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William Bradford, The Port of New Bedford from Crow Island, 1854, oil painting. New Bedford Whaling Museum, 1975.18

This data-driven site will be useful to a wide range of people, from family historians searching for ancestors, to scholars of the whaling industry, to teachers and their students.

Whale oil provided fuel for lighting and lubrication for the gears of the industrial revolution, until it was replaced by petroleum products in the mid-nineteenth century. In the United States the whaling industry ranked ninth in overall value to the economy at its height in the mid-1840s. The documentation of that industry is extensive; the data presented here combines information from many sources including logbooks, journals, ship registers, newspapers, business papers, and custom house records.

Getting started

Just search If you're not sure where to begin, use the Search box in the banner at the top of any page. Enter a person's name, a vessel name, or any other words of interest and click the 'magnifying glass' icon. This site Search function knows about all of the databases and all of the web pages on the Whaling History website. It will return any results it finds from each one in a separate tab.
Learn about Whaling WhalingHistory.org is a repository for data about whaling. For a general overview of whaling and whaling history, here are some resources to start your exploration. Each of them takes a different approach: a narrative, a collection of artifacts and maps, a timeline, a collection of topics, a work of literature.
The Data Viewer Interface When the the main site search is not specific or flexible enough for your needs, use the data viewers. Each database has its own data viewer—a tabular display window to interact with the data—and all of the data viewers share a common set of features.

Whaling History Data

Bufford, J. H. & Russell, Benjamin, "Abandonment of the Whalers in The Arctic Ocean September 1871" - Plate 3, lithograph. Mystic Seaport Museum, 1942.3

At the heart of the current site are seven interconnected databases. Three of them relate to American offshore whaling: one describing every known voyage from the 1700s through the 1920s, another transcribing location information from whaling logbooks, and the third containing crew lists for these voyages. Two of the databases relate to the British Southern Whale Fishery (1775–1859): one describing every known voyage, whaling or sealing, to the south of Britain, and one containing the corresponding crew lists. The sixth database describes whaling voyages from British North America, including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick from 1779–1845. And the seventh describes voyages from France.

Explore

  • Sources. Investigate the sources referred to in creating the American, French, and British North American voyage databases. Links are provided to scans of the original source materials when they are available online.
  • Logbook Repositories. Search a list of libraries, museums and other repositories of American Offshore Whaling logbooks.
  • Scanned Logbooks. Read more than 200 whaling logbooks that have been scanned.
  • Women who went whaling. Find voyages on which the master’s wife sailed.
  • Voyage Maps. View voyage maps drawn from logbook data.
  • Dennis Wood Abstracts of Whaling Voyages. Search these summaries—compiled between 1830 and 1874—of more than 6,700 voyages.

Participate

John Taylor Arms, Whaling scene, cutting in blubber, 1925, etching and aquatint. Mystic Seaport, 2004.21.3

Please join us in telling the stories of Whaling History.

  • Explore the voyage data. Each database has a data viewer that enables you to interact with the data, search for people, vessels and voyages of interest, and then print, copy, or export what you’ve found.
  • Use our data. Most of the databases are available as downloads for use with other tools and systems.
  • Submit corrections. The databases will be updated annually. Suggested additions and corrections are welcome.
  • Contribute your data. We are actively interested in incorporating additional whaling history data sets. Please contact us.
  • Link your artifacts. In the next phase of this project, museums, libraries and other institutions will be able to link objects in their collections to our databases, enriching their catalogs and connecting them to related objects elsewhere.
  • Add your whaling history project to the Gallery. If you have used Whaling History data in a project, we would be interested in featuring your project in our Gallery. Please contact us.

News & Announcements

Dennis Wood Abstracts now searchable Dennis Wood Abstracts of Whaling Voyages are now available for searching and browsing. The New Bedford Free Public Library has scanned more than 2,300 pages and placed them on the Internet Archive. WhalingHistory.org has updated 6,700 voyage records with links directly to pages in the scanned document.
American and British Southern whaling data updated, 2021 Annual updates for 2021 are now live for the American Offshore and British Southern whaling databases. The British Southern data has been thoroughly revised; the American Offshore Whaling Voyages data has more than 1,000 corrections and improvements, plus more than 370 new voyages, mostly from the 18th century.
Painting of Desolation Island, Indian Ocean Agent/Owner data added to American Whaling Voyages Agent/Owner entries have been added or updated for more than eight thousand American Offshore Whaling voyages. Now there are agent/owner entries for more than two-thirds of the fifteen thousand voyages in the database. This makes it possible to view the voyages credited to a single agent/owner together in search results.
Charles W. Morgan American and British Southern whaling data updated Annual updates are now live for the American Offshore and British Southern whaling databases, including more than 3,500 new crew list entries for 155 American voyages.
New Features and New Data added to WhalingHistory.org WhalingHistory.org has been greatly expanded in the past year, to include whaling data from more countries, links to scanned documents online, and a new global search.
British Whaling data now available WhalingHistory.org is now hosting two important data sets documenting British whaling. The databases contain voyage and crew information for the British Southern Whale Fishery, which operated from 1775 to 1859.
World’s Most Comprehensive Whaling History Database Released The Whaling History website opened to the public on March 6, 2018, connecting all things whaling for researchers, scholars, genealogists, educators and students.