The Petrel is a whale catcher boat.
These fast boats and their explosive harpoons in the bows were what
started the industrial age of whaling. They made it possible to
catch up with fast swimming large rorquals such as blue and fin
whales, to harpoon them and then pump them with compressed air so
they didn't sink.
The whole boat would function
like a giant fishing rod and reel with the line running out
when the whale was struck with on board mechanisms to take
the strain and start winding the caught whale in.
Such boats were notoriously
uncomfortable at sea and the work arduous and relentless.
Needless to say the crews were the best paid of the whalers
with the harpooner being the best paid of all as the success
of the whole enterprise was based on his skill. The harpooner
would usually be the captain of the whale catcher, he would
get quickly from the bridge to the harpoon by way of a
"flying bridge" (collapsed on this boat) a walkway that
avoided the delay of going down on deck first.
While I am more than happy
that whaling by such means is on the decline and doesn't
take place to the extent that it did, I can't help but
admire the men who put themselves at the forefront
succeeding (or not) by their skill and wits in very arduous
These are pictures from
a trip to Antarctica in the summer of 2010 - 2011 for the purpose of
researching former whaling stations and companies by Ulf Gustafsson
of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
copyright Ulf Gustafsson.