whales and whalemen

Conditions were rough. If the whalers were hunting in the Arctic, it was cold. But it was worse if the ship was in southern waters. The boiling down of whale blubber went on for days so a fire was burning in the brick fireplace on the deck. The combination of the warm seas and the fire meant that the temperature on board could be over 100 degrees F. Most of the crew slept below decks; it must have been unbearable. If the journey was a long one, the food began to spoil.

Whaling was not for the faint of heart, even before engaging a whale.

Six men set off in a small boat. If they succeeded in harpooning a whale, they could be dragged a good distance. One smack by the whale’s tale could shatter a small boat and many whale men were killed.

But plenty of sperm whales lost the battle, and very cruelly too. The harpoons didn’t usually kill the whale, that was the job of the lance, That had to be thrown accurately and twisted. Descriptions mention the bloody sea all around the dying whale.

Then the whale was towed back to the ship to be cut into pieces.


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