Whaling schooner deckplan
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Whales and whaling

Deck plan and side and interior plan of whaling schooner Amelia Of New Bedford, Massachusetts Drawing by C. S. Raleigh.

Whaling sailing ships could be readily be distinguished from other vessels even if not built specifically for the purpose of whaling by certain features:

  • 2 or more, usually 3 large whaling boats.

  • Provision for substantial storage for barrels to hold whale oil in the hold.

  • Blocks and other lifting gear amidships to haul parts of the flensed whale aboard for further processing.

  • The try-works usually positioned towards the front of the ship.

In 1860 a sailor on an American whaler earned 20 cents a day with lodging (cramped) and food (pretty bad). This compared to around 90c a day for an unskilled laborer on the land which after food and lodging were taken into account, came to 45-60c a day. So the lowest type of shore laborer in the USA earned 2-3 times what a common seaman on a whaler at sea earned. Desertion was commonplace and whaling captains often avoided ports or even islands where this was easy.

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Picture used courtesy NOAA