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Many whales, little rest: June 16-17th, 1811

June 16, 2011

In calm water, and occasional fog, Resolution, in company with several other ships, was enjoying great success in killing whales. They took so many whales in fact that no sooner was one ‘flinched’ than another was killed and brought alongside. Scoresby rotated the watches, so that there was constant activity. With so many boats in the water, and so many ships nearby, there was a lot of talk about the year’s catch. Scoresby entertained a delegation from the Sarah and Elizabeth, which brought news of the William and Ann (5 whales) the Jane of Aberdeen (7 whales), the Old Manchester (21 whales) and the Lion of Liverpool (3 whales), though in some cases the news was a week or more out of date. The Sarah and Elizabeth had taken 10 small whales, making about 40 tons of oil, but had also lost a man, caught by a line as a whale tried to escape. Others in the boat also came close to drowning.

The Resolution was not immune to trouble. On the 16th a whale damaged the six-oared ‘gig’, while fog made finding the boats difficult:

A fish was struck and soon killed (8 AM) and about 10 AM another at some distance from the Ship just at the moment of the commencement of fog. 4 Boats near the spot. Sent another with compass and two Horns with directions how to find the Boats (which bore SbW) and should the fish be killed to tow NbE) The wind a light breeze took alongside the Dead fish and made sail to the SbW sounded a Bugle the Ships Bell and the Men’s voices which were occasionally answered by the Boats. At 1/2 an hour PM got sight of the Boats.

The number of whales in the vicinity seems to have been very large, and on the 17th Scoresby wrote:

Our success for the last two Days has been wonderful so favoured have we been that every fish was killed with astonishingly little trouble. No. 17 was a fine fish as well as 20 21 & 23

The weight of the oil was estimated from the length of the whalebone:

No 20–10ft 2in bone commonly estimated at 131/2 Tons was in this fish supposed to be 16 or 17 Tons and 23–11 Tons thus 7 whales which at a fair estimation might be supposed to produce 61 Tons of oil were captured within 47 hours and all flinched within 57 hours from the commencement during which time also most of the sailors had had 4 or 6 hours rest!

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