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tv   19th Century Whaling  CSPAN  December 20, 2020 5:20pm-6:01pm EST

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and the impact it has on the community. the nantucket historical association hosted this talk and provided the video. at 6:00 p.m. eastern, 3:00 p.m. heads a the curator tour of the exhibit alexander von humboldt and the united states. and describes how the naturalist influenced several generations of americans. eastern connecticut state university professor thomas teaches a class on the relationship between two prominent mid-19th century politicians, james buchanan and william rufus king. >> good evening, everyone. welcome to the nantucket historical association's webinar on whaling. i am very excited about presenting this to you tonight. we have over 230 people
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participating, which is absolutely shocking. we are delighted. we will talk about what it was like on the whale front. this presentation will last about 20 minutes. i would be more than happy to take any questions that i hope to answer for you. i think we are just about ready to begin. see what a real corner of the world occupies. those are the words of hermann melville in -- in chapter 14 of moby dick. he was talking about nantucket, our tiny island about 15 miles --g, but this became their became the whaling capital of the world. go onight we are going to a voyage. captained by to be perry winslow, and it lasted
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from 1854-1858. accompanied bybe his wife, whose name is marianne, and two of their children. it will be joining on this voyage. and here we have a young man whose name is joseph ray, and journal throughout this voyage. a lot of the drawings you will see came from joseph ray. he was a 21-year-old nantucket boy hired to go out on the edward carey. his job will be her pruning -- harpooning. so when they are actually pursuing a whale, joseph will be in the bow of the ship. , then he will ore pooner.harp corner -- har
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joins the rest of the crew, and these are men from all over. they are from buffalo, boston, captains, because the and the mates are most likely from nantucket. as they carry sailors all over the world, they will pick up other sailors and that will add to the diversity of the crew. diverse whaling crews created the first meritocracy in the colonies. any young man who could prove his worth to climb up the ladder . maybe he would become a mate, maybe even a captain. pictured here we have the first african-american captain of a whale ship with an all-black crew.
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so he is going to leave in 1854, and this is an emotional time when whaling departed from nantucket. most of the time would wave goodbye. these men are going to be away from the towns for four years. that's a really long time to be away from your loved ones. there is one that lasted 11 years. and on this particular voyage, the edward carey will go around the tip of africa into the indian ocean and even chili into the pacific, hunting whales. and primarily they will be looking for spur whales. why? there is a clue. morecientific name of spur whales means large, square headed whales.
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the head makes up a third of its body. in that chamber is 300 to 500 gallons of oil. the finest oil in the world. let alone the oil that came from the blubber of the whale. the qualities of the oil were amazing. it was very stable, it was not affected by cold temperatures, it would stay the same. lighthouses of the world were lit with this wonderful oil, as were the streetlamps in london and france all over a. they were selling this oil all over the world. also, after all of the oil was refined, what was left is what they made candles out of. these were remarkable products. they burned very brightly and lasted a long time. such a huge difference in people's lives.
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he for they had the wonderful products, they had to go to bed when the sun went down. but now they could extend their day. the majority of the crew will share the forward part of the ship. this group will be sharing the space for a long time, for years. dark,very slimy, it is it's staying. that is where the men are going to eat, sleep, tell stories, right in their journals, play it is probably full of smoke and also infested with rats and roaches. some of the men will be homesick in the beginning, and probably very seasick at the beginning of the voyage. this is the quarters for the
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captain and his family. actually, a much nicer space, and they will get much better food than the men in the men --tle -- much better much better food than the men in the front. he illustrates it beautiful. inh the ports that they stop what he also writes about life was like on a whaling voyage. we are very fortunate to have all of his wonderful drawings. they give us a great picture of what life was like on board a willing ship. it was not an easy life, as you will see. is where the men are literally learning the ropes. rigging the sale, checking the tools, they will because oiling the lines in the whale boats and a touching the harpoons, and
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they will be practicing in the whale boat. boat tower the whale maneuver them quickly and build up their muscles and calluses on their hands. another very important job was the lookout job. when two men would climb the highest mass of the ship, which was 100 feet in the air. they balance and then are surrounded by a metal hoop. two men stand back to back, each one responsible for 180 degree lookout. 100 feet up in the air and one of the mates, and they had a long voyage and had not seen rest for a while, but somebody spots a spurned whale -- sperm w hale. a very distinct
