South Seas Fisheries established

Cape Horn - Gateway to the New Fisheries

1776

The first whaleships have been sent to the South Seas to hunt for whale. British merchants in the American colonies have spent several years planning these expeditions and most of the expeditions have used American crews and ships. Hopes of developing these new fisheries are risked by the increasing tensions in the American colonies as merchants and slave owners hope to avoid British taxes.

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The New Oil Rush

1751

[Before the first mineral oil was extracted, the Industrial Revolution depended on oil extracted from whales. Whale bone served in many applications that are now provided for by plastic – itself most frequently produced from mineral oil product. Whale oil also lit the lamps at home and at work for hundreds of years.

21st Century Editorial update]

At first whales were caught close to shore in small numbers, or whales that had become stranded were killed. The amount of oil produced was small and used mostly within the fishing community, the whale meat used as food.

As the Industrial Revolution begins in England, whale oil is recognized as an effective lubricant, superior to all known alternatives, beginning to replace alternative animal fat and vegetable oils that have been used for centuries to grease wheels and simple machines.

To obtain the whale oil sailors have to venture out into the oceans to hunt the whales. Sailing ships from Europe and North America venture to the polar regions where whales exist in great numbers, promising an endless supply of whale product. It is a highly profitable trade where the cost of building a ship and sending out on its first voyage could be recovered in that first voyage and still produce profit.

Squared rigged ships, as large as 350 tons, serve as mother ships to the small open boats that are used to hunt and kill the whales. Harpoons, attached to the whaleboat by rope, much like a fish hook, are thrown at a whale . When the whale has tired, the boat crew have to come alongside the whale, making the kill with a lance. Then the whaleboat crew have the long row back to the mother ship, now some distance away, towing the dead whale behind them. It is a hard and dangerous trade where the whaleboat crews are always at great risk during the hunt and during the long row back to the mother ship.

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New Bounty Welcomed

1733

The British Government has introduced a ‘bounty’ of £1.00 per ship ton on whale p[roduct landed in British ports.

This new ‘bounty’ together with the strengthening prices for whale bone and whale oil have been welcomed by the companies funding whaling expeditions. It has been noted that the South Sea Company failed to return a profit on 172 expeditions that it funded from London’s Howland Dock between 1725 and last year.

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Spitsbergen Factories Abandoned

More Danger - Greater Profit

1653

The last Spitsbergen factory has been abandoned. Since whaling began in the bays of the Spitsbergen Islands, whale carcasses have been processed ashore and the whale product packed for loading to ships returning to their home ports. The Muscovy Company considered this to be the most profitable use of men and ships, with each ship returning fully laden at the earliest time.

The increasing popularity of deep sea whaling has meant that whaleships make their final catches some distance from Spitsbergen and find it more convenient to return home for the final processing of whale product. During the last twenty years the Spitsbergen factories have struggled to survive and the last factory was abandoned this year.

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Deep Sea Whaling Begins

Spitsbergen Factories Still Busy

1630

It has been reported that deep sea whaling is becoming popular. This may end the conflict between whalers. Since whaling began in the bays of the Spitsbergen Islands, there has been conflict between nations and between whaleships from different ports with the Royal Navy sending warships to maintain the peace in these islands which are English sovereignty. The Muscovy company has established factories to process whale product at the main ports of the islands and His Majesty King James has endorsed the agreement between the Muscovy Company and Dutch whalers to permit the establishment of factories to the North and South of the main ports subject to English sovereignty. This has not stopped the conflict between whalers.

The new practice of deep sea whaling is opening new whaling grounds in the Northern seas and dispersing the fleets. The main occupation now is in hunting whales and not in fighting other whalers for control of the Spitsbergen Bays.

The Muscovy Company reports that their factories are still in great demand although it is noted that whaleships are now bringing their rough cargoes back to their home ports for final processing.

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New Spitsbergen Whaling Agreement

1614

The Muscovy Company has announced another highly successful whaling expedition to Spitsbergen. A fleet of fourteen Company ships sailed from England, supported by four Royal Navy warships. A number of ships from other nations were turned away. A Dutch fleet of thirteen ships were met and the Company representatives negotiated an agreement with the Dutch under the monopoly granted to the Company by the English