Whaling Crew Ashore, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

The crew of the whaler SS Hope, together with their dog, at the Boilyards on Keith Inch, Peterhead, sometime in 1880.

Life on board a whaling vessel was hard and the work cruel and brutal. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the entertainment enjoyed by the men could be robust, to say the least, as the following extracts from an 1831 Diary of a Whaling Voyage (Aberdeen University Library MS 673) make clear:

"The sailors sometimes when they have nothing to do amuse themselves by taking mallemuts (fulmars) with a hook and line. They twist their wings together and make them fight. They also sometimes push one of them down the galley chimney by which they are blackened by the soot. When the bird finally is set at liberty the poor being is persecuted to death by its fellows --------------."

I fired many shots at fulmars and took 4. They bite severely with their formidable beak. When two, wounded fulmars come in contatct in the boat's bottom they continue to fight till one of them was killed. Sailors often amuse themselves by making thenm fight like game cocks.

They are very tenaceous of life when hung up by the feet."

Peterhead whaling crew
©SCRAN/Aberdeen University/Arbuthnot Museum
Crew of a Peterhead whaler, onshore, Peterhead

Martyn Gorman   ·   University of Aberdeen   ·   Department of Zoology ·   © 2002