ocean .. 

Larvik .. 










South Sbetlands 



















Norge .. 






Odd .. 





South Orkneys 












Brazil, S. Georgia 
Tasmania, S. Shetland 

Vik .. 





E. Africa, S. Seas. . 





Okhotsk, S. America. Kosmos 





MOST of the important works published dealing with 
the whale fisheries are included in the following list, 
which is, however, by no means complete, since 
references to periodical literature are for the most 
part omitted. For the benefit of serious students 
of the subject the following notes are given. 

In the first place, the earliest organised whale 
fishery that of the Basques has not yet been 
properly investigated. Research at the Bibliotheque 
Nationale at Paris or in the Archives of the Ministry 
of Marine at Madrid would probably yield further 
material for a proper appreciation of this trade in 
relation to the maritime affairs of Northern Spain and 
the Biscayan provinces of France during the time 
when the Basque whale fishery flourished. 

The connection of the oil trade of French towns 
such as Bayonne with such English ports as Bristol, 
which were early engaged in the soap trade and for 
which whale oil was almost certainly used, has also 
not yet been suitably investigated. Possibly some 
of the older Bristol Archives or the books of the 
older trading companies such as the Society of 
Merchant Adventurers of Bristol would repay 
perusal. So far as is known at present there is one 



solitary record of a Bristol voyage to the whale 
fishery of Newfoundland (1594) except for a 
spasmodic effort on the part of Bristol in response to 
the Bounty Act of 1 749. 

Yet it is almost certain that Bristol, with its ancient 
connection with the soap trade and its former 
maritime supremacy, must have been closely con- 
nected either with the whale fishery or its products. 
The author has seen in the church of St Mary 
Redcliffe at Bristol the " Rib of a whale from 
Newfoundland "* which, according to the legend 
current in the city, was the rib of a cow which 
supplied the whole of the city with milk. 

No connected account of the first British whale 
fishery, that at " Greenland " (Spitsbergen), has yet 
been written which can be compared with the corres- 
ponding works of Miiller (Dutch) or Brinner 
(German), and the second British venture in these 
waters, that of the South Sea Company in 1724, is 
still only accessible in manuscript form (in the British 

There is slight evidence that prior to the supposed 
first British whale fishery at Spitsbergen, English 
ships took part in whaling voyages to Norway or 
Newfoundland. Diligent search may yet reveal 
evidence of these voyages. Apart from the records 
of actual whaling voyages, evidence of the train oil 
and whalebone trade is to be sought in the Port 
Books, a manuscript catalogue of which is to be 

1 Figured in Traill and Mann, " Social England," Vol. ii., 
P. 673- 


found in the Literary Search Room at the Record 
Office, London. The earlier Port Books (from 
1275) will be found in the class of Exchequer, K-R, 
Customs Accounts. The later Port Books, from 
1565, are contained in one thousand four hundred 
and sixty-four bundles which are indexed under the 
port names. 

A careful search of these MSS. would doubt- 
less give evidence of an early trade in whale- 
bone and trayne oil, e.g., there was a discharge of a 
cargo including trayne oil by a ship of Holland at 
Kingston-on-Hull in December, 1608, to one James 
Scotus; on 22nd March, 1631, Richard Parkins 
& Company, import two hundredweights of whale 
fins (this man was afterwards prosecuted by 
the Muscovy Company); on 5th September, 1633, 
in the May e flower of Hull, Richard Parkins, junior, 
from Greenland for the Company, one hundred and 
twenty-two tons and a halfe of whaile oil, value three 
thousand six hundred and fifteen pounds. 

Another source of information is the Calendar of 
State Papers. The student will find numerous 
references indexed under such headings as: " Fish," 
" Fisheries," " Iceland," " Newfoundland," " Green- 
land," and so on. 

Another aspect of the case which merits careful 
consideration is the history of the relations between 
the authorised Trading Companies (e.g., the Mus- 
covy Company) and the Interlopers, the chief of 
whom hailed from Hull and London. 

Later features of the whaling trade are naturally 


better known, but since a large amount of the 
information is scattered in periodical literature, such 
widely different sources as the San Francisco Call 
and the Bamburger Wochenblatt giving valuable 
material, it follows that here again further research 
will prove profitable. 

ADELUNG, JOH. CHR. Geschichte der Schiffahrten und 
Versuche welche zur Entdeckung des Nordostlicfien 
Weges nach Japan und China von verschiedenen 
Nationen unternommen worden. Zum Behufe der 
Erdbeschreibung und Naturgeschichte dieser Gegen- 
den entworfen. Halle. J. J. Gebauer. 1768. 4to. 
Met 19 gegrav. platen en kaarten. 

