This book is appropriately timed, with the Charles W Morgan approaching the end of her major restoration to full sailing condition. In 2013, she is due to undertake a Restoration Voyage along the US East Coast for the first time under her own sails since 1924. The Morgan is the last surviving square-rigged whale ship of the thousands built to participate in the first oil rush. This is the personal account of one of the Morgans first harpoonists.
NAME: Seafarer’s Voice 6, Whale Hunter
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Nelson Cole Haley
PUBLISHER: Seaforth Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
PRICE: GB £12.99
SUBJECT: First Oil Rush, Charles W Morgan, New Bedford, Pacific, Antarctic, Mystic Seaport, Mystic River, missionaries, marine technology, lubricants, food sources, fabrication materials, ship-rigged, square-rigged, wooden boats
DESCRIPTION: This book is appropriately timed, with the Charles W Morgan approaching the end of her major restoration to full sailing condition. In 2013, she is due to undertake a Restoration Voyage along the US East Coast for the first time under her own sails since 1924. The Morgan is the last surviving square-rigged whale ship of the thousands built to participate in the first oil rush. This is the personal account of one of the Morgans first harpoonists. For millennia, the whale has been hunted by man, but most whales had beached themselves and become an opportunist harvest for coastal villages. That began to change in the Sixteenth Century when English and Dutch ships were sent to catch whales in the bays of the Spitzbergen Islands, Elizabeth I granted a monopoly to the Muscovy Company and James I claimed the Spitzbergens as British territory. The Dutch pioneered whale catching at sea in the early Seventeenth Century and the rapidly growing American whaling fleet began to copy this approach as whales became less frequent bay visitors along the US East Coast. By the end of the Eighteenth Century, the American whaling fleet was starting to dominate the whaling industry and spending more time sailing the Pacific and Antarctic waters. By 1841, when the Morgan was launched by a New Bedford yard, she was joining the US whaling fleet at the height of the whaling industry when huge profits were to be made and the cost of building a whale ship and equipping it for a voyage could be recovered during that first voyage. The Morgan was named for her owner, who already operated a fleet of whale ships. The industry began to decline rapidly as engineers discovered how to find, extract, and refine crude oil from vast underground reservoirs. The discovery, and the development of electricity for lighting and power, offered larger, more secure and economic sources of product to replace whale products. Before that time, whale oil had lubricated the Industrial Revolution and lit the lamps at home and at work. Nothing was wasted, whale meat providing food, skin and whalebone being used for many purposes that today are served by plastic. This book is an account of a harpoonist and boat steerer who sailed on an early voyage of the Morgan between 1849 and 1853. Haley is believed to have written his account, from notes or from memory, after the voyage when he married and was living in Hawaii. It is easy to think that whalers were tough illiterate men who engaged in a very brutal and dangerous industry. In the year that the Morgan was launched, the author of Moby Dick sailed for the first time on a whale ship, and here we have an eloquent narrative from a young harpoonist who was one of the killed sailors, but also working in the most dangerous part of an expedition. Haley does much more than provide a journal of life at sea hunting the whales. He describes the islands and ports that the Morgan visited during the cruise. He also expresses his opinion on the missionaries that wetn out to the Pacific and New Zealand to try to teach the native population Western civilization and religion. The description of life at sea is graphic, including an early experience where a whale turned on his open boat and sank it. In the days of endless television docu-dramas and dumbed-down-history, books like this provide the authentic voices of history to enable a reader to form clear visions of what happened, when, and why. This is one of those special interest books that deserves and demands a very much wider audience, the enduring books that libraries were set up to offer to a mass readership across society. What a shame if few copies find a home outside the private libraries of enthusiasts. At an unbelievably low price for a hard back book, this is a book to rush out and buy whatever your primary reading interests.