Online Scottish Arctic whaling data set

Chesley W. Sanger, Professor emeritus at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, reports that the dataset “Scottish Arctic Whaling (1750-WWI”: A Digitized Statistical Profile” is now available on the web site.

The information originally hand copied from primary documents almost a half century ago is now housed in MUN’s Maritime History Archive, St. John’s, NL, and was unfortunately difficult to access. The data were the basis of Professor Sanger’s Ph. D thesis (1985), 16 journal articles (1980-2013), and a summary book, “Scottish Arctic Whaling” (Edinburgh: John Donald 2016). These publications, especially the book, generated considerable interest in this little known but important Scottish industry. It was thus decided to digitize details of the 3,641 individual voyages fitted out by Scottish entrepreneurs.

This data set was the structural framework for the following research findings: Vessels clearing variously from 16 Scottish ports between 1750 and WWI returned with almost 20,000 bowhead whales and 4,000,000 harp seals. And they did so under almost unimaginably demanding and hazardous conditions. More than 110 ships were lost, while others were often entrapped within the pack-ice, causing the whale men to suffer starvation, disease, scurvy, frostbite and death. In 1836, alone, more than 100 whalers on the Advice and Thomas, Dundee, and Dee of Aberdeen perished at Davis Strait.