AITZEMA, L. VAN. Saken van Staet en Oorlogh, in, ende 
omtrent de Vereenigde Nederlanden (1621-1669). 
s'Gravenhage, 1669. 6 vols. Folio. 

ALDRICH, H. L. Arctic Alaska and Siberia or Eight 
Months with the Arctic Whalemen. 1889. 

ALLEN. The Whalebone Whales of New England. 1916. 

ANDERSON, AD. An Historical and Chronological Deduc- 
tion of the Origin of Commerce from the earliest 
accounts. London, 1789. 4 vols. 

ANDERSON, JOHANN. Nachrichten von Island, Gronland 
und der Strasse Davis, zum wahren niitzen der 
Wissenschaften und der Handlung. Hamburg, 1746. 
Another edition, Frankfort, 1747. French translation 
by Rousselot de Surgy. Paris, 1764. Dutch edition, 
Amsterdam, 1750; later edition, Amsterdam, 1756. 

ANDREE, KARL. Geographic der Welthandels. Mit 
geschichtlichen Erlauterungen. Stuttgart, 1867, 1872. 
2 vols. 

ANDREWS, ROY CHAPMAN. Whale Hunting with Gun and 
Camera. New York, 1916. 

BAASCH, ERNST. Hamburgs Convoyschiffahrt und Con- 


voywesen. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Schiffahrt 
und Schiffahrteinrichtung im 17 und 18 Jahrhundert. 
Hamburg, 1896. 

BACSTROM, S. Account of a Voyage to Spitsbergen in 
the year 1780. In Pinkerton's Collection of Voyages. 
London, 1808-14. 

BAFFIN, W. The Voyages of William Baffin. 1612-22. 
Ed. by C. R. Markham. Hakluyt Society. London, 

/ BARRON, WILLIAM. Old Whaling Days. Hull, 1895. 

BAUDARTIUS, W. Memoryen ofte Cort Verhael der 
Gedenck-weerdichste Gheschiednissen van Nederland, 
Vranckrijck, Hoogh-Duytschland, Groot-Brittannyen 
enz. Van den jeere 1603-24. Arnhem, 1624. 2 vols. 

BAYONNE. Archives Municipales. 2 vols. 1911. 

, BEALE, THOMAS. The Natural History of the Sperm X 
Whale, to which is added a sketch of a south-sea 
whaling voyage. London, 1839. 

/ BENNETT, F. D. Narrative of a whaling voyage Round 
the Globe from the year 1833 to 1836. Two vols. 
London, 1840. 

BOSGOED, D. M. Bibliotheca Ichthyologica et Piscatoria. 
Haarlem, 1874. 

BRANDLIGT, C. Geschiedkundige Beschowing van de 
, Walvisch-Visscherij. Amsterdam, 1843. 

BRINNER, LUDWIG. Die Deutsche Gronlandfahrt. Ein- 
leitung. Die Erschliessung des Nordens fur den 
Walfischfang. Inaugural Dissertation zur Erlan- 
gung der Doktorwiirde. Phil. Fac. Berlin, 1912. 
First part only published, also in the Hansische 
Geschichtsblatter. Jahrgang, 1912. Remainder is in 
the 7th vol. Abhandlungen ziir Verkehrs und 
Seegeschichte. Karl Curtius. Berlin. 

BROWNE, J. R. Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with 


notes of a Sojourn on the Island of Zanzibar. 
London, 1846. New York, 1850. 

BULLEN, CHRISTIAN. Eines Seefahrenden Journal oder 
Tag-register, Was auff der Schiffahrt nach der 
Nordt-See und denen Insuln Groenlandt und Spits- 
bergen taglich vorgefallen im Jahr Christi 1667. 
Worin ausfuhrlich der Wallfischfang, deren Arth und 
Natur, auch andere in der See vorgefallene wunder- 
bare Sachen eygentlich und naturlich beschrieben 
werden. Bremen, 1668. 

BURFIELD, S. T. The Belmuilet Whaling Station. Kept. 
British. Ass. Section D. Dundee, 1912. 

Calendar of State Papers. (Further references in the 

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ADMIRAL, 95, 170 

Adventure, whaler, 187 

Alborough, 98 

Ambergris, 42 

American whale fishery, 223- 

Anderson, description of 

whaling, 147-50 
Andrews, R. C., 30 
Annula, whaler, 95, 98 
Antarctic, whaler, 272-3 
Arctic Right Whale, 16-17 
Arctic, whaler, 9, 259-61 
Aurora, whaler, 196, 326 
Azores, whaling at, 250 

