“And So Ends this Day’s Work”: Industrial Perspectives on Early Nineteenth-century American Whaleships Wrecked in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Author: Jason Raupp

Raupp, Jason, 2015 “And So Ends this Day’s Work”: Industrial Perspectives on Early Nineteenth-century American Whaleships Wrecked in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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The pelagic whale fishery was one of most important contributors to the development of the early American economy. Although oil extracted from whales taken along the New England coast was a valuable commodity in the colonial trade for centuries, it was the expansion of the fishery during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that resulted in unprecedented financial success for American whaling. During that time extensive hunting grounds discovered in the Pacific Ocean led to an ever increasing demand for sperm whale oil, which was considered the ideal lubricant and illuminant for the burgeoning industrial revolution. To meet demand the geographic focus of the majority of whaleships was shifted to the Pacific region in the early decades of the nineteenth century and trading centers were subsequently established at island groups like Hawaii to support their activities.

The ships employed in pelagic whaling in the early to mid-nineteenth century were workplaces which incorporated complex industrial processes that resulted from wider social, cultural, and industrial changes. Due in large part to technological innovations and systemic standardization by American whalers in the mid- to late eighteenth century, whaleships were organized as self-contained and fully integrated industrial platforms that incorporated both the equipment necessary to carry out whaling operations and the domestic spaces needed for officers and crews. Thus equipped, the geographic restrictions that previously limited their operational range were removed and the search for new hunting grounds led to voyages to ever more remote regions, greatly extended the duration of voyages, and resulted in an increase to the size of the vessels employed and changes to their rigs.

This dissertation explores the industrial nature of the pelagic whaling ships that operated in the Pacific Ocean in the early to mid-nineteenth century. It combines historical and archival research, the results of archaeological site inspections and recording, and comparative studies of museum collections to contextualize the industrial experience and the working environment that existed onboard these vessels. To understand the systems that operated on pelagic whaleships of this period, relevant data is analyzed using three themes adapted from industrial archaeological practice to explore the concepts of ‘maritime industrial workplace’, ‘maritime resource extraction’, and ‘maritime industrial seascapes’.

Keywords: pelagic whaling, shipwreck, maritime archaeology, industrial archaeology, maritime industrial workplace

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr. Wendy Van Duivenvoorde