Sea History volume 164 (Autumn 2018) includes an article about two new online resources recently launched for historians, genealogists, students, and others interested in the wealth of records concerning maritime trade under sail: WhalingHistory. org and SlaveVoyages.org.
This map represents the journey of the whaler Neptune (Mystic Seaport Museum O-LOG 23) of New London, Connecticut. Chronicling the ship’s voyage from October, 1840 – April, 1842, the map depicts the ship’s day-to-day events as it traveled to the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans as they were described in the ship’s logbook. View the active map →
Original content by: Allyse Zajac
This voyage of Neptune is American Offshore Whaling Voyage AV10372. Our database includes summary information about the voyage, the vessel and the master, Samuel Greene, Jr., as well as a crew list. In building her interactive voyage map, Allyse Zajac started with AOWL logbook data then added detail, encoded special events, and transcribed all of the complete logbook entries from the original logbook in the collections of Mystic Seaport Museum.
In the next phase of our project, we hope to take the data set from her project and use it to enhance the information on whalinghistory.org.
By Kerry Gathers
At its peak in the mid-19th century, whaling was a gigantic, global business that provided oil to light the streets and homes of Europe and America, and bone to make profitable consumer goods for sale around the world. The young United States dominated this industry, and for a time, whaling was the fifth largest sector of the American economy.
While stories of whaling drama, adventure, and violence are typically set at sea, this map aims to communicate the economic impact of whaling back in American ports, where sperm oil, whale oil, and whalebone landed and entered the market. For over 60 port cities and towns, this map reports the market values of whale products as they were returned to port from 1804 to 1876, illustrating the drastic ebbs and flows of the industry.
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. The voyage database, which is primarily the work of A G E (Joe) Jones, documents the events of about 2550 voyages, whaling or sealing, to the south of Britain in over 930 different vessels. The crew database, which is primarily the work of Dale Chatwin, lists nearly 14,000 entries for men who sailed in the ships in the British Southern Whale Fishery.
For 350 years until the early 1960s the British were involved in several types of whaling. This involvement was divided into three distinct trades: the northern whale fishery between 1610 and 1914; the southern whale fishery or ‘south seas trade’ from 1775 to 1859; and the modern whaling trade, from 1904 to 1963. Each of these trades was distinguished by the geographical location in which it was undertaken, the types of whales pursued, and to some extent by the methods and techniques used to capture whales. The northern and southern whale fisheries were even differentiated and defined by law.
We are especially pleased to host the BSWF data because many American whalers also sailed from British ports in the years after the American Revolution. We are looking forward to making these connections explicit, linking records in the American Offshore Whaling databases with those in the British Southern Whale Fishery data.
WhalingHistory.org connects all things whaling for researchers, scholars, genealogists and enthusiasts
The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport have developed the world’s most comprehensive whaling history database and it is now available for all to use at whalinghistory.org. Researchers, genealogists, students, teachers, and history buffs alike will find it to be the most robust and useful repository of whaling history documentation and scholarship.
The data presented combines many sources including logbooks, journals, ship registers, newspapers, business papers, and custom house records. Users will be able to find and trace whaling voyages and ships to specific logbooks, as well as the list of crew members aboard most of the voyages. The foundational fabric of Whaling History features three databases that have been stitched together – the American Offshore Whaling Voyage (AOWV) database, the American Offshore Whaling Log database, and an extensive whaling crew list database. All data is open to the public and is downloadable for any researcher to use with other tools and systems.
The American Offshore Whaling Voyage (AOWV) database, which was spearheaded by Judith Lund, scholar and former curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, includes information about all known American offshore (or “pelagic”) whaling voyages from the 1700s to the 1920s. It does not include the modern factory ship voyages of the mid-20th century. Information is most complete for the 19th century. The voyages included in the database sailed from, or were under the registry of, what is now the United States.
Extensive records of American whaling in the form of daily entries in whaling voyage logbooks and contain a great deal of information about where and when the whalemen found whales. The second part of the database’s foundation is the American Offshore Whaling Log database, which includes information from 1,381 logbooks from American offshore whaling voyages between 1784 and 1920. These data were extracted from the original whaling logbooks during three separate scientific research projects, one conducted by Lieutenant Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury in the 1850s, the second conducted by Charles Haskins Townsend in the 1930s, and the third conducted by a team from the Census of Marine Life project lead by Tim Denis Smith between 2000 and 2010. The data file includes 466,134 data records assembled in a common format suitable for spatial and temporal analysis of American whaling throughout the 19th century.
The third database that Whaling History is built from is extensive whaling voyage crew lists from more than 5,300 voyages. Crew lists for whaling voyages recorded at the customs houses in Fall River and Salem, Massachusetts and in New London, Connecticut have been compiled as part of various projects and from various sources over the years. Crew lists for New Bedford voyages have been compiled using records kept by the chaplains of the New Bedford Port Society from 1840 to the end of whaling in New Bedford. These crew lists are now in a single searchable, sortable database.
In the next phase of the Whaling History, museums and other institutions’ collection items will be able to be linked to the database, giving researchers the ability to see a robust and dynamic picture of whaling history and artifacts.