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Cape Cod Right and Wrong Kind of Whales

In the early shore-whaling days only the “right” whale was taken, other species being dismissed as, “wrong” for the purpose of extracting oil. The wrong species notably included the sulphur-bottom and the finback, or grampus. The sperm whale and rorqual (the Blue whale, Bryde’s whales, the fin whale, Minke whale, sei whale, and Humpback whale are rorqual whales) were not known by the colonial shore-whaler.

Shore-whaling was carried on mostly in the wintertime, when both farming and fishing were slack. Also, cold weather was the best time to tend the great fires under the trypots on the beach. Boiling blubber was a smelly job, but a man could keep warm at it. Whales taken in inland shoal waters were hauled onto the beach with a “crab,” an antique form of windlass, resembling a capstan. The blubber was flensed off in longitudinal strips. In later times, when whales were flensed while water-borne, the strips ran around the animal.

Little is known about the boats used by shore-whalers, but unquestionably they were oar-driven, and in many ways anticipated the whale-boat of later generations. The whale-boat, as finally developed, was 30 feet long, had three oarsmen on one side, two on the other, and a man in the stern handling a steering sweep.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 01/27/06
Categories: History
Keywords: whaling, history


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