Whaling Evolution

1600 Words7 Pages
Oil is the fuel that makes the world turn, powering nearly everything in history from candles and lamps, to modern day vehicles and factories. Before the human race discovered its location in the ground during the mid-to-late 19th century, it was first harvested from whales. Prior to the eruption of the whaling industry during the 17th century, “Marine biologists estimate that there were as many as 4.5 million of the largest whales, plus millions more of the smaller whales, which includes their close relatives, the dolphins and porpoises” (Murphy 10). By the early 20th century, researchers expect that humans were killing over fifty-thousand whales a year, this staggering number brought many species near extinction (Home). Accurate estimates…show more content…
“By the 1800s, whaling had become a major industry that impacted the entire world” (Currie 9). As the world’s population increased, so did the necessity and value of a whale’s carcass and the resources it produced. “A single large whale contained tons of meat, which could be dried to feed a village for months” (Murphy 10). “American whalers were especially interested in sperm, right, and bowhead whales because these three species had a particularly thick layer of blubber” (Currie 6). Whale blubber was eventually processed to become oil- an incredible resource in a multitude of areas such as the production of soap, as well as light and heat when burned as candles or oil lamps‒and one of the world’s strongest desires. Whalebone, also known as baleen, was another sought-after whale part. Found inside the mouth of right and bowhead whales, the cartilage-like material was used in corsets, fishing poles, and other common items during the time period. Vertebrae was even turned into pots. Perhaps the most valuable part harvested from a whale was the ambergris‒ “a pulpy, gray substance found in the stomachs of some sperm whales” and, when collected, was “worth more than its weight in gold” (Currie 8). The substance was added to perfume the preserve and heighten the scent and “Collecting enough ambergris could make a ship’s owner very wealthy indeed” (Currie…show more content…
When crew members on lookout would spot a whale, a signal was yelled out and the ship lurched towards the area in sight. Smaller crew ships consisting of a harpooner and a shipmate would be lowered and the men would row their way to the whale. When a harpooner’s weapon hit its target, prongs within the point of the harpoon would open up and latch themselves inside the whale. Terrified, the creature would swim as hard as it could, losing blood at an alarming rate. On many occasions, as the whale slowed from exhaustion, the whalers would cut the muscles in the back of its neck to exhaust it further and prevent it from being able to lift its head up. When the whale was finally put out of its horrendous misery, the creature was tied to the ship and pumped with air so its carcass wouldn’t start to sink. While attached to the ship, the crew would begin to cut into the leviathan, taking blubber, bone, and meat. When the deed was done, they would cut the ropes and leave the corpse floating in the middle of a now blood-red ocean (Murphy 152-153). Materials harvested from the slaughtered whales were kept in massive compartments in the lowest section of a whaling vessel and ships would not return to port until those compartments were filled entirely with the precious, lucrative

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