The Peterhead whaling trade




The Fleet

The Whaling Season

The Hunt

The Masters

The Crew

Music and Songs

Whaling & Peterhead's Economy

Cryolite and Ice

Peterhead the whaling port

The town of Peterhead has been bound up with the sea for generations and its vessels were involved in Arctic whaling for over 100 years.

Peterhead sent out her first whaler, the Robert in 1788. In April 1893 Captain David Gray (III) came out of retirement and took the Windward north. In August he returned with the blubber of just one whale - the Peterhead whaling industry was at an end. However, for a few decades in the middle of the 19th century Peterhead had been the premier whaling and sealing port in the British Isles and had enjoyed great prosperity.

Today, physical reminders of the days of whaling in Peterhead are evocative but few and far between.

The quay in the South Harbour where the barrels of whale fat were unloaded, prior to being carted to the boilyards on Keith Inch, is still called Blubber Box Quay. If you cross the harbour to Keith Inch and then walk along Pleasure Walk you will come across a wall into which a whale jawbone was once set, presumably marking the entrance to a boilyard. The boilyards are long gone, and the area is now turned over to the modern, petroleum based, North Sea Oil Industry.

In the town itself there are fine houses built with whaling profits and streets named in memory of long-gone whaling Captains and their ships: Hope Street, Captain Gray Place, Geary Place and Penny Place.

In the North Harbour there is a fine, granite-built, graving, or dry, dock. Today it is used for the repair of fishing vessels but it was built in 1850 to meet the needs of the growing whaling fleet and was financed by a local levy on whale oil and bone.

It was from this town that brave men set out in sailing boats to hunt and to encounter the huge mysticetus of the Arctic.

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©Martyn Gorman
Blubber box quay, Peterhead 2002

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©Martyn Gorman
Old jawbone entrance, Peterhead 2002

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©SCRAN/Aberdeenshire Council
Clifton House

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©Martyn Gorman
Peterhead dry dock


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