Balana antifiodarum, 16 

australis, 16, 29, 295 

' biscayensis, 16, 17, 26-28, 

japontca, 16 

mysticetus, 16, 24-26 

novce-zealandice, 16 

Balano-ptera borealis, 19, 45, 

275, 293 

musculuSy 14, 45, 208, 

275, 293 

ro strata, 18 

sibbaldi, 14, 19, 45, 293 

" Baleinier," 62 

Barents, 77-8 

Barren, W., 257-8 

Basques, 59-64, 66-7 

Beale, 210, 215-20 

Bearded Whale, 83 

Beluga, 22 

Bennett, 220-1 > 

Blubber, 39, 43 

Blue Whale, 14, 19 

Bottlenose Whale, 20, 21, 269 

Bounty system, 177-206, 231 

Bowhead whale, 17, 24, 236 

Brinner, L., 5 

Bristol, 67, 75-6, 186-7, 3*5-6 

Brown, 24 

Browne, J. R., 250-1 
Bullen, C., 202 
Bunaveneader, 280-1 
Burfield, S. T., 42 


Ca'ing Whale, 21 

Canadian Whaling Act, 55 

Canning of whale meat, 252-3 

Clayrac, 62, 64 

Clio borealis, 24 

Colnett, 210-15 

Combine of whalers, 294, 300 

Convoys, 170 

Conway, 138-9 



Delphinafiterus leucas, 22, 49 
Delphinidae, 21 
Departmental Committee on 

whaling in Scotland, 277-80 
Desire, whaler, 95 
Diana, whaler, 93 
Ducer6, E., 60 

Eclipse, WHALER, 269 
Economics of whaling, 39-58 
Edge's description or the 

fishery, 116-7 
Elisabeth, whaler, 79-82, 88- 

Elking, 163-4 
Ellingsen, J., 300 
Em-press of India, whaler, 257 
Eschels, 175 


50-1, 285,^296-9 
Faroes, 286-7" 
Fecundity of whales, 13 
Finmark, 54, 267-8 
Fin Whale, 14 
Fischer, P., 61 

Fitting out whalers, 72-3, 158-9 
Flensing the whale, 43 




Flenslock, 161 

Food, human, whales as, 252- 

bod of whales, 14, 24, 30, 31, 
33, 270 
Fortune, whaler, log 
Fotherby, R., gg, 102, 104 
Four Brothers, whaler, 163 
Foyn, S. , 264 

Frankendaal, whaler, 172 
Frau Elizabeth, whaler, 172 
French whaling, 133-5, '74, 


Frisians, 173-6 
Fritters, 153 

Gamaliel, WHALER, g4, g8 

German whalers, 172-6 

Grace, whaler, 75-6 

Grace-de-Dieu, whaler, 133 

Grampus, 14 

Grand Bay Whale, 64 

Gray, description of whaling-, 


Greenland Company, 141, 144 
Greenland Right Whale, 16, 

24-26, 270-1. 
Greenland, whaler, 200 
Grey Whale, 15, 2g-3o, 243 
Grindhval, 21, 268 
Guldberg-, 23 


Harisse, H., 66 

Hebrides, whaling- at, 275-81 

Herlofson, 42 

Herring fishery and the 

whalers, 275-80 
Hjort, J., 31 

Ho-pewell, whaler, go-g3 
Hull, go-g3, 145-6, 186, ig3-6, 

312, 317 

Humpback Whale, 17, 30-37 
Hvalfangerforening, 2g4, 300 
Hyperoodon rostratus, 21 

ICELAND, 135, 267, 287, 313 
Interlopers, g3, i3g, 142 
Ireland, whaling in, 280-1 

Jacques, whaler, g6, 133 
James I. and the Dutch, 111-2 
Tames, whaler, 188 
Jan Mayen, 157, 161, ig3 
ansen, ng 
Jansen, M., 172 

Janssen, J., 172, 202 

Japan, whaling, 215-6, 242-3, 

272, 285 
John and Francis, whaler, 

95 98 
Jonas im Walfisch, whaler, 


KAT, H. D., 172 
Kent, whaler, 215-20 
Kerguelen, 28g, 2g2, 313 
Killer Whale, 14 
Kohler, igg-2O5 
Kokujira, 30 
Kuhn, J. M., 172 

Lady Forbes, WHALER, 188 
Lagoda, whaler, 236-7 
Lagoon whaling, 240 
Laing, J., igi 
Laspeyres, 171 
Lays, in whaling, 251 
Leems, 87-8 
Lion, whaler, 188 
Liverpool, 187-8 
London, g3, 145, ig2 

Making-ofF, ig2 
Manby, G. W., 188, 205 
Marsden, R. G., 115 
Martens, 155-7, 202 
Maria, whaler, 336 
Markham, 2s8-g 
Mary Margaret, whaler, 70,- 

82, 88-g3 

Matthew, whaler, g4 
McCulloch, 208 
Mediator, whaler, 213 
Me garter a boops, 17, 30-37, 

