Episode 2 herebelow :
Even at the height of New Bedford’s whaling prowess in the mid 19th century, the basic procedure remained essentially unchanged: ships were sent to the various whaling grounds with foreknowledge of the seasons when whales could be expected to be present; lookouts were posted aloft; when whales were spotted boats were lowered in pursuit; barbed harpoons were used to fasten to the whale; the harpooned whale dragged the boat through the water until it tired out, whence it was dispatched with a lance. The carcass was towed to the mother ship, where it was cut in (butchered), the blubber tried out (rendered into oil), and the whalebone (baleen) cleaned and stowed; after which the hunt would resume.
Any improvements in the 19th century tended to be refinements of this basic technology, rather than true innovations. However, refinements were many and significant. The ships, barks, and schooners used in Yankee whaling were highly adapted to their special functions, the result of centuries of refinement. Harpoons benefited from improvements in the steel itself and from advances in design–notably the toggling grommet harpoon, introduced circa 1835, and especially the revolutionary Temple toggle harpoon, invented by African-American shipsmith Lewis Temple of New Bedford in 1848, which dramatically increased efficiency and minimized losses. Poison darts, explosive grenades, and heavy ordnance added to the whalers’ arsenal of killing methods. Rocket guns, adapted from military use –long tubes that rested on the shoulder for firing, not unlike the antitank bazookas of the 20th century–were introduced to whaling around 1820. Experimental guns to shoot harpoons, rather than wield them by hand, appeared in England as early as 1731, but it was not until 1837 that British gunsmith William W. Greener produced a truly effective bow-mounted, swiveling harpoon cannon: his Greener gun earned tenacious popularity with British and American whalers throughout the remainder of the 19th century. Competitive devices were invented in New England: shoulder guns, which look like conventional heavy-gauge rifles and fired an exploding bomb lance (New Bedford, 1846); a bow-mounted swivel gun with improved mounting and recoil properties (Norwich, Connecticut, 1882); a combination harpoon, lance, and bomb lance called a darting gun (New Bedford, 1865); and brass and bronze shoulder guns that were characteristically more durable in Arctic cold than their iron an steel precursors.
Broad-Based Prosperity of Yankee Whaling
The wealth derived from whaling was not limited to the great merchant families who functioned as ship owners, managing agents, and capitalist-entrepreneurs; rather, it was widely distributed among the various shoreside industries that rode the crest of New Bedford’s wave of prosperity. The caste of mechanics and artisans, who might in other circumstances be stereotyped as humble tradesmen, here often emerged as influential community leaders and powerful merchant capitalists. James Durfee, Jr., one of the many New Bedford shipsmiths and whalecraft manufacturers who made harpoons, chain plates, and ship fittings with their own hands and sold them to the whaling and shipyards , also sat on the Board of Trustees of a prominent local bank, served on the first City Council after New Bedford was incorporated in 1847, and listed accounts receivable for his firm of over $40,000 in 1859–two years after a major, worldwide economic panic. Richard Curtis, a rigger, left an estate in excess of $185,000 in the 1890, an enormous amount of wealth for a humble tradesman at the time. In 1900, sailmaker John R. Shurtleff–whose predecessor in sailmaking, Simpson Hart, had sat on the boards of a bank and an insurance company–left an estate exceeding $225,000. Such economic success was accumulated gradually, by building small businesses into larger ones, and by sharing the risk of whaling voyages–for example, by accepting a share in the proceeds of a voyage, rather than direct payment, for sails, cordage, or whalecraft sold to the owners. Such figures should be taken to reflect commensurate levels of productivity and employment in the whaling industry at large.
Way back in the 18th century, Paul Cuffe of Westport, the son of a slave father and Indian mother, achieved independence, considerable wealth, and a modicum of fame by parlaying a small boatbuilding business into an increasingly wider network of whaling, trading, and shipping–along the way creating jobs and self-reliance for others of African and Native American ancestry. In the 19th century the whaling trade and its family of shoreside industries provided analogous opportunities for persons of color–not only the mariners, but the artisans and tradesmen as well. Shipsmith Lewis Temple, who was also the son of slaves, never patented his revolutionary toggle harpoon, and so missed out on the bulk of the wealth that might have been his, but went to others–to competitor James Durfee among them. But long before the Emancipation Proclamation Lewis Temple was the master of his own business, small though it was; and his son, who apprenticed as a shipsmith in New Bedford firm of Dean & Driggs, was later a popular and successful barber in the city, likewise an independent entrepreneur.
Decline of Yankee Whaling
Beginning in the 1860s the American whaling industry suffered a gradual decline. Decade by decade, the value of whale oil dwindled, fewer ships were sent to sea, fewer men signed on, fewer fortunes were made, and fewer livelihoods depended on American whaling prowess. Simultaneously, beginning in the 1860s Norwegian entrepreneurs Svend Foyn was developing a new, mechanized whaling technology that would ultimately result in an enormous increase in whales taken worldwide. The reasons usually given for the decline of Yankee whaling fail to account for the simultaneous rise of the new "modern" Norwegian whaling technology:
Read Episode 3 also herebelow ,
Mustafa Umut Sarac