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Old 12-01-2014, 07:50 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Lisnaholic View Post
Lord Larehip must spend a lot of time compiling a thread like this, and I found this section of it particularly interesting:-

At last various expressions like swinging a cat makes some sense, though I would dispute the one about the cat out of the bag, which I have always taken to mean "the secret has escaped and cannot be returned to concealment," the same way you can´t easily re-bag a panicking animal.

^ HaHa! I don´t see why not, Ki - that´s what I´m doing anyway, for lack of anything more erudite to contribute :-

Yeah, I hear you. When "the cats out of the bag", it means it's too late for any other course of action. One the captain takes out his cat o' nine tails, it's too late to apologize or make excuses, someone's gonna get thwacked. And I also have mostly heard the phrase in reference to a secret becoming known.
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Old 12-01-2014, 12:16 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Randy Dandy-Oh is one of my favorites. I love Johnny Collins' version. I think he was the best of the shanty men. No one did them like him. Shame he's gone. Another of my favorite shanty men is A. L. Lloyd. Unlike a lot of shanty men, Lloyd actually was a sailor.

The Bonny Ship The Diamond - A L Lloyd - YouTube

Lloyd with Ewan MacColl were great together:

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd - Row Bullies Row (sea chantey) - YouTube
This one mentions Liverpool which was and is a big sea-farin' port. Strangely, this one even sounds like the Beatles. You could actually imagine the Beatles doing this one in their Rubber Soul/Revolver period. Let us not forget that Freddie Lennon, John's dad, served aboard various ships. You figure sea songs and shanties had to be known by them just because they were in Liverpool.

Also Lloyd's version of "The Greenland Whale Fishery" is only version I truly like but no one has loaded it. I think it was the truest way it was originally performed--it's the oldest preserved whalermen's song.

Lloyd & MacColl also did the best version of "Whisky Johnny"--as a true shanty, the way it was meant to be heard. That's not loaded either. Here is their version of "The Handsome Cabin Boy":

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd - The Handsome Cabin Boy (sea song) - YouTube

It was based on a true story--about a girl who disguises herself as a lad and signs onto a whaleship. In the real story, she did so because her true love was serving on one and she was trying to find him. According to the first mate, she was an exceptional whaleman. When the whale was breaching the water sending huge waves that threatened to tip over the whaleboats, most greenhorns screamed, cried, some even tried to jump overboard. Others would refuse to go out again. Some deserted because whales scared them to death. But this girl showed no fear at all, seemed not the slightest bit perturbed at the whale's deadliest flurries. Everyone thought this young lad extraordinarily brave--until he was discovered to be a she. After that, she had to be removed from the ship at the nearest port. When she left the ship, she was decked out in a fine dress and bonnet, looking very feminine. Upon watching her disembark, the first mate remarked with his voice choking, "There goes the bravest greenhorn I ever served with."
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Old 12-01-2014, 06:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Another great shanty singer is Louis Killen. Here he does "Wild Goose Shanty" which is quite a favorite among the shanty singers:

Louis Killen - The Wild Goose (sea shanty) - YouTube

Haul Away Joe - YouTube
"Haul Away Joe" is an old favorite of shanty enthusiasts and this is a very nice version--sung as a true shanty. Great clip too.

Stan Rogers - Rolling Down To Old Maui - YouTube
"Rolling Down to Old Maui" is an old whaling song. This version done by Stan Rogers is the general version. A. L. Lloyd does it quite differently.

American sailor of the 19th century. This uniform is called black (or blue) crackerjacks or just crackers for short. The thing hanging around his neck is a neckerchief which has to be rolled and then tied in a specific knot. The black turtleneck isn't worn anymore. The black beret is not worn anymore; the modern sailor wears a "white hat" or "dixie-cup". I like the beret better.

Whalemen dressed a bit differently. These guys were of the Greenland fishery. Note the dog.

