Voyage to the Arctic: A Whaler's Tale

Catching the Whale!

How were whales caught?

Once a whale had been sighted, small boats called 'whalers' were lowered down onto the sea from the sides of the big whaling ship. These were equipped with sets of oars, harpoons with great lengths of strong rope attached and provisions of food - it could take up to nine hours to kill a whale!


The first image on the right shows a whaler boat going out to catch a whale. As you can see, the men are getting ready to shoot the harpoon into the whale.


Once a boat had caught up to a whale, a whaler would throw a harpoon into its side. The whale would attempt to flee, diving first and then by swimming away quickly pulling the whaleboat behind it! This was extremely dangerous for the whalers! (See the 2nd picture opposite entitled 'The Dangers of Whale Fishery').


The whale could swim for hours until eventually getting too tired. The whalers would then use long lances or spears to stab between the whaleís ribs and eventually kill it. The 'Right Whale' floats when dead, so it could be towed back to the main ship.


Find out about more during the 'Voyage to the Arctic: A Whaler's Tale' led session! Click here to go to led session information.

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