[MARMAM] Historical sperm whaling study updated - Sperm whaling to the north-west of Australia and Indonesian and New Guinea Waters

Dale Chatwin harpooner1830 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 19 20:35:07 PST 2022

Hello everyone - [Previous version April 2021] - Updates findings from a 30
plus year study of log books, journals and other sources documenting
traditional British and American sperm whaling in the 1800s to the north of
Australia including Indonesian and New Guinea waters. Charts over 1450
sperm whale sightings. The data comprises 970 British sightings extracted
from the logs of 14 British whaling voyages covering the period 1820 to
1850 and 481 American sightings from a slightly later period.

What’s New in this version?
Key differences are the addition of another 74 British sightings, and an
ability to track American voyages and compare them to the British voyage
tracks. Introduction of View Map functionality on the Whaling History
website facilitates this. Voyage tracks allow us to determine ‘where
whaleships went over time and where the sighted whales’ confirming patterns
of deployment. The main outcome of this is the finding that American
vessels overwhelmingly approached Indonesia from the south-west. This was
previously not obvious. Voyage tracks also show that the majority of early
American voyages were forays to the south of Sumatra, Sumba and to the west
of Timor rather than being voyages into the Indonesian Archipelago.
American voyages through Archipelago did not become commonplace until the
mid-1840s. In previous versions of the Paper I also wondered whether
whaling vessels identified as sailing north-west from New Zealand
(presumably the American Whaling Fleet?) or north from Australia (the
Colonial Whaling Fleet?) undertook whaling around New Guinea and the
Solomons. The evidence in American voyage tracks reveal that some American
whaling vessels did sail east across the south of Australia and then north
between the east coast of Australia and New Zealand from the 1840s. These
vessels did undertake some whaling to the east of the Solomon Islands
before continuing their voyages into the Northern Pacific. Finally, the
original study findings continue to be reaffirmed. This is, that the
British and American fleets whaling to the north-west of Australia, in
Indonesian and in New Guinea waters deployed differently. Essentially, the
Americans transited Indonesian waters whereas British vessels remained
within the Indonesian Archipelago, moving from whaling ground to whaling
ground. Remaining within the Archipelago meant that the British needed to
reprovision locally.  The key reprovisioning ports were Kupang on Timor,
Kema on North Sulawesi and to a lesser extent Ternate in the Molucca
[Maluku Islands].

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