New Bedford, Massachusetts, whaling vessels
Whales and whaling pictures

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Whaling ships

Whaling ships Whaling ships

Whaling vessels at New Bedford, Massachusetts, in October 1901. Some parts of the world are synonymous with whaling, New Bedford and nearby Nantucket island are amongst them. Towns with a history of whaling are dotted all the way along the New England coastline. They began with offshore whaling towards the late 1600's and progressed to deep sea whaling initially to hunt sperm whales by choice and eventually by necessity as the earliest prey, the right whale became increasingly rare close to shore.

The golden age of American whaling lasted from around 1835 - 1860 when the most profitable whaling grounds were discovered. New Bedford was the largest and greatest of the whaling ports at the time sending ships out to wherever there were whales in the world.

By the time of these pictures in 1901, modern whaling methods with steam-powered catcher boats and explosive harpoons were taking over the old ways with sailing ships and open whaling boats that were rowed by the crews.

The barrels piled up in the foreground were for the purpose of being filled with whale oil at sea and brought back home. Even in the early "primitive" days whales were brought back to shore as semi-processed goods bearing no resemblance to the animal itself. In this way, voyages could last for years until the ships holds were filled.

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Pictures used courtesy NOAA