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it goes out of the left side of their head at a 45 degree angle. blows.e says, there she and the captain on the deck will say, launch the whale boat. every man runs to their assigned boat. the first thing they do is take off their shoes. whales have a sensitive sense of hearing and they don't want to make a lot of noise. but they also only probably own one. of shoes so they don't want to lose them. ore tos using his big help steer. as they approach the whale, the officer in the stern will tell him to take his desk put down ore and-- put down his pick up a harpoon. now
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wood to leather. the harpoon does not kill the whale, however it does get his attention, so the whale will take off swimming as fast as he can go. the whale can swim maybe 10-15 miles per hour, so joseph is urging everybody on so he can now harpoon this whale. this wild ride they are on is called the nantucket sleigh ride certainly the most exciting part of the whale hunt, but also very dangerous. some of the men are hanging on for dear life, others are coiling -- letting down the line as it goes around the head, some are bailing water out of the boat, this is an exciting but very dangerous time. eventually the whale will get very tired and when the whale starts to tire, they will pull in on the line again and get close to the whale again. now we have a switch in positions, the officer has moved to the bow and joseph has moved to the stern and now we have the
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officer who is going to use the lamp. he is the person will have the honor of actually killing the whale. the officer takes up his lance, he is going to aim for the heart and the lungs of the whale. those are the vital organs, the life of the whale. he will plunge in his lance may be all the way up to the hilt and then he will turn it around to do as much damage as you can, this was a horrible way for a whale today -- two die. -- a whale to die. once the whale has been lanced, everybody waits and they are waiting to see the whale spouting blood and they will yell out fire in the chimney, they know that a vital organ has been hit and they know that the whale is going to die. as soon as they know the whale is dying, they back away as fast as they can. a dying whale can go into a death flurry where they might so
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-- circle the boat many times, they can tip the boat over and all those men and up in the water. unfortunately, most of them did not know how to swim. the edward kerry has been fortunate -- unfortunate to come across a good size of wales, and spermd size pod of wales, and whoever has caught the will has to get that whale back to the mothership. the mothership stays in one position and each whaleboat that has caught a whale needs to toe tow that whale back. they could be three miles away, that would be three hours of rowing just to get back to the ship. you can imagine, they are carrying a very heavy whale. they can be anywhere from -- you would think that the crew could do a little rest, but not so, they immediately start the cutting in process. they lower a platform off the side of the ship and start the
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cutting in. one of the men will actually stand on the back of the whale and he has cleats in his shoes so he does not fall and the water where sharks might be circling. his job is to put a big hole in the top of the head, attach a big hook which is attached to a winch and they can start to peel away the blubber from the whale. these pieces of blubber that they are peeling away are called blanket pieces, they were about 15 feet long and they were in or heavy. enormously so they would lay them on the deck with a winch and then these huge pieces go to the area where men used two handled knives to cut these huge pieces of rubber -- of blubber into smaller pieces -- blubber into smaller pieces. you can see them cutting them up into smaller pieces. those are called by believes --
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bible leaves. the next thing they do is poke the intestines and stomach of the whale, they are looking for something very specific. a sperm whale's favorite food is squid and all squid have a corny horny beak, think about a parrots beak. that is indigestible and it can get lodged in the stomach or intestines of a whale and if that happens, the scar tissue forms around that began that produces amber agree -- amb ergris, it has a very special use. it was used as a ingredient in fine perfumes, so i have a high monetary value. next, they cut off the head of the whale and let the rest of the carcass go and they bring the head onto the deck of the ship. to get a big hole in the top of the head and now they go after this valuable oil, bucket it out with many buckets and the youngest, smallest men on board
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who could be joseph ray is going to be ordered to strip down and lower himself with a bucket into the head of the whale to get every last drop of that very valuable oil. imagine how shocked he is. and lastly, they cut off the lower jaw of the whale because they are going to save those teeth. sperm whale's teeth are eight of ivory.e out and when they went out catching whales, the captain would distribute the teeth to the crew and then the men would take a tooth, sanded down, and they would carve or engrave into the tooth things they had seen on their voyage or some memory of home and they would fill in those carved lines with soot from the tower or dried ink and that was the art known as the sailors art. the art of scrimshaw.
