In the early days of whaling, whales were plentiful and it seemed that they would always fill the sea. When people realized how much money could be made from whales in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, entire species were wiped out in the rush to hunt these gentle and magnificent creatures. This account is an even-handed portrayal of the exciting, grisly, and sometimes profitable business of pelagic whaling, told from the perspective of young whalers through their detailed journal entries and letters. Glossary, bibliography,index.
"A lively, engaging, and well-researched book. . . . Numerous black- and-white drawings and paintings from the early days and actual photographs of more recent times add immediacy and authenticity. . . . With its attractive layout, decorative chapter headings, and clear readable text, GONE A-WHALING is as inviting as it is interesting and informative."
School Library Journal, Starred
"Whaling was a young man's game, or rather a young boy's. Using a variety of sources, Murphy makes it plain that the crews of whalers included a substantial number of youths barely out of childhood. Although presented from their perspective, the book is more than a collection of biographical vignettes. It is a substantive examination of the history of whaling, the socio-economic forces that supported it, the pro-cess by which whales were transformed into salable commodities-from oil to corset stays-and, finally, the environmental impact of reckless commercialism as technology increased the hunters' success. In this context, Murphy offers proof of the innate cruelty of the whale hunt, refutes legends of the whale's evil intent and vengeful nature-including that icon of American literature, Moby Dick-and comments on the decimation of many species through lack of regulation even today. Details of life aboard a whaler, including the ethnic composition of the crews, the role of the captains, families, and the development of the art of scrimshaw, add color and drama. The concluding chapter takes the reader into the twentieth century where cameras substitute for harpoons as spectators join whale watching expeditions. The book is enhanced by drawings, engravings, and photographs, and also features information about specific types of whales in boxed inserts. The appended bibliography is substantial, drawing on a variety of sources." Horn Book