So the lookout’s cry resounded while Yankee whalers roamed the seas. Their perilous, arduous trade spanned three centuries
When the barque Wanderer broke up on the rocks off Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts, in August of 1924, the wild Atlantic winds brought to an effective close New England’s most adventurous maritime enterprise. The Wanderer was the last square-rigged American whaler to put to sea, and her loss—even though some smaller vessels tried to carry on a few years longer—marked the authentic end of an era. With this ship’s demise an American industry that had lasted for nearly three hundred years quietly went out of existence. The day of the Yankee whaler was over.
It had been a great day while it lasted. It began when colonists in flimsy open boats ventured out through the surf to bring hunters with primitive weapons into direct encounter with the largest animals ever hunted. It expanded as America expanded, glowing bigger and more daring generation after generation, sending ships across all of the oceans, adding both to the new country’s wealth and to the world’s knowledge of its own geography: and in its essentials it never changed very much, through the better part of three eventful centuries. Born before the steam engine, lasting into the age of automobiles and airplanes, the whaling business was the one American industry that never became mechanized. Right to the end it was a matter of human muscle, courage, and the skill that can use contrivances of wood and canvas to harness the winds.
During its lifetime, whaling in America was almost exclusively a New England activity. In its heyday more than twoscore ports—from the Bay ol Fundy to the Hudson, plus a few others as far south as Virginia—reeked of whale oil and resounded night and day to the creak of windlass, davit, and tackle. Cobbled wharves echoed to the rumble of great casks, to the complaining wheels of drays laden with the oil from the sea for America’s lamps. From farms and small towns, young men and boys came to these ports to sign up for cruises that might last for two, three, or four years—hopeless hayseeds, many of them, who had never seen the ocean before the day when they actually went out on it—engaging in a calling composed of monotony, drudgery, and moments of acute peril, with a dash of romance and excitement to leaven the loaf.
A whaling cruise was both leisurely and tense; leisurely because a whaler stayed out until it got a full cargo, which could take as long as four years; tense because nobody on board, from captain down to cabin boy, made one dime until whales had been caught, killed, and processed aboard ship into such marketable commodities as oil and whalebone. There would be days and weeks of loafing along the offshore grounds, hands at the mastheads scanning the horizon for a sight of the quarry, hands on deck killing time. Then some man aloft would see the telltale plume of vapor which market! the spot where a whale had come to the surface to “blow”—that is, to spend a few minutes breathing. Down from the masthead would come the long cry: “There she blo-o-ows!” As often as not this would come in a quavering falsetto, repeated over and over: “Blo-o-w-s—a-h—b-1-o-o-w-s!” Then everybody would be galvanized into action, the open whaleboats would be launched, and the hunt would be on.
This business had begun long before Americans had gained their independence. In the early days of the Republic the commodities brought ashore did much to provide a good deal of badly needed foreign exchange. They also brought in a necessity of daily life. Whale oil was the principal illuminating fuel for homestead, village, and city. Spermaceti, a light wax found in a great cavity, or tank, in the head of the mighty sperm whale, was the chief substance from which good candles were made. The oil was also a needed chemical, useful in the wool and ropemaking industries, and certain grades made excellent lubricants. Whalebone—the baleen from the mouths of black, Greenland, and Pacific bowhead right whales—was useful in the manufacture of buggy whips and corsets. All in all, the whale was a valuable animal, even though modern methods of processing—perfected, for the most part, since America left the field—use all of the creature’s carcass rather than just the blubber and the bone, which was about all the old Yankee whalemen cared about.
The Pilgrim fathers knew very well what whales were worth. A passage in their original charter granted them “all royal fishes, whales, balan [ i.e. , baleen, or whalebone], sturgeons and other fishes.” During their passage to the New World, when “large whales of the best kind for oil and bone came daily alongside and played about the ship” oft Cape Cod, the Pilgrims were nearly persuaded to establish their first settlement there where that observation was made.
These early colonists were farmers rather than fishermen or mariners, and for a time they stuck to the dry land. But the possibilities of whaling were thrust upon their attention. Now and then a whale would get cast ashore, and its blubber could be reduced to oil even by landsmen. Also, venturesome Indians now and then would take one of the right whales that migrated up and down the New England coast, and the colonists began to get the idea. As early as 1645 whaling became an organized industry, from the eastern tip of Long Island all the way up the coast to the Bay of Fundy, with men going out in open boats to harpoon the blackfish and the larger right whales and bring them ashore where the blubber could be “tried out” for oil.
