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Cape Cod By Guess and By God

Whaling was hard under any conditions, but doubly hard in the frozen north. There were no charts of these waters then, the gyro compass had not been invented, so they sailed blind, or “by guess and by God”.

But the Arctic was a good place to get whales, the bowhead or Arctic whale produced the most bane, and year after year the whalers fought their way into the ice floes. The season for taking whales in this region was from June to early September, but the trips north were so long that the ships would stay two or three years waiting through the bitter fall and winter months.

The technique of “setting” the ships for the winter, freezing them on an even keel, and covering the cabins with ice, is very interesting.

Sometimes, however, the ice would begin to crush them and they would have to abandon the ship. There are many records of ships abandoned in the ice. The crew would either go aboard some other ship in the region that was in a safe position or begin the long trek to the nearest settlement. When ships were frozen in safely, whaling went on intermittently in the bitter weather. The men would hear the whales spouting under the ice and go out for them, chasing them for miles through the floes, returning snow blind, with frozen hands and feet.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 05/16/06
Categories: History
Keywords: history, maritime, whaling


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