Treasure Trove Of Documents Discovered In Whaling Town

IN THE EARLY-TO MIDDLE 1800s, whale oil made New Bedford, Massachusetts, “the richest city in the world.” In Moby-Dick, his great whaling novel, Herman Melville described the port as “a land of oil,” a place with “patrician-like houses” and “opulent” parks and gardens. Read more »

Britain’s Yankee Whaling Town

The curious story of Milford Haven

Milford Haven is the name of both a town and a natural harbor set in the rolling hills of southern Wales some 250 miles west of London. Once famous for its trawling fleet, it is now a major terminal for supertankers bringing crude oil from the Persian Gulf. Read more »

The Essex Disaster

She was the first whaleship ever sunk by her prey. But that’s not why she’s remembered.

FOR THE WHALING MEN OF NANTUCKET , the year 1819 looked to be an especially promising one. The island’s famed whaling fleet, ravaged by the 1812 war, now numbered sixty-one stout vessels, and fresh fishing grounds had just been discovered in the equatorial waters of the central Pacific. The new grounds lay 17,000 sailing miles away in ill-charted seas, but Nantucketers routinely made voyages whose immense length only a handfulof great explorers could match.Read more »

The Adventures Of A Haunted Whaling Man

The exacting, colorful, and often perilous career of a whaleman of the last century is known to most readers only through such fiction a Moby Dick . But many a real American went “down to the sea in ships” from East Coast whaling ports, experiencing the loneliness, exhilaration, and dangers that Herman Melville described. One of them was Robert Weir, a tormented nineteen-year-old, who in the summer of 1855 left his home in Cold Spring, New York, where he had worked in the local iron foundry.Read more »

“Mad Jack” And The Missionaries

The Pacific Ocean is vast and lonely. In the second decade of the nineteenth century, when the American whaling industry was expanding rapidly in that great sea and American merchant ships plied the lucrative China trade, they ventured in an area where no nation’s law extended. The United States naval force in the Pacific totalled at most three vessels, all well occupied in protecting American interests on the coasts of Peru and Chile in the midst of Bolivar’s revolution. Read more »