In the year 1712, however, came a change. Captain Christopher Hussey of Nantucket, carried out to sea in foul weather, encountered, harpooned, killed, and towed ashore a sperm whale. It was immediately noticed that this whale gave a very superior kind of oil, plus the valuable spermaceti, and was altogether a much more profitable beast to hunt. The colonists lost no time in building larger vessels and going out to sea in earnest.
High-seas whaling had for some time been an established industry in England and Holland, with ships going first to Spitzbergen and later to the waters around Greenland. The creatures hunted were usually the black and later the Greenland right whales, each with a cavernous mouth that had long curtains of flexible baleen in place of teeth. This sort of whale gets its food by swimming on the surface, mouth agape, engulfing vast quantities of tiny crustaceans and using the baleen as a strainer to retain the food when the water is drained oft. The right whale had a tiny throat, not large enough to swallow anything bigger than a herring, and this fact was a great comfort to the village atheist: the right whale could never under any circumstances have swallowed Jonah or any other mortal. This whale was powerful, and a blow from its tail could smash a small boat, but it was fairly placid, and it had no weapon but its tail. Taking it presented no especial problems.
But the sperm whale was different. It had teeth, a double row of conical affairs of ivory mounted in a lower jaw that could be twelve or fifteen feet long, and it tended to be pugnacious. Not only could it knock a boat to pieces with its flukes, it could smash a boat or mangle a sailor with this lower jaw, it was likely to fight back when attacked, and the old-timers tended to leave it entirely alone, partly because taking it was altogether too risky, and partly because they did not quite know where to find it. But Captain Hussey had demonstrated that the trick could be done, and he had also shown that by venturing farther afield sperm whales could be found; and sperm oil was of much higher grade than the ordinary oil obtained from less formidable whales. There was also the spermaceti, and in some sperm whales a substance called ambergris could sometimes be taken lrom the intestines. Ambergris is a waxy, aromatic substance, formed by a bacterium infesting peptic ulcers caused by the bony beaks and sucker rings of the squids that make up the sperm whale’s food. Jt was highly prized by, of all people, the makers of perfume, who would pay many dollars a pound lor it. All in all, the sperm whale was the one to hunt, and the New Englanders set out to hunt it.
The sperm whale can measure sixty feet long, or possibly more. It has a huge throat—it could have swallowed Jonah without any trouble—and its principal food is the deep-sea squid, including the fabled kraken, which can be fifty feet long and may weigh as much as six tons. These creatures live in the ocean depths, and the sperm whale goes down for them, it goes down to prodigious depths, sometimes: in 1932 a dead sperm whale, entangled in a submarine cable, was brought up from a depth of more than hall a mile oft the coast of South America.
The head of the sperm whale measures almost a third of the animal’s length; its massive forehead contains the tank which has the spermaceti—apparently a hydrostatic organ of some sort, employed in a way still not entirely clear to aid the whale in diving and surfacing. The sperm whale’s !uppers are almost rectangular and are comparatively small, and in place of a fin on mid-back the creature has a series of low bumps. As with all whales, the tail dukes are set horizontally, and are very powerful instruments of propulsion.
Normally, sperm whales cruise on the surface at a rate of four knots or thereabouts, although they can put on spurts of twenty knots and, in Might, can keep up a steady fifteen. On the offshore feeding grounds a sperm whale will dive deep io catch as prey, surfacing after half an hour or so to breathe, staying up each time for four or five minutes before going down tor more food. These whales also spend a good deal of time basking on the surface, when their gargantuan belches and stomach rumblings can be heard for miles on a still day from a sailing vessel. Although they arc warm-weather, deep-sea animals, sperm whales perform vast annual migrations, the females going to southern latitudes and then slowly coming north to mingle with the males, cruising in big circles in equatorial latitudes. At times sperm whales form huge aggregations called gams, but for the most part they go about in small parties. The female will be savagely protective toward her call, but bull whales are notorious lor abandoning other whales when trouble arises. They get aggressive streaks, however, and have been known to charge and sink, by ramming, full-rigged ships.
For sixty-five years after Captain Husscy’s important conquest, the New Engländers built up a highseas fleet and pushed outward into the open oceans. Even at the end of this period, however, their vessels were small, averaging no more than about ninety tons, cadi one manned by a crew of about fourteen and carrying one whaleboat. Large shoops were the craft most commonly used at that time, although a few larger vessels were employed. At the outbreak of the Revolution this fleet contained about 360 vessels.