" Mehavn Riots," 274 
Migrations of whales, 22-38, 


Mooi, M., 171 
Moriniere, N. de la, 50, 
Morses, 78 

Miiller, F., 5, 128, 316 
Munroe, 312 
Muscovy Company, 71, 7g, g3, 

131, 141, 143 
Mystacoceti, 15 

NANTUCKET, 224-31, 233-4, 237 
Narwhal, 21, 270 
Natal, 2g4 



Neobalana marginata, 15 
New Bedford, 228, 233-4, 236-7 
Noah's Arke, whaler, 106 
Noordsche Company, 126, 139 
Nordcaper, 16, 26-28 
Nordhoff, 250, 252 
Norwegian whaling:, 264-300, 

Olmstead, 250-1 
Olsen, O., 34, 36 
Oranje Boom, whaler, 130 
Ore a gladiator, 14 
Otta Sotta, 85 

^PACIFIC WHALING, 2 1 1-2 1 

Pare, A., 62 

Pay, rates of, 159, 189 

Physeteridce, 20 

Physeter macrocephalus, 20, 
45, 208, 281, 309 

Pilot Whale, 21, 268 

Plans of whaling: steamer, 

Pleasure, whaler, 109 

Port Books, 316-7 
v Portuguese colonies, 296 

Posselt, 172-3 

uantity of whale oil from 
different whales, 45 
Quatre - fits - Aymon, whaler, 

Rattler, WHALER, 212-5 t 
Rape seed, 68-9, 146 
Raven, D. A., 130 
Reguart, S., 211 
Regulation of whaling-, 51-8, 

274-85, 295-6 
Rhachianectes glaucus, 15, 

Richard and Barnard, 

whaler, 95 
Right Whales, 16 
Ris, C., 170 

Rising Sun, whaler, 192 
Risting-, 34 
Rorquals, 18, 19 
Rousseau, whaler, 236 
Rudolphi's Rorqual, 19 

Saint Andrew, WHALER, 187 
Saint Peter, whaler, 109-11 

Salamander, whaler, 109 
Sarah and Elizabeth, whaler, 


Sarda, 64, 65, 83 
Scammon, 246 
Schiemann, 159, 175, 260 
Scoresby, 39, 69, igi, 209 
Sea Horse, whaler, 93, 192 
Sedeva, 85 
Sedeva negro, 86 
Segersz, J., 118 
Sei Whale, 19 
" Sewria," 22, 86 
Shetlands, whaling- at, 275-80 
Sibbald's Whale, 18-19 
" Skeljungr," 31 
Slupsteven, 160 
Smeerenburg, 126, 128, 129, 

130, 192 

Southern Right Whale, 17 
Southern whale fishery, 207-22 
South Sea Company, 180-3 
Spermaceti, 40 
Sperm Whale, 20, 208 
Spitsbergen fishery, 70-176 
Statistics, American, 238, 248 

British, 209, 306, 307 

Dutch, 197, 308 
Falkland Island, 51, 297 
Hull, 312 
Ireland, 281 
Norwegian, 268 
Scotland, 271, 309-11 
Swan, J. G., 253 

Thomasine, WHALER, 102 
Thorsvig, whaling station at, 


Tigre, whaler, 94, 98 
Toothed whales, 15 
Traan, 39 
Train oil, 39 
Triton, whaler, 236 
Troil, Von, 86-7 
Truelove, whaler, 194-6, 258 
Trumpa, 83 
Tuscan, whaler, 220-1 


United States whale fisheries, 

Untermaas barten, 161 

VAL, 160 

Value of whales, 268, 270 

Vanhoffen, 22 



Vice- Admiral, 04-5 
Vlieland, 78 
Volunteer, whaler, 188 
" Vqorganger," 160 
Vrolicq, 134-5 


" Whalebone," 40 

Whalebone Whales, 15 

Whale, whaler, 0,3 

Whaling- steamer plans, 265-6 

Whitby, 1 86, 188-91 

White Whale, 22, 4g, 267, 270-1 

Witt, J. de, 164 

Witte Paard, whaler, 172 

YARMOUTH, 141, 145 

Yield of oil from whales, ,45, 

Yo^k, 141, 145 
York, whaler, IQ3 

ZESEN, F. VON, 138 
Zorgdrager, 127, 157-61, 308 

Printed for Messrs. H. F. &> G. Witherby by the 
Northumberland Press, Ltd., Newcastle-on-Tyne. 




This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

on the date to which renewed. 
Renewed books are subject to immediate recall. 


AUG3 '64 -5PM 


JUL 2'65-5p|iH 


EC. C/R. 

-2 5 ^004 


FP 0375 

LD 21A-40m-ll,'6; 

General Library 

University of California 


VC 58621