The fouled anchor is an old maritime symbol. Fouled in this sense means tangled. A fouled anchor is useless as it cannot be lowered. A ship with a fouled anchor cannot dock or hold fast and so is in distress. It is worn as a collar device by the chief petty officer grades (E-7 thru E-9) and symbolizes his status as the go-to guy when the ship is in trouble. For example, a boiler may break down and be taken offline. It has to be restored to service as quickly as possible (boilers produce the steam that turns the ship’s main engines which turn the screws—the propellers—which makes the ship go) so the chief engineer will learn on the senior BTC (boiler tech chief) to oversee getting that boiler back up and running. IOW, it is his job to unfoul the anchor, as it were, and get the ship out of distress.

The Marine Corps uses the fouled anchor in its emblem because whenever the country becomes entangled in a war, it is the marine’s job to disentangle it. The fouled anchor is also embossed on the buttons of the sailor’s peacoat (worn by E-6 and below):

The fouled anchor is also a religious symbol that may have all kinds of screwball meanings attached to it by various sects but its basic meaning is that the anchor (termed the “golden anchor”) is our spirit which is entangled in flesh and temptation. Our job is to disentangle our spirit and free it so that it may assume its rightful place in the universe.

My fouled anchor tat (no, it does not wash off). I troubleshoot for a living.

"Whaler off the Vineyard--Outward Bound", 1859, by William Bradford; oil on fiberboard
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Old 12-02-2014, 07:44 AM   #14 (permalink)
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This thread is becoming more interesting with each post, Lord Larehip. I had no idea you were in the navy for six years, and really didn´t expect you to have a fouled anchor tattoo! I had you down as a dry and cynical academic! So that surprising revelation, all the seafaring lore and the wonderful old photos are fascinating. When I have more time, I´m going to go back and do justice to all the music clips you´ve posted. Thanks!

Originally Posted by Oriphiel View Post
Yeah, I hear you. When "the cats out of the bag", it means it's too late for any other course of action. One the captain takes out his cat o' nine tails, it's too late to apologize or make excuses, someone's gonna get thwacked. And I also have mostly heard the phrase in reference to a secret becoming known.
Thanks to you too, Oriphiel and welcome to MB.
In England, at any rate, we say "let the cat out of the bag" which also suggests a live animal doesn´t it? If it was a whip, "take" would be the natural choice of verb, I´d have thought.
Did you ever hear of having more than you wanted? So that you couldn’t want anything else and then started looking for something else to want? It seems like we’re always searching for something to satisfy us, and never finding it. - Susan Eloise Hinton, 1967
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Old 12-02-2014, 08:05 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Enjoying this thread! Keep on keepin' on!
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Old 12-02-2014, 08:07 AM   #16 (permalink)
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It would be an absolute scandal if you "win" Most Inane Poster Larehip.

Originally Posted by Chula Vista View Post
Originally Posted by Chula Vista View Post
Originally Posted by Mindfulness View Post
2. What was the strangest/best/worst party you ever went to?
Prolly a party I had with some people I know
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Old 12-02-2014, 08:14 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Another thing that originated among sailors is the concept of alcohol (ethanol) proof. In the U.S., proof is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV), e.g. 100 proof is 50% ABV, 190 proof is 95% ABV, etc. But this was not the original method of determining proof. During the 16th century, the British sailors considered rum to be currency. They would accept it as payment. However, they had to make sure it wasn’t watered down so they would pour out a small measure of gunpowder, pour some of the rum over it and attempt to ignite it. If the gunpowder burned, the rum was considered to “one hundred degrees proven” and was therefore acceptable. So 100 degrees proof meant that rum had to be nothing less than 57.15% ABV, any less and the gunpowder wouldn’t ignite.

As a ratio, 57.15 is 4/7 or 0.57143 so to know the ethanol content of a liquor by volume, multiply the percentage of ABV by 7/4, e.g. 57.15 x 7/4 = 100.0125 which rounds off to 100 proof (or, more properly, 100 degrees of proof). So 95% ABV is 95 x 7/4 = 166.25 or 166 degrees of proof. To calculate the percentage of ABV from the degrees of proof, simply multiply the latter by 4/7, e.g. 88 degrees of proof is 88 x 4/7 = 50.28% ABV.