Year by year the whalers pushed out farther and farther, the lead being taken largely by the men from Nantucket. They steered south past Cape Hattcras, crossing to the African coast and going down to the Cape of Good Hope. In their comparatively tiny vessels—the first whaler of more than 100 tons seems not to have been launched until 1^2, when Isaac Afyrick of Nantucket brought out a vessel of 118 tons—the whalemen got down to the extreme tip of South America, ventured into the Antarctic (“by way of experiment,” as a contemporary account remarks), and got around into the Pacific. The Revolutionary War almost eliminated the New England whaling licet, but it did not stop whaling. The rebound after the war was quick, and when the War of 1812 was out of the way, the business went ahead fast. In 1821, 132 whalers cleared the New England ports, and the number kept rising year by year, reaching its peak in 1846 with 736. Bigger vessels were used; the sloop gave way to brigs and to even larger ships, each one carrying from three to five whaleboats.
Many of these ships, of course, hunted the right and bowhead whales—the two are almost identical—but it was the sperm whale fishery that carried the most excitement and drew most of the attention. The sperm fishery followed a certain routine. There was an unwritten rule, for instance, that a whale, dead or alive, belonged to the particular boat that first struck it with its harpoon. There was intense rivalry between different ships, and often between the different boats from one ship, and when more than one ship sighted a whale an all-out race took place; rival harpooners were known to cast their murderous weapons over each other’s boats in the no-holds-barred scramble to take the prize first.
The excitement began when a masthead lookout spoiled the wispy plume of a surfaced whale’s spout off toward the horizon. His cry meant boats away—two boats, or three, or lour or five, depending on the size of the era It that was hunting. These boats were trim, double-ended craft, twenty-five or thirty feel in length, light in weight and construction, built to ride the waves easily. An officer—one of the males, or even lhe captain—would go into the stern, to handle the long steering oar. Five men would man the oars to row, the one silling nearest the bow being the harpooner. In the bow were two harpoons, attached by short warps to the end of lhe whale line; lhe line ran through a elect in the bow, lay in a loose coil there, and thence ran back to the stern, going around a stout post there and coming a little distance forward to the line tubs, where it lay in carefully arranged coils. Altogether, there might be 1,800 feet of line in the boat.
If the wind was favorable, the men would slep a mast and hoist a sail to get up near the whale. If it was not, lhey would row all lhe way. In cither case, when they ncared the whale the harpooner would bring his oar inboard and stand up in the extreme bow, harpoon in his hand, while the boat crept closer and closer under lhe quiet orders of the officer in the stern. (Too much noise might frighten the whale and cause it to “sound,” or dive; sometimes lhe crew laid aside their oars during this last stage of lhe approach and look up paddles, so as to be able to come up more quietly.)
The harpoon had a razor-sharp steel barb on a long shank mounted on the end of a stout ash pole, iron and pole together being about eight feet long. With this weapon poised, the harpooner waited for closc range. Since it was very hard to throw a harpoon any distance, dose range usually meant that the bow of the boat practically touched the side of the whale. The officer in lhe slern wotdd give a sharp order and the harpooner would drive his weapon home, burying the barbed head in the whale’s body. If there was time, he woidd seize the second harpoon and strike with it also; if there was not—if lhe whale went off too quickly —he woidd simply toss it overboard. In any case, the whale when struck either sounded with great speed or took off on the surface, the whale line snaking out alter it; and while this line ran out of the boat, the harpooner ran for the stern to take the steering oar while the ofRcer there went to the bow to be ready for the final operation with the lance. This was a very touchy moment, if there happened to be a snarl or a kink in the line, which would be whizzing out of the boat at a prodigious speed, one of these men might get entangled and jerked overboard to a speedy and watery death.
Not always did the whale run away. Sometimes it turned to fight, and then the boat and its whole crew could be in serious trouble. U the ponderous flukes, thrashing in the water with enormous force, struck the boat, the boat was usually smashed. A sperm whale might roll over, its powerful jaw sticking out at a right angle, reaching for boat or men, an extremely dangerous antagonist. A Long Island whaler once harpooned a right whale which sank the boat with its tail, struck two men and sent them to the bottom, and then hit the captain a blow that paralyzed his legs and eventually made him lose consciousness. An infuriated sperm whale could put up an even harder fight. Altogether it was a tricky business; not for nothing did the whalers adopt the slogan, “a dead whale or a stove boat.”
