An Essay upon the Natural History of Whales, with a Particular Account of the Ambergris Found in the Sperma Ceti Whale. Paul Dudley. 1724-1725. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 33: 256-269
The Whale Fishery. compilation. North American Review 38 (82): 84-116 (January 1834) A history of British and American whaling in mostly Arctic seas.
Seals and Whales. unstated author. 2 Nov 1851. Harper's New Monthly Magazine 3 (18): 764-767
A brief account of the contemporary whaling and sealing industry, which was in a period of decline, with a focus on the British sealers.
Provincetown. 1855. Henry David Thoreau (PDF)
Provincetown, waist-deep in drying cod, with the fish acquiring local 'flavor.'
Mackereling in the "Bay". unstated author. 1857. Putnam's Magazine 9 (54): 575-586 MOA
The bay is apparently Bay Chaleur (between Quebec and New Brunswick); the description of the author's adventure as a fisherman is interesting.
American Fisheries. J. D. B. DeBow. 1859 - 1867. Debow's review, Agricultural, commercial, industrial progress and resources.
A long survey of the American fisheries (including the whale fishery), spread over several issues.
The Rights and Wrongs of Seamen. Charles Nordhoff. 1874. Harper's New Monthly Magazine 48 (286): 556-562
An exposé of dangerous ships, their greedy owners and brutal officers, with suggestions for legal reforms.
Many fishing schooners are trapped in ice off Cape Cod. Feb 1875, New York Times.
A Brief Biography of the Halibut. G. Brown Goode. Oct. 1885 The American Naturalist (10): 953-969.
Biology and geography of halibut, noting that it too, was being severely overfished.
The Outlook of the Fisheries. J.W. Collins. 1886. The Century 32 (6): 959-961Outlook grim, due to open fish trade agreement with Britain. MOA link
The Sea Serpent. B. A. Colonna. 1886. Science 8 (189):: 258
Apropos to Pterandon and Homo. Samuel Lockwood. 1886. Science 7 (162): 242
A "scientific" report of a sea serpent off Cape Cod, and a complaint about artistic and editorial license.The Passing of the New England Fisherman. Winfield M. Thompson. 1896. New England Magazine 19 (6): 675-687 MOA
Drake's NE Folklore sea serpent
The American Whale-Fishery, 1877-1886. A. Howard Clark. 1887. Science 9 (217): 321-324
Statistics of place, value, tonnage and hunting grounds on a declining industry.
Provincetown whaling captain yarns. Apr 28,1889, New York Times
A Report upon the Alewife Fisheries of Massachusetts. David L. Belding. 1920. Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Conservation, Divsion of Fisheries and Game.
The fisheries were horribly managed, being vastly over-fished by bid-winners, the streams dammed and polluted by farmers and factories. An array of laws to protect the resource were passed, beginning in the 1600s, but nearly always ignored. Belding published several books on the shell-fisheries, and bacteriology and parasitology, as well! [Amazon link]Whales and Whaling in New England. Glover M. Allen. 1928. The Scientific Monthly 27 ( 4): 340-343
A short paper on the species commonly found off New England and on local whaling history, with some identification guides.
The Barnstable Patriot has been publishing since 1830. Its searchable archives from 1830-1930 are online at Sturgis Library, Barnstable. (I will welcome any contribution of transcriptions.)
The Provincetown Advocate began as an offshoot of the Barnstable Patriot in 1875. Its searchable archives are online at Provincetown Library; 1918-1967 are nearly complete, while 1875-1917 seem to be partially done, as of Oct 2010.
David Conwell Stull (1844-1926), of Provincetown, the Ambergris King
David C. Stull was a Provincetown businessman, marine artifact collector and showman. Half of all ambergris collected by Americans in the late 19th-century is said to have passed thru his hands. However, his main business was in manufacturing high-grade watch oil from blackfish melons.
