Moby-Dick: The Truth Behind The Legend

“Call me Ishmael.” It’s the opening line of a novel about the whaling industry, about revenge, and about redemption.

If you’re interested in the 19th Century American whaling industry, love classic American literature, or believe you were tortured in your high-school literature class, you’ve probably read Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. The novel has certainly shaped American views of whaling in the 1800’s. And if you’ve read, perhaps you’ve wondered: could it be true?

Today we’re wrapping up our three month examination of American whaling (moving on to lighthouses in July!) and we’re revealing some historical facts about this Melville novel, ┬áthe real account that inspired the story, and a recommendation for your summer reading list. Continue reading

Captains & Crews On Whaling Ships

Recently, a friend told me how much she was enjoying this series on 19th Century American Whaling, and she followed the compliment with this observation, “But what a hard and horrible way to make a living.” That’s true. Whaling – even with its economic potential – had hard work. It was gross, messy, and back-breaking.

In some of the previous posts, we’ve discussed some of the ranks and demographics of whaling. Today, we’ll try to explore this a little more in-depth. Who was who on a whaling ship? Why did men work in the industry? (Were captains really as infamous as Captain Ahab from Moby Dick?) Continue reading