Usually, though, the whale took off for safety. If it dived, there was always the chance that it might go down too deeply, in which case the line had to be cut or cast adrift to keep the whaleboat from being pulled bodily under water, if it stayed on the surface and swam off at top speed, the boat’s crew got what they called “a Nantucket sleigh ride,” skittering along the surface, a turn of the rope around the snubbing post in the stern of the boat. When the line was pulled out fast, it would smoke from the heat of the friction, and someone with a bailer would throw water on it to keep it from smoldering.
Sooner or later the whale would tire and slacken s%jeed. Then all hands would tail onto the line and pull the boat up, hand over hand. Once again it was necessary to bring the bow up to the whale’s side, so that the officer could use the lance to kill the animal. The lance was a barbless spear twelve feet long, sharp iron mounted on a strong pole; it was up to the officer to drive this deeply into the whale’s body, probing with it—”churning,” as the expression was—to strike lungs or arteries so that the whale would bleed to death. This brought a new moment of danger, putting the whale into a desperate convulsion called the flurry, at which time it behooved the boat to keep at a safe distance. Finally the whale woidd expire, and it was necessary to get the carcass back to the ship.
If the crew’s luck was in, the ship could sail to within close range. It was not often easy to do ibis, since when the boats were away no more than three or four men would remain aboard the ship, and so small a force could not do much in the way of handling sail. More often than not the whale had to be towed to the ship—a backbreaking job, with limited manpower. One way or another, the whale was maneuvered to the starboard side of the ship. Now the real work could begin—the cutting-in, removing the whale’s blubber.
The whale was held alongside by a loose loop of chain around the “small”—the narrow tail, above the flukes—and by lines attached to its head. A rig consisting of a plank on long arms was lowered above the whale, so that men could stand on it while they wielded their spadelike cutting knives, which were attached to the ends of eighteen-foot poles.
The whale’s blubber was a blanket of oil-filled fibrous tissue, ranging from six inches to a foot in thickness, covering the creature’s whole body, and the men on the overhanging scaffold cut this in a continuous spiral strip, from head to tail. A hole was cut in the forward end of this strip, a heavy hook was inserted, with a rope leading aloft to a block and coming down to a winch on deck, and the blubber was pulled off in a long strip some three feet wide. At intervals, the strip would be cut, a new hole made, and the hook relocated, while the blubber already taken aboard would be cut into pieces—“blanket pieces,” they were called—and stowed temporarily in the blubber room in the between-decks. The process woidd go on until all of the blubber had been taken, after which the head would be cut off and hoisted aboard. If the whale was a right whale, the baleen would be removed, and the head would then be thrown overboard; with a sperm, the teeth were dug out (members of the crew prized them, lor carving), and a hole would be cut in the massive forehead so that the spermaceti could be extracted from the “tank.” What was left of the head was then discarded.
Now it was time to try out the oil. On the open deck were the whaler’s try works—huge metal vats like oversized soup kettles, mounted on top of a brickwork furnace. The fires beneath the pots were kindled, and the blanket pieces were cut into smaller sections and sliced like bacon—Bible leaves, these pieces were called—and then they were thrown into the try-pots so that the oil could be cooked out of them. The pieces left over after the oil had been boiled out were put into the furnaces to keep the Ores going. The oil that was obtained had to be skimmed, strained, cooled, and finally transferred to barrels, which were sealed and sent down into the hold.
It was a hot, odorous, and laborious business, not without dangers of its own. The oil itself was of course extremely inflammable, and if a sea was running there was always the chance that the oil in the try-pots might slop over, take fire, and burn ship and cargo and everyone aboard. An immense volume of greasy smoke went skyward, and from the moment the first pieces went into the try pots until the barreled oil went down into the hold, there was no rest for anyone. If stormy weather compelled the skipper to postpone the tryingout for a few days, the blubber stored between decks could generate a powerful odor of its own. Clifford W. Ashley, who made a trip on a whaler early in the twentieth century, recalled that the crew’s living quarters were bclow-decks and that the temperature there during a trying-out spell rose to an almost unendurable height: “The forecastle was a veritable hell.”
Not only was the boat’s crew in danger when a whale was harpooned and lanced; at times the ship itself was in peril. Ships were actually sent to the bottom by infuriated whales, the most famous case being that of the Nantucket whaler Essex .