The First Whalemen of Nantucket. Daniel Vickers
The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 40 (4): 560-583. Oct 1983 (JSTOR)
The title is misleading, implying it about the origins of the industry. That is touched on fot context, but the main point is that early 18th-century Nantucket whaling was class/ethnicly segregated, with Indians being held in debt peonage to do work that Englishmen considered beneath them. This work was later largely done by blacks, as the Indians succumbed to disease. The author seems to have a poor understanding of whaling technique and whale physiology.Whaler's tavern on Great Island, Wellfleet
*A depressing story of a huge, long-term, environmental crime.*
Re-telling the Soviet harpoon race, from the BBC blog of Richard Black"... Many [what-if questions] surround the whaling moratorium - called for in 1972, voted through in 1982 and implemented in 1986.
One of the key arguments mustered for the moratorium was that whale numbers did not appear to be recovering, even on species and in regions where protection measures had been put in place.
By the 1960s, hunting for blue whales and humpbacks, for example, was banned in large expanses of the oceans.
But time after time in records of IWC meetings from that period you come across phrases such as "it seemed that there was some rebuilding of humpback stocks in the North-west Atlantic but there was nothing to suggest any substantial increase elsewhere in the North Atlantic", followed by a recommendation to extend the existing protection for a further three or five years and see what happened.
The sense of heads being scratched is almost palpable.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, the reason why these protection measures weren't working became startlingly clear. The Soviet fleets, which included the biggest factory ships ever built, had been working to a radically different plan - to kill just about every whale they encountered, irrespective of size, species or rarity, and lie about it.
Since Alexey Yablokov first spilled the beans in 1993, the story has been told and re-told, the real catch records (kept secret and not submitted to the IWC, ironically chaired by a Soviet, MN Sukhoruchenko, during some of the years when the apparent ineffectiveness of protection regimes was being discussed) have been dissected and analysed.
But rarely has it been told as well as it has this week, in an article [pdf link] by Phil Clapham and Yulia Ivashchenko in Marine Fisheries Review, the US journal. If you're not familiar with the story, reading their article will be 15 minutes of your time well spent; if you are familiar with it, well, it's worth a read anyway. ..."
baby humpback whale off Provincetown, 2008
Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown. We watched the final stages of dissection of a fin whale. A ranger said it had died about 2 days previously, yet the odor of rotting whale was already gagging even from outside the yellow-tape perimeter. I can't imagine what it was like for the dozen people in rubber boots and coveralls who were actually doing the work. Then extrapolate to a whale longer dead, or fermenting under a summer sun. And to our ancestors, harvesting the blubber, working without protective clothing and without a hot shower later. And to seaside towns where thousands of pilot whales have come ashore at once, before there was machinery to drag them away or bury them. Speed was essential, to get the goods before your neighbors or decay did, before the smell got too bad. (A twentieth-century anecdote from the outer Cape, perhaps from the 1930s, had a small pod come ashore; the old-timers and poor gathered equipment to process them; the result was a small quantity of low-grade oil after stinking up the town.)
Whale oil is edible - was it used in food by our ancestors often, seldom, never? (Sailors on whale-ships fried donuts in the boiling blubber for a treat. William Tripp, 1938, was on the last American whaling voyage in 1925, where certain cuts of sperm whale were a delicacy. Porpoise too.) How well do various kinds keep? Did they eat the meat from the pilot whales (black fish), since it was fresh - often, seldom, never? [During WWI, David C. Stull of Provincetown got government backing to promote eating the blackfish, but obviously it did not catch on.] These people were not picky eaters — Thoreau had an anecdote about catching gulls for food, in which a piece of blubber was tethered to the top of a blind as bait for the birds, and when one grabbed hold the boy/man below would drag it in and wring its neck Whale-ships used the tried-out blubber as fuel to contniue the process with the next batch - did this also happen on shore? When was it discovered? Did the poor use it as fuel?
Cape Cod Shore Whaling. America's first whalemen John Bragington-Smith & Duncan Oliver. 2004. Yarmouth MA: Historical Society of Old Yarmouth
(Haven't gotten around to reading it yet.)
Cape Codders lost at sea, and sailors dead in Cape Cod wrecks
Whalecraft, a website by Thomas Lytle, has an extensive list of books by writers with first-hand whaling experience