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now it is time to clean up the deck in preparation for actually boiling down all the blubber. the ship's carpenter will get the fire going and they would put in these chunks of blubber. there will also be skin and tissue that will float up to the top and that would be skimmed off with a skimmer and added to the fire, they kept to fire going. this was a long, arduous process, it could take up to 2-3 days in length, they just kept working 12 hour shifts. you can imagine that would be a wash with oil and blubber in a slippery mess. actually very dangerous, the smell was dangerous -- horrendous. you can smell a nantucket ship that was drying out a whale miles away, so you could smell it way before you see it.
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the edward kerry has been quite lucky and they now have killed 35 whales and the captain says set sail for nantucket, so you can imagine these men are homeward bound, they are ready to go home. the first thing they do when they know that they are on their way home is a break apart the try works, they thrown overboard. they do not want the captain to be tempted to take anymore whale, they want to be sure they're on their way home. on their way home this time, they are now seasoned navigators and sailors and they go around the horn and they arrive in nantucket in 1858. and they offload all these barrels and casks of oil that they have accumulated. these will go to a refinery and candle factory for further processing.
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finally, it is time to pay out or tell the men what they have earned on this voyage. a captain and certainly a ship owner could become a wealthy man after just one whaling voyage, but someone like joseph, our boat stever will probably receive one 100th of the proceeds of the voyage and a lowly seaman would receive one 60th of the voyage. joseph has kept such a wonderful journal and told so many wonderful stories, it is really quite exciting to read. i will tell you about one of the adventures, when he talks about lecturing a fellow nantucket or -- rescuing a fellow nantucketer. a cry resounded throughout the ship, the wind blowing heavy,
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succeeded in reaching him as he was about to give up. he had a bucket under him which fortunately happens to go over at the same time. the name of the lad was samuel christian. in another entry, on august 27, 1854, joseph described the hard work that took place on the whaleship. working like the old harry, putting spars over the stern, and all of his homesick as the devil. so ends the 24 hours of trial and tribulation. so what happened to young joseph ray? after this voyage, he went out on another whaling voyage at -- out of connecticut and unfortunately, he was up in the sails and he fell from the four foremast yard and was lost at
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sea. and what happened to the edward kerry? it went out in 1858 and stopped in san francisco where it was sold and resumed its whaling. then, in 1865, it was captured and burned by the confederate shenandoah and that was the end of the edward kerry. so now -- people would think that probably the 19th century was the heyday of whaling, but actually it was the 20th century when soviet fleets, european fleets, asian fleets started hunting whales for meat rather than for oil and surprisingly in the 200 years of whaling that nantucket was doing,
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approximately one million whales were killed, but in the 50-60 years of more modern whaling where they have big factory ships and grenades and harpoon guns and so on, over 3 million -- it is estimated over 3 million whales have been killed. whale populations are still quite threatened, they really are under considerable threats from drilling in the sea, from pollution and garbage, entanglement with fishing gear and collisions with other ships. that is the end of our whale talk, i am so glad so many were able to join us and i would be more than happy to the question -- take questions. >> we got a few questions here. the first one is, on this -- on
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sperm oil bottle, what is used -- was it used as a gargle? >> it was, we have that bottle in the whaling museum and it was used as a gargle, does not sound too appealing. >> we have a question about the visuals for the whaling boats from the early movie and what was it and was the ship the charles morgan? >> i think it was -- >> it was the charles morgan. >> it was a charles morgan, ok, and the movie is the silent movie made in the 1920's and it is called "down to the cn ship" ships."e sea in
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part of it is an actual whale hunt, but part of it is a hollywood interpretation. >> we have a question about the photograph, what are the dates and sources of the different photographs? >> from the journal? >> the question is what are the dates and sources. if you want to talk about both, the journal and the photos we used. >> we have these remarkable drawings and stories that joseph ray tells in his journal, but a lot of the other footage as i said is from the movie. some of it is from our collection of course. >> comments from some that say they saw marek on the cruelest, -- crew list. was this the same from the 1830's? >> that is an interesting question, i'm not sure if it was the same. there were so many families connected in nantucket and so many that have the same first name and last name, i'm not sure
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>> another question is how did joseph's journal survive and 00:23:22 come to nantucket? >> it came back with joseph and i don't know, one of his descendents was able to donate it to the historical association and we are very fortunate to have that along with many other ships journal. the research library has an amazing collection of journals and log books. there is a great project going on right now at the research library that transcribes all these journals. >> what was that was thrown overboard to make the voyage end? >> at the end of the voyage they break apart this brick furnace, and they throw this overboard because they don't want the captain to be tended to take to take tempted