On November 20, 1819, the Essex was out in the Pacific. A whale was sighted, and three boats went after it. The mate struck the animal and it knocked a hole in his boat; then, while the boat’s crew was making hasty repairs, the whale saw the Essex and apparently recognized this vessel as the source of its woes. It went straight for the ship and rammed it head on with a force that stove in the ship’s planking. Apparently dazed, the whale lay alongside and thrashed the water, while the people on the Essex hoisted the recall signal and the boats hurried back. Recovering, the whale rammed the ship again, inflicting further damage, and then sounded and was seen no more. The boats came up to find the Essex in a sinking condition.
There was just time to get food and water into the boats and to rig weather boards that would give the little craft a better chance to survive wind and wave. Then the Essex went to the bottom, and the crew set out for land—seven men in each of two boats, and six men in the third.
Nearest land was the Marquesas Islands, about 1,320 miles away, to the west. These islands contained cannibals, and it was thought better to steer for the coast of South America, 2,100 miles distant. The three boats headed east, toward the mainland.
The crews had a hideous time of it. They sailed east for weeks. Food and water were exhausted; a lonely island provided fresh water and a little food—some grass and a lew fish. Three men elected to remain on this island, from which ultimately they were rescued. The others resumed the voyage. The oldest boat presently vanished and was never heard of again. The other two kept on and sailed into unmitigated horror. Food was gone, the tropical sun burned them, and everyone seems to have gone a little mad. In one boat, a man died and was eaten; the boat kept on and was eventually picked up by the brig Indian , of London, and the survivors were taken to Valparaiso, in Chile. In the other boat three men died and were eaten; then the survivors drew lots, killed the unlucky ones who held the short straws, and ate them. In the end this boat was picked up by the whaler Dauphin with two men still alive and uneaten—Captain George Pollard and a seaman named Charles Ramsdell. News of what had happened got back to Nantucket ahead of them, and when the men were landed there a silent crowd lined the wharves and streets when the captain walked back to his house.
Fortunately, it was not often that bad. There were ships and captains that never lost a man, and some ships were afloat for a century. Possibly the most remarkable of all was the ship Lagoda , which had been built in 1826 as a merchantman. Jonathan Bourne, Jr., of New Bedford, bought her in 1841 and sold her in 1886; during this time she made twelve voyages and rolled up an estimated net profit of $651,958. The Lagoda ’s most successful single voyage was from 1864 to 1868, when she brought back a catch worth more than $200,000, which represented a profit of 363 per cent. The Maria , built in 1782, remained in service until 1866; the Rousseau was broken up in 1893 after ninety-two years of service; the Triton , built in 1818, was lost in the Arctic in 1895.
Nantucket was the first great whaling port, and New Bedford became the biggest; and there were other places like New London, Connecticut, or Sag Harbor, on Long Island, among the first towns to enter the business and among the last to leave it. Almost every seacoast town in New England pursued the enterprise at one time or another. There was, for instance, the fishing village of Wiscasset, in Maine. In 1833 some twenty citizens raised money, bought a vessel built in Bristol, Rhode Island, named it the Wiscasset , and sent it to sea the following spring under Captain Richard Macy, of Nantucket, with a crew of twenty. Forty months later the Wiscasset returned with 2,800 barrels of sperm oil and 3,200 barrels of beluga, or white whale, oil, the whole being worth perhaps $80,ooo—enough to pay the cost of the ship, her fitting-out and all other expenses. The Wiscasset sailed again, this time under Captain Seth Horton, and brought back a capacity load of whale oil and 86,517 in (ash derived from “idle trading” along the way—every dollar of it clear profit. In the next decade the vessel made two more voyages, getting a $48,000 cargo on the first and one worth $51,000 on the second.
The business could make money, in other words. It was run on a unique system that let officers and crew share (to a certain extent) in the profits and compelled them to share also in the losses. Neither officers nor men were paid salaries or wages. Each man got a “lay,” or share in the net profits of the voyage if there were any, the size of the lay depending on the importance of the man’s job. The lowly cabin boy might get a twohundredth share, and the captain’s lay could be onetenth, or even better, and the rest ranged in between. If the voyage made money, everybody got paid. If it did not—and some voyages did not—nobody made anything.
