Whaling catcher boat.
The boats used as whale catchers were small and quite
powerful for the time. They could be as small as 40 tonnes though were
typically 250 tonnes in the 1920's and early 1930's rising to 300-350
tonnes, some super catchers were built in the latter days of commercial
whaling that were over 900 tonnes.
The "gunners bridge" can be made out on this boat,
this is a walkway that leads from the wheelhouse to the gun platform
in the bow of the boat where the gun can be seen protected by a tarpaulin
here. This addition to the catcher boats meant that the gunner could
easily get to the harpoon gun quickly and easily when a whale was sighted.
This is a small pre-war German catcher boat of about
350 tonnes en route to Antarctica. The crews of the catcher boats were
the best paid of all the members of a whaling expedition and they endured
the absolute worst living conditions. They had to travel to Antarctica
and back again in their boats which had minimal comforts and were frequently
cold and damp for weeks or months on end. The only time often that the
crew could change out of their oilskins was when they retired to their
bunks which they did in shifts so as to keep a crew on watch at all
The boats were so small and so exposed that only a
fairly gentle wind and "low sea" would cause the sea to wash across
the deck meaning that it was not possible to stay out on deck often
or for long. The boats had a cook and his job was often difficult at
best and sometimes impossible in heavy seas.
They were designed for the catching of whales and
for that job only, all available space (of which there was little enough
anyway) was designed to help in the catching of whales. With such a
small amount of the boat out of the water it was almost constantly being
washed over so requiring that the hatches be battened down and all doors
and scuttles kept closed. The result of this was that the atmosphere
was almost continually damp and stuffy. Wet clothes hung up in the forlorn
hope that they would dry added to the damp and gave a smell of mould
to the mix.
Great care had to be taken at almost all times moving
around the boat, particularly in the engine room and a hand-hold maintained
wherever possible. As a whaler from Grytviken (South Georgia) said of
a particular trip "We only had a stoker killed", the stoker referred
to was a young man who was flung into the engine as the boat lurched
ground to pieces. He lies along with many others in the churchyard in