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another whale. there is another reason, too, they have used that numerous times to dry out 30-40 whales and so the mortar could become weak. and they will be going around cape horn which is notoriously stormy and they do not want that to break apart in a storm and damage the ship. >> what were the maritime or educational requirements for men to set sail on these journeys besides breathing? >> right, a lot of the men, especially the green hands really did not need any requirements, they just had to be a body. they needed a good crew and they needed to seize in them and season them and learn the job as they go. the captains and the first mate would have been lovely nantucket men and they would have been much more experienced and probably -- and they would have
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worked their way of the ladder and learned a lot about navigation and sailing these big ships. >> and who was edward kerry -- who was the edward kerry the ship was named after? >> i did not know that until today, we just found out the original owner of the ship was -- whose name was ahern named the ship after his father and then it was sold to others over the years. in this particular voice, the voyage, the owners were two cough and who have a house on main street. after the coffin brothers owned the ship, then it went to the starbuck family and eventually it was sold in san francisco. >> we have a question about, why don't people hunt whales today? >> number one, there is a moratorium against hunting whales, so that started in 1986. there is a moratorium on hunting whales for commercial purposes,
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although there is some hunting commercially still done. sperm whales are not easy, they are very -- in very deep water, so they are the whales that would migrate close by nantucket although we do have a skeleton in our museum that did not migrate by nantucket, but that was a rare occasion. hopefully these whales will have time to recover, it is estimated that there are around 300,000 sperm whales left in the world which is not a great number, but hopefully enough to survive. >> and a question about the presentation itself, is this story the same one that george grant would tell? >> the process has changed over the years, we have done a lot of different presentations and this is the first year we have used the edward kerry journal to
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illustrate the whaling -- the whale hunt. it is very similar to the one that george would have started all those years ago. >> and he was a whaler? >> he was a whaler, yes. >> when was photography first available for recording whaling? >> that i do not know, when did photography become -- i don't know. >> we would have to probably look at our own photography collection, i think the earliest rings are around the early 1840's. but they are mostly portraits of that time, probably difficult to take things on the ship. great question. >> was it unusual to go around both capes on a single voyage?
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>> i think it was unusual, once they discovered the rich whaling grounds in the pacific, then the quickest route would be to go along the atlantic, may make stops in cape verdi and then along the eastern coast of south america and around the horn and up into the whaling grounds of the south pacific. they did their hunting along the equator and so they were really way out in the middle of the pacific ocean. it is fairly unusual that this particular voyage did go around the cape of good hope, other ships did that, too, but it was more common to go directly to the pacific. >> another navigation question, when did nantucket whalers first venture into the southern ocean around antarctica? >> even on whaling voyages in the early -- in the 1830's thereabouts, they were going in the pacific, but they would also follow the whales. whales have their young in warm
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water, somewhere around the equator, but depending on the season they will either go very far north to the arctic, or very far south to the antarctica to feed because that is where the richer feeder grounds -- feeding grounds were. -- feeding grounds for them. it depended on the time of year. >> how were the whale teeth proportioned to the crew? >> it depends on the size of the whales? but they could have 30 or more teeth. some of the men were proficient at carving teeth, they also used whalebone. they carved busts and women's corsets which are usually made out of whalebone and they made
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jagging wheels if you had been in this grimshaw room, he would see all the different items that were made under the art of scrimshaw. i assume that the teeth were more prized and would be distributed to the men who had time and inclination to carve and do designs in the teeth. >> did they eat the whale meat or discard it? >> they did not eat the whale meat, first of all, we have to think about the horrible smell. this was very unappealing. in particular, sperm whales, in order to dive down so deeply, they could actually go down over a mile or two. they have to have something called a lot of mild globin in myoglobin in their blood which tends to give them more oxygen, but it tends to make their meat a very dark color, and almost black color which was
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pretty unappealing. this was not about meet for the nantucket whalers. >> coming back to the oil question, what was the difference between oil from the blubber and the oil from the head? >> the oil from the blubber had to be boiled down, the oil from the head was pure oil and it is the only creature in the world that has oil and its head like this. there have been a lot of questions about why biologically does the whale have all its oil and its head and the answer is no one really knows exactly for sure, but the supposition is that it acts as a buoyancy control that allows the whale to dive so deeply and come up quickly. we are really not sure, it is rather hard for scientists to study whales because they are underwater most of the time. >> how competitive was nantucket against -- and other whaling centers?