Liquor always accompanied every voyage but it was kept strictly under lock and key by the cap’n. Once or twice a day, he would break out some rum or whisky and dispense a small amount to each crewmember. They often drank “grog.” Although grog could mean anything from a weak beer to any number of liquors treated with sugar or nutmeg or cinnamon, etc., the traditional grog was rum with limejuice or lemon. The reason was the citric acid retarded any spoilage of the water but also prevented scurvy which was caused by an acute lack of vitamin C in the body. Rum and lime was introduced to the British Navy in 1740 by Vice Admiral Edward Vernon. His men took a bit of the concoction everyday and were noticeably healthier than sailors who did not. Afterwards, the British Navy put lime in their potable water and passed out limes to the crew and the British sailors consumed prodigious amounts of lime which is why Brits are called “limeys,” that too was due to sailors.

Admiral Vernon was known as “Old Grogram” for the grogram coat he wore. Sometime in either 1749 or 1770, the beverage he introduced to the sailors was called grog in his honor. When it was grog time, the sailors assembled on deck with cans. Some old shanties and sea songs have references such raising “a can of grog.” The grog wasn’t canned but cans replaced cups on ships. Cups and plates had to be unbreakable onboard a ship because, in rough weather, everything would get tossed around fiercely. In Navy parlance, everything had to be “secured for sea” or “stowed away” but in really rough weather, it wouldn’t matter much—everything ends up everywhere and there’s quite a clean up once the ship enters smooth waters. So glasses and porcelain wouldn’t last in a voyage. They would be broken and useless after the first storm. So sailors used cans as drinking vessels.

And f-uck the Brits anyway because their sailors can drink onboard. American sailors cannot drink onboard or bring on alcohol. Hell, the British Navy supplies it to them!! Whenever crossed paths with a British Navy vessel, those bitch-asses would line up on the weatherdeck with their mugs of booze and toast us real loud. Not to be friendly but to rub it in because they know we can’t drink onboard. Dicks.

When I served, there was a concerted effort to reduce the amount of drinking by sailors because so many got in trouble all the time. Sailors are as-sholes in case you didn’t know—drunken troublemaking as-sholes. Sailors are so bad in that towns that have bases are often rather anti-sailor—especially the cops. I put on a good drunk every now and again but I was generally known to be level-headed. Officers trusted me to keep guys out of trouble. Once, a few of us were in a bar and some sh-itheads who weren’t sailors started causing a ruckus. A waitress got grabbed and she was really pissed about it. These guys just kept getting louder and rowdier. They started cat-calling us because they knew we were sailors by our distinctive haircuts. Some of my guys wanted to beat the s-hit of them but I persuaded them to stay seated saying that the cops were coming. When the cops arrived, the bartender and waitress pointed towards the area where the as-sholes were sitting, which happened to be right next to my party. The cops come over and start arresting US!! Again, they knew we were sailors on sight and just assumed we were the ones (because sailors so often are). Other people started saying, “Not them, not them—those guys right there!!”

Part of the problem is the Navy itself. At the base nightclubs, for example, they served 3-2 beer. Why, I can’t imagine. All that does it convince sailors to drink more of it. Well, let me tell you something about 3-2 beer—it can kick your ass just as surely as regular beer. You’d see squids puking everywhere. I had a pukefest myself once because I drank too much of that s-hit without realizing it wasn’t particularly weaker than regular beer until I found myself huddled over a sh-itter talking to Ralph. Every squid knew that serving 3-2 beer on base just increased the drunkenness but they never changed the policy all the time I was there (Great Lakes).

Fifteen Men (Bottle of Rum) - Original Version - YouTube

Then I went to Germany. Germans and alcohol!! Those f-ucking people! We docked in Kiel and went out on liberty and a bunch of us went to this tavern and they served Lowenbrau. Well, this was REAL GERMAN Lowenbrau—not that bottled dishwater they sell to us here in the States. This s-hit was like syrup!! Man, I choked down one stein full of that stuff—bitterest s-hit I ever tasted—and I was f-ucked up! Guys were drunk on one stein. A couple of nights later, I’m out with some buds and this German master chief invites us to his table—very nice guy—we start drinking Holstein which is brewed in town and then this guy orders us each a yard of beer. It’s called that because the damn mug is a yard high! And they want you to just down it! So we did and then he orders us peppermint schnapps! I never really had it before. In Germany, it’s not even pasteurized! It’s not fit for human consumption and I drank a s-hitload of it and then lost it all on my way back to the ship. Horrible hangover the next morning—hellish, torturous. That peppermint soaks into your gut and you taste it all day—this nauseous, pukey, peppermint taste and smell rising into your throat and sinuses from your gut. It was DISGUSTING!!! I actually prayed to god for the first and only time in my life. I said, “God, I’m desperate!! Stop the peppermint and I swear I’ll never drink that s-hit again!! If you have any mercy in you at all stop the f-ucking peppermint!!!” Well, either there is no god or the motherf-ucker has no mercy. And Germans walk around with beer everywhere they go! They shop holding beers! You can’t put a sailor in that kind of environment!

In Cobh, Ireland, they served real Murphy’s Stout which I had never had before. It’s brewed somewhere close to there so it’s fresh. Man, was it good!!! Oh, I LOVED it!! I drank nothing but Murphy’s the whole time I was in Ireland. Ireland gave me a real taste for black ale. Now it’s usually all I drink. I can still drink lagers but I will take Murphy’s, Guinness, Beamish, Old Engine Oil or you name it over lager. London Porter too! And I got smashed once on this stuff called Boddington’s Pub Ale or some s-hit. It was so good I just kept drinking it even when I knew I had better stop. I liked it but it sure leaves an after-taste in the morning if you drink too much.

Then in Jamaica—Montego Bay—we’re in some club and these Jamaican girls were at the next table. Nice looking so we invite them over to sit with us. We talked for a while and then conversation turns to rum—which Jamaica is famous for. So this one girl says she’s been drinking rum since she was 4 and could drink us all under table. Hey, I didn’t doubt her. But this one guy—ol’ Powell—starts up with this “no chick drinks me under the table” s-hit. So we order a bottle of rum—don’t remember what kind—and the girl fills her glass to the rim and without hesitation just downs it. Just like that—gone. So Powell grabs a glass and fills it almost to the top—not quite as high as hers was—and he downs it. No sooner did he swallow it then his eyes roll back in his head, his head flops forward, his mouth opens and all this vomit comes gushing out. As if that wasn’t bad enough, another guy with us—JB we called him—looks at the vomit and then HE vomits too!! So we left that table—needless to say. We drag Powell outside and he turned into a vomit fountain—he’s just gushing away. It was brutal.

The worst I ever saw though was at my flat. I had a flat off the ship and it was party central for the guys on my ship. There were always people stopping by. So a bunch of us are drinking and it’s getting really crazy. And this guy—ol’ Pruitt—got so plastered I was afraid he’d die of alcohol poisoning. He vomited all over himself for like 3 hours. So we had to strip his clothes off and carry him to the shower while he’s still puking. We just left him in there with the water on. Finally I go in there after a couple of hours and two guys scrubbed him down and were massaging him saying, “Come on, Pruitt, get it out, baby, get it out!” while he was STILL VOMITING!! I got his clothes washed and we dressed him a little and laid him on the floor in the living room. Now everybody’s gone—it’s 3 am—and it’s just me and Pruitt who is totally passed out. I’m just watching him because he’s dry-heaving while he’s passed out just continuously!!! I’m debating if I should call an ambulance but I finally decide not to. He seemed to be passed the worst of it so I went to bed. He was gone in the morning.
You’ll never recognize this drinking song.

Last edited by Lord Larehip; 12-02-2014 at 09:05 PM.
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Old 12-04-2014, 06:33 PM   #18 (permalink)
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An old Indian legend in New England stated that the god Moshup was trying to sleep one night but his moccasins were filled with sand and so he took them off and threw them into the middle of Cape Cod forming the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard with their beautiful, sandy beaches. Another legend says that Moshup knocked ashes from his pipe and formed the islands that way. Geologists believe they formed during the last Ice Age.

Nantucket itself was discovered first probably by the Wampanoag tribe although no one knows when. The Vikings may have sailed close enough to see it in the 11th century. By 1602, an English ship out of Falmouth called the Concord captained by Bartholomew Gosnold mentioned sighting the island but not land there. Gosnold landed on Martha’s Vineyard instead. Two years later, another Englishman named George Waymouth charted Nantucket’s position but did not land there. For the next four decades. Nantucket remained unexplored by whites. In 1641, Thomas Mayhew purchased Nantucket for ₤40 from two English noblemen who held conflicting deeds and decided to sell the land and split the money. Mayhew also got the Elizabeth Islands thrown into the deal. He wanted to distribute the land under a manorial system as in England. The many Indians should be brought about via conversion to Christianity.

Nantucket Island. I lived here through part of 1996. A lot of rich vacationers now go there “to summer.” There are some very beautiful, very expensive-looking houses there. Cold as the pit of Dante’s hell in the winter though.

In 1659, a Yankee planter from Boston named Tristram Coffin bought Nantucket from Mayhew. Coffin and eight other buyers want to get out of Puritan-controlled
Massachusetts and decided to live on the island. The nine buyers were Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Barnard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John Swayne and William Pike. The cost was ₤30 and two beaver hats. Macy, a Baptist, fled the mainland in 1659 for harboring two Quakers from the Puritans who then hung them. Macy arrived on the island in an open boat along with his wife, five children, a 12-year-old boy named Isaac Coleman and a friend named Edward Starbuck.

To get craftsmen, farmers, businessmen and the like to come to Nantucket, each of the owners were granted a share of their own and another to bring in an outsider who could help the island develop an economy. Each proprietor took his extra share and halved it and gave each half to a junior partner. In all, there were 27 original shareholders. One of the half-shares was given to a man amed Peter Folger who was originally from Norfolk, England and had worked for Thomas Mayhew as a surveyor. He had done missionary work for Mayhew working to convert and educate the Nantucket Indians and became fluent in their language making him further valuable as an interpreter. He was married to Mary Morrill who was a former-indentured servant and may also have been from England. He had once been jailed as a court clerk for siding with workers and farmers in disputes against wealthy landowners and he urged that whites treat Indians fairly and with dignity. The Folgers moved permanently to Nantucket in 1663 after Peter was granted his half-share and worked there as a surveyor, interpreter, clerk, miller and schoolteacher. He and Mary had a daughter named Abiah in 1667. Abiah married an English immigrant named Josiah Franklin, a Puritan, in 1689. Abiah took up Puritanism, which the mostly Baptist Nantucketers had come to the island to escape, and moved to Boston with her husband. Their eighth child was born on Milk Street in 1706 and was named Benjamin. Little needs to be said about Benjamin Franklin except that his Puritan upbringing filled him with a disdain for kings and bishops and colored much of his outlook on life as an English colonist. His father’s admiration for the Indians likewise influenced him to adopt the Iroquois Confederacy’s constitution as the model for the nation.

Although considered the foremost Founding Father in the struggle for American independence, one of Franklin’s son, William (illegitimate), was the last colonial governor of New Jersey and a staunch loyalist and was already imprisoned for his loyalist leanings when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The differences between both men were irreconcilable.

Another of Peter Folger’s descendants was James Athearn Folger. He was born on the island in 1835 but left it at the age of 14 along with his brothers. They wanted to go to California and prospect for gold. They sailed on a ship to the Isthmus of Panama then rafted and hiked their way across the isthmus (there was no canal yet). Then they managed to catch another ship going to San Francisco and arrived there in 1850. He decided not to follow his brothers to the gold fields and stayed in the city. Ten years later, he founded the J. A. Folger Coffee Company known today simply as Folgers Coffee.

1898 Folger’s ad. Folger’s is now part of Smucker’s.

The island’s main product at this time were woolen goods which were in great demand due to the hellacious New England winters. Nantucket became known for its weaving and spinning. In 1699, however, the Wool Act went into effect which banned the sale of wool between the colonies and a new island industry was needed. Whaling was already being considered as Obed Macy makes clear when he wrote: “In the year 1690 some persons were on a high hill observing the whales spouting and sporting with each other, when one observed; there—pointing to the sea—is a green pasture where our children’s grand-children will go for bread.”

Long Island had done some whaling starting the 1640s bagging the so-called right whale (or Greenland whale). These were generally beached whales that washed up on the shore and the Long Islanders took turns stripping off their flesh and bone and collecting their blubber and oil. Nantucketers did the same starting about 1672 when men would man high spars to look as far out to sea as possible for whale. If he spotted one, he alerted the men below who dispatched a boat to chase it down, harpoon it and drag it back to the beach.

When the whales stopped swimming so close to the land, the Nantucketers built small sloops with a whaleboat that could be lowered into the water to chase down a whale. They might be out for week just to catch one whale. When they did, they flensed it in the water—peeling off the blubber in a long continuous piece like an orange rind—and collected the blubber in casks which were stowed below. They had enough room for one whale and would then sail home. The casks were unloaded and taken to a tryworks to be “tried out.” Trying out blubber involved slicing it very thin and then heating on the tryworks until it melted into oil. The oil was then poured into casks and stored.

A whale blubber trying station in Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts.

The Nantucketers went after right whales until 1712 when Captain Christopher Hussey’s ship was blown off-course and he came upon a pod of sperm whales (or spermaceti or parmaceti). These whales were not known to Nantucketers before then but Hussey and his men bagged one and towed it back to the island. Upon stripping off the blubber, the Nantucketers discovered the sperm whale was loaded with fine oil—far better and more plentiful than that of the right whale. In the whale’s “forehead” area or case, was harvested an oil so fine it hardened on contact with air and had to be heated before it could be collected in casks. This case oil could lubricate the most delicate and intricate machinery and clockworks like nothing previously discovered. From that time on, Nantucketers would hunt only spermaceti.

Head and case of a sperm whale.

Spermaceti in the Atlantic were rare as it was and then deserted it completely for the Pacific and the Nantucketers were forced to follow them by sailing around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. A long, hazardous journey. The ships now had to be floating processing stations, the option of hauling the whale shore no longer available. It had to be done at sea as quickly as possible.

The ships were large and had to have a tryworks built into it. Harpooning still had to be done from smaller whaleboats deployed from the ship. When the harpoon struck, it was attached to a very long coil of rope in a metal tub that passed around a loggerhead—a cylinder post that was mounted in the keel so it would not snap off. As the whale ran with the harpoon iron in him, the rope paid out very quickly and needed to offer resistance to the whale to tire him out. So the rope passed around the loggerhead a couple of turns. Yet the whale ran so fast that a man had to stand over the loggerhead and dump water on it to keep the ropes from catching fire. The rope was going so fast that it was extremely dangerous to touch it. If it had a kink in it, it could tear off a man’s arm, leg or head—frequent occurrences—or a man would try to step over the rope and get yanked overboard in a split second and there would be nothing that could be done for him other than praying for a quick death. Usually only a greenhorn tried to step over the rope and to promptly get smacked and chewed out by someone more experienced. Only an experienced whaleman could coil the rope in the tub. It had to be done right or people could lose life or limb. Even with the line paying out at smoking speed, the whaleboat was pulled along at a good clip and this little jaunt was called a Nantucket sleighride.

Old salt coiling the rope in a tub.

The rope was attached to the harpoon iron which had to be hurled into the whale’s blubber. Each harpooner was also a steersman having both an iron and an oar rudder. If the whale worked its way around the boat, the steersman in back now picked up his iron and became the harpooner while the harpooner up front now picked up his oar and became the steersman. That way the boat wasted no time having to get turned around.

Often the boat capsized and men drowned but sometimes they’d get back in but would lose the whale. After the whale exhausted itself, it would float listlessly on the water but this was the most dangerous part of the venture. The boats had to paddle up carefully and the pikeneer would drive a long pike through the whale’s heart. Trying to drag a live whale back to the ship to be flensed was suicide. It had to be dead and this was the only way to ensure that it was. Then came the thrashing as the whale went into its death flurry. This animal that could be 70 tons or more of power and fury would thrash maniacally in the water making an enormous ruckus that often capsized boats. This was made even more dangerous because the whale’s blood and thrashings would attract sharks. One slap of the tail could fill a boat with water instantly or smash one to pieces killing all hands. Many whalemen lost their lives during the random death flurry of the whale which they said was even worse than its most deliberate assaults.

Now the whale was towed back to the ship, lashed to the side and a man was lowered on a rope with a cutting tool and he began to cut the blubber from the corpse. The
bloodletting was tremendous and sharks would come by the dozens to feast so they had to work fast. The slower they went, the more of the whale went to the sharks. If the man on the rope wasn’t careful, he’d loose a leg or a foot to a shark or be bitten in half. A winch with a hook pulled the blubber off in a continuous piece as the man on the rope sliced it free and it was lowered onto the deck where hands sectioned it into pieces and carried them to the tryworks—a big brick oven with huge pots that held the blubber. A fire was roaring in the brickwork and the blubber would melt and the oil collected. The entire deck would be covered in blood as would the hands. Melville described it as a scene from hell. This was also usually done at night because the smoke from the tryworks attracted pirates if done during the day. The oil was put in casks which were then stowed in the hold. Only when the hold was filled, which took 3 to 4 years, did the ship go back to homeport.

Oil casks unloaded on the pier.

The hazards were great and hours were long. One spent weeks and weeks just floating waiting for a whale to happen by. Many men went crazy from the monotony. Mutinies were not uncommon especially if the captain or mates were sadistic or enjoyed doling out harsh punishments for minor offenses. Desertion was a huge problem for the whale fleet. Once the crew caught sight of the beautiful tropical islands with the flowers and fruit and the gorgeous island women, they often jumped ship. This was so common that once a whaleman got homesick, he could enlist on the next whaler going his way with no questions asked and this wasn’t just for Nantucket but was international. Melville himself jumped ship, not once, but several times. He was kept by some natives on an island and had to escape. He signed up on an Australian whaler but the first mate was such a prick that he and several other men led a mutiny for which they were put off the ship. Melville joined the Navy in Honolulu in order to get back to New England.

Last edited by Lord Larehip; 12-04-2014 at 07:54 PM.
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Old 12-04-2014, 06:56 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Whales being flensed.

The tryworks on a whaleship.

Whalemen in the crow's nest watch for whales spouting in the distance. Many blacks, Indians and "Kanakys" (Polynesians) sailed in the Yankee whale fleet.

The Baptist church of old Nantucket.

Nantucket street. The platform on the roof at the right is called a "widow's walk." The captain's wife would stand up there when her husband's ship was due home hoping to spy them as early as possible. She wasn't a widow but lived as one.

The women of Nantucket ran the island's business with their men out to sea for 3-5 years at a stretch. They were shrewd and tough and made the island lots of money. Many of them fought loneliness with a type of di-ldo called a "he-at-home."

Nantucket today.

Panorama of old Nantucket.

Beautiful captain's house. Captains in the whaling fleet were actually called "ship masters." Many built beautiful houses for their lonely wives with their whale money.

Captain Fred Parker was a retired ship master who lived as a nomad who wore his uniform in tatters and shoes with no socks. He had a little cabin with a sand floor! Yet, he was a friendly man who greeted newcomers to the island.
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Old 12-04-2014, 07:45 PM   #20 (permalink)
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From a 1902 print.
A Great Lakes shanty.

Great Lakes crew c. 1900.

Whale breaching.
Extremely popular shanty for the modern shanty singers.

Sailors doing a capstan shanty. The capstan lowers and weighs the anchor.

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