Magazine article Geographical

'The Voyage of the F.H. Moore' and Other 19th Century Whaling Accounts

Magazine article Geographical

'The Voyage of the F.H. Moore' and Other 19th Century Whaling Accounts

Article excerpt

'THE VOYAGE OF THE F.H. MOORE' AND OTHER 19TH CENTURY WHALING ACCOUNTS

edited by Greg Bailey, McFarland & Co, 35.95 [pounds sterling] (paperback))

Though now the subject of heated moral debate, in the 19th century, whaling was a necessity. It's important, in a book devoted to the topic, to get that point across first, and Bailey duly does so: whale oil kept the lamps burning; whale bone made piano keys. The trade is ugly and repugnant, but in offering excerpts from contemporary accounts--notably the journal of 21-year-old Samuel Grant Williams, a boatsteerer on the titular whaler--Bailey shows us men doing what, by the dictates of the time, needed to be done: and much like the oil they harvested, it's an illuminating work.

Williams signed on for an eighteen-month voyage, and mostly seems to have enjoyed himself. To the young man, a harpooned whale is an awesome spectacle: 'the contortions that he went through was wonderful'. …

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