The re-fitting of the
Jan Wellem, whaling factory ship
The invention of the exploding
harpoon fired from a heavy gun meant that catching the fast swimming
baleen whales was not only possible, but possible in huge quantities.
In the 1923/24 season, the very first "Factory Ship" the Sir James
Clark Ross was used in Antarctica and though this first expedition
was not a great financial success in itself, it taught the whalers a
great many valuable lessons about how to go about the task of catching
and processing great numbers of whales in a short period of time - the
Before long many similar
factory ships had been built and industrial whaling in the Antarctic
was earning great amounts of money at the expense of the unfortunate
whales. Kitting out such an expedition was a hugely expensive undertaking
however, requiring a factory ship of at least 20,000 tons and a small
fleet of 5 or more catcher boats to keep the factory busy and supplied
with whales to process. Nevertheless it was expected that the initial
capital outlay for such a factory ship and catcher boats could be recouped
in the first season. From there on it was all profit other than consumable
items such as harpoons and in particular rope which surprisingly perhaps
was a major expense.
Here the German ship, the
11.770 tonne Jan Wellem is seen being re-fitted as a factory ship for
whaling. It was first used for whaling in the 1936/37 season.