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>> for a good period of time starting in the mid-1700s to the mid-1800's, this was the only industry on this island and they were really premier wellman -- whalemen. they were really successful with the innovation of having a furnace on board. then, in the mid-1800's, certainly new bedford began to take over. they were a number of things that happened on nantucket that ended the whaling business, one of those being the great fire of 1846, the discovery of gold in california that took so many men away from here, the discovery of oil in pennsylvania which produced kerosene and the civil war. a number of things happened in a short period of time the ended whaling on nantucket and new bedford was the next big whaling center.
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after that, san francisco also got into whaling, so it was over by the time of the civil war. >> why was it so uncommon for the crewmembers to not know how to swim? >> that is a good question, i think that is true, i have heard that is true. you think about it now, all our children go in pools and oceans and take swimming lessons, but people were not using the ocean around us as a resort or recreation, this was business, so i think probably the thought of learning to swim never occurred to them. >> some of them came from farms. >> right. question -- did women ever travel on whaling ships? >> yes, but not often, only sailors wives, no other women were allowed. it was not not frequent, but a
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number of wives did go along, we have a wonderful story from the museum about women who accompanied their husbands on whaling voyages. there is a wonderful new book that tells the story of a woman who went on a voyage with her husband and kept a journal which we have and that is a wonderful story of what it was like for a woman to go out. it was quite an adventure for women in those days, but the women that were left from just behind and nantucket were very powerful women. think about it, the men were gone and the women had to run this town and they did so in remarkable ways. we have remarkable stories of the nantucket women who were ahead of their time did >> interesting question, i was in norway and sampled smoked whale at the fish market, what
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type of whale with a habit that -- would they have at that market? >> it could be any kind of, certainly the -- norway and iceland i know offer whale meat as a delicacy, it could be a home back well, i don't know -- humpback >> we have a correction here from one of our old friends, jim , anyway he said it appears that the morgan was used for static scenes and a different ship, the wanderer was re-rigged for some of the whaling sees -- seas. -- whaling scene. that is great information to clean up our actor little bit. >> thank you.
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>> a question here about the presentation, they see it is being recorded, will it be posted somewhere for replay or to share with others? >> yes, i am not sure when and where, but yes, we did record this. we will post it on our website when the time comes. >> given our proximity to the banks and whales, was their local hunting here in new england? >> yes, certainly the early whaling on nantucket was right around nantucket, there were whales migrating particular in the north atlantic and that whale migrates up and down the east coast, but yeah the early whaling they did not have the option for going out 3-4 years on a whaling voyage. if they had a where they had to get back to nantucket before the blubber was rancid. >> we have a comment about antarctic whaling. there were whaling on the
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harbor, close to the antarctic peninsula. >> right, right. >> greenland's north, i'm confused. >> we have some dramatic stories in journals and log books in the museum that tell us how difficult it was when they were really in the arctic area because often the ships would get stuck in the ice and that could be very fatal because if the ice closes in eight can , it cans in collapse the ship, so very dangerous. >> is it possible to purchase those candles today? >> no, it is illegal to hunt those whales, it is illegal to hunt whales.
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>> our last question, i think we will end on a high note. with the men away, did women rule? >> yes. >> the whaling station meant by -- manned by greenland. that is the end of our list. thanks. this is terrific. >> thank you all for joining us and we look forward to doing it again sometime. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] this is american history tv. each weekend we feature 48 hours of programs exploring our nation's past.
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american history tv is on social media. follow us @c-span history. harvey, theor curator of the exhibition alexander von humboldt, and it is a great pleasure to be able to introduce you to this amazing man, this amazing exhibition and the journey we are going to take through early american art and history. the gentleman you see over here is alexander von humboldt, a german natural


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