Life on a whaler was hard. Each ship needed a large crew to man the boats, and between whales the deck force had lots of time on its hands. To kill time the men practiced and perfected the unique art of scrimshawing, carving intricate designs in the teeth extracted from the sperm whale, or cutting pieces of the jawbone or other parts of the skeleton into walking sticks, kitchen utensils, or what-not. When two whalers met in some distant sea they would break the monotony by having what was called a gam—each ship sending a boatload of men aboard the other for a few hours, for a chat and a general comparing of notes.
Discipline alternated between the very lax and the very rigid. Merchant sailors tended to avoid whalers if they cou Id, and so the crews—except for officers and harpooners—were usually made up of green hands from the farm. Maintaining order among two or three do/en men on a cruise that might last four years was difficult, and sometimes there were mutinies. Food and living quarters were bad, as indeed they were on most sailing vessels. The staple article of diet was salt beef, universally known as “salt horse” (occasionally for the best of reasons); it tended to be tough, stringy, and odorous. Another staple was molasses, known as “black cat.” All in all, the work was a little like soldiering—long spells of utter monotony, broken by brief periods of intense activity and danger.
The golden age of whaling was the latter part of the half century between the end of the War of 1812 and the outbreak of the Civil War. Then began the long decline. During the Civil War the government bought a number of whalers, filled them with stone, and sank them at the entrances to Charleston and Savannah harbors in a vain attempt to block the ship channels of those rebellions ports. Confederate commerce raiders sank many whalers. Most notable of these raiders was the Shenandoah , which got up into the North Pacific and the Arctic late in 1864 and early in 1865 and went on destroying whalers after the war was over, word of the Confederate collapse not having reached the Shenandoah’s officers. ( See “Last of the Rebel Raiders” in the December, 1958, AMERICAN HERITAGE .) In 1859 the American whaling fleet numbered 263 vessels—roughly half the number in service just before the war.
The real cause of the decline, however, was that the country no longer needed whale products in such large quantities. In 1859 America began to use petroleum, a much cheaper and better source of illuminating oil. Expanding industries ollered better opportunities for investment and better opportunities for labor than the whaling business could afford. The number of vessels engaged in the trade kept on declining. In 1869 Nantuckct dropped out entirely. The value of oil and whalebone kept on going down, and America’s merchant marine as a whole was on a downhill slope. More and more of the old whalers were sold or laid up, and new ships turned to other trades. In 1871, thirty-three whalers were lost in the ice of the Bering Sea. The chief base of the industry came to be San Francisco. New Bedford remained a whaling port, but it sent out fewer and fewer ships.
There came, finally, a technological revolution in which America simply did not bother to take part. To stay alive, the whaling industry had to be mechanized. America’s industry remained as it always had been, a handcralt aflair, and at last it went out of existence.
For years whalemen had been experimenting with guns that would fire harpoons. These were never widely used until about 1875, when Sven Foyn of Norway brought out a small cannon which fired a prodigious harpoon that also carried a bomb—a weapon that could strike from a distance and that would kill the whale when it struck. This harpoon could also carry a heavy hemp line much stronger than the light lines used with hand harpoons. A steamer with this gun mounted on its bow could catch and kill whales quickly and easily. It was possible now to take whales previously not so generally hunted—the finner, the mighty blue, the other rorquals, and the humpback; monsters bigger than the sperm whale, many of them, but not so often taken by the old system because they swam too last and took out line more rapidly than the whalemen could handle it. With the bomb and the heavier line, these creatures could be managed, and if the whale sank alter being killed, the carcass could be hauled to the surface and kept afloat with an injection of compressed air. Whaleships now became factories, processing the entire whale—saving flesh for meat, grinding up bones to make fertilizer, extracting glue from other parts, using indeed practically everything except for the stomach contents. Fully mechanized, the industry survives today, abroad, with the Norwegians and their floating factories playing the principal role in it.
In this the Americans did not join. Year by year the American whalers, using the old methods, became fewer and fewer. The last New Bedford whaler to take whales was the schooner John R. Manta , which sailed on the second of May, 1925, returning from a cruise on the Matteras grounds on August 20 of the same year. A lew voyages were made from San Francisco during the next three years, but they were probably more concerned with the Arctic fur trade than with anything else. The business simply sputtered out. The Wanderer was wrecked, the ancient ship Charles Morgan was hauled oft to become a museum piece, and one of the most colorful of all American industries came to a close. Never again would a Yankee sailor at the masthead send that long, quavering cry over the empty sea—