Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Amateur whaling, or a tale of the Pacific

Date: 1847
Display dimensions (Framed): 613 x 1100 x 40 mm
Sight: 452 x 940 mm
Medium: Watercolour, paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00005660
Related Place:Australia, Twofold Bay,

User Terms

    Oswald Walters Brierly's watercolour painting 'Amateur whaling, or a tale of the Pacific', 1847

    This dramatic painting depicts a whale hunt in Twofold Bay where the whalers were assisted by pods of Killers whales. The crew of a small boat have successfully harpooned a large Right whale and are pursuing the animal in rough seas. This painting aims to emphasise the danger and adventure of 19th century whaling. In reality whalers were more likely to conduct hunts in better weather conditions.
    Oswald Brierly was familiar with the whaling industry having come out from England with Ben Boyd and later managing Boyd's whaling station at Two Fold Bay.
    SignificanceThe scene depicted here by Oswald Brierly is based on an actual incident at Twofold Bay in New South Wales. The artist has dramatically depict the amateur whaling incident, a possible example of the capricious decision making of the great entrepreneur of the 1840s, Ben Boyd.
    HistoryDuring the 1800s whales were a valuable resource with their oil used in lamp fuel, lubricants and candles, their baleen in corsets and buggy whips and their ambergris in perfumes and soaps. The Right whale was given its name by whalers who saw it as the ideal whale to hunt. This slow moving animal usually swims within sight of the shore and floats to the surface when dead, making it an easier target. Today, the Right whale is listed as endangered with extensive hunting greatly impacting its numbers.

    American whaling centred on the north-east coastal town of New Bedford, a booming industry in the 19th century with hundreds of ships regularly heading out to the Pacific Ocean. Australian whaling stations included the settlement at Twofold Bay, New South Wales which was established by entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd in 1844. In this region and in parts of North America whalers noted that pods of Killer whales regularly helped them in their hunts by herding migrating whales into bays and keeping the animals on the surface, making it easier for the hunters to kill the trapped whales. The Killer whales were often awarded the prize of the killed whales tongue and lips.

    Whaling was a dangerous activity and many boats were known to have been destroyed during hunts. In 1820, the ship ESSEX was lost after it was rammed by a whale in the Pacific Ocean. Only eight of its' twenty crew survived. Large whaling ships and small boats were vulnerable to defensive whales lashing their tails or pushing their bodies into the vessels.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Amateur walvisvangst, of een verhaal van de Stille Oceaan

    Assigned title: Amateur Walfang, oder eine Geschichte des Pazifik

    Primary title: Amateur whaling, or a tale of the Pacific

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.