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Whaling Adventures - The Whale Attacks the Boat, Seizes it in his Huge Jaws - Perilous Position of the Crew

Date: 1859
Overall: 195 x 294 mm, 40 g
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00028365

User Terms

    This colour wood engraving shows an angry whale turning on a whale boat after being repeatedly lanced.

    This illustration accompanied a first hand account of the hunting and killing of an aggressive sperm whale off Australia. The account was written by a young sailor named Peter L Dumont who was on his first whaling voyage aboard the whaleship MONMOUTH of Cold Spring Harbour New York.

    Dumont describes the scene:

    The men... sprang vigorously into the water, trusting to the chance of being picked up by the other boats. Before the last man had committed himself to the waves, the whale made a furious attack upon it, taking it in its huge jaws, crushing and shivering it into a thousand pieces... With one convulsive effort to retaliate on his enemies, and to regain his failing strength, he rolled over on one side, and threw out his huge fin, but in his effort the faint spark of remaining life went out, and he sank back dead.

    Source: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 26 March 1859, p. 258
    SignificanceAs one of a series of engravings that depict the various stages of a whale hunt, this illustration vividly captures the danger and drama of whaling and highlights the activities of an American whaleship hunting in Australian waters.
    HistoryDuring the 1800s whaling was a large scale commercial enterprise that was conducted across the globe. The main industry centred on the American north-east coastal town of New Bedford which saw hundreds of ships heading out to the Pacific Ocean on a weekly basis. Industry and households depended on whale products for which there was no substitute. Whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication until 1860 when kerosene and petroleum started to gain popularity. The pure clean oil from sperm whales was a superior source of lighting and the finest candles were made from the whale's wax-like spermaceti. Light and flexible, baleen - the bristle-fringed plates found in the jaws of baleen whales - had many uses in objects which today would be made out of plastic.

    In the 19th century American whalers sailed south to the rich Pacific whaling grounds in search of sperm whales. During the 1840s several hundred ships pursued whales off the coast of Australia. Many called into Australian ports for repairs or supplies after a voyage half-way around the world. Meeting a whaler was the first contact many colonists had with an American.

    Brothers John and Walter Jones of Cold Spring Harbor, New York, decided to branch out from their milling business into whaling as a response to foreign competition and high tax undercutting their profits. In 1836 they invested approximately $20,000 to buy the old 100-foot bark MONMOUTH, leaving for its maiden voyage from Cold Spring Harbor in July of that year. When MONMOUTH returned in May 1837 it carried an impressive 1,700 barrels of whale oil. After a successful first three years, the brothers formed the Cold Spring Whaling Company in 1839, built docks and enlarged the fleet. By 1852, the company owned nine vessels, however the long and expensive voyages to the Pacific hurt the company and other marginal ports. After the death of Walter in 1855 and John in 1859, the company wound down quickly, with the last ships returning in 1862.

    Additional Titles


    Web title: Whaling Adventures - The Whale Attacks the Boat, Seizes it in his Huge Jaws - Perilous Position of the Crew

    Related People
    Artist: G P
    Engraver: Speer

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