"Ten Things I Learned" Reading Whaling Logbooks

Whaling jokes… (from a volunteer here at NBWM).

1. Just because you’re the son of a captain doesn’t mean he won’t list you as a deserted to get out of paying discharging fees in a foreign port when he sends you home early.

2. Tetanus shots would have been a good idea in the 19th century.

3. If you’re planning to desert and use “taking your clothes to be washed on shore” as an excuse, make sure you don’t include boots and shoes when you ask the captain, ’cause, you know, boots and shoes don’t need to be washed…and the captain knows that.

4. When in Chile, beware “One Arm Pete”. He will ply your crew with spirits and convince them to desert. Then they will laugh at you from the deck of a Chilean warship in the harbor while you watch helplessly.

5. If you leave the ship in protest of the captain’s behavior, don’t be surprised if he leaves you behind to fend for yourself on some small Pacific island.

6. There are no strikes on whalers, only mutinies.

7. If you’re going to set fire to the ship, make sure that you are close enough to shore to get off before she burns. Unless your crazy…in which case, you really don’t care what happens now, do you?

8. Turning the ship into a rum-soaked den of iniquity while the captain is sick ashore is not going to win you any points with the owners. And using the captain’s cabin while he and his wife are sick ashore…that’s just gauche.

9. If you want to toughen up your recalcitrant son with some real world work experience, you might want to think about something other than working on a whaler. Like working in a mine, or factory, or the army.

10. But, if your brother complains to you that going on a whaling voyage is a fool’s errand when you could be in the more stable army or navy, you should remind him that it’s the middle of the Civil War and the open sea is significantly less dangerous than the fields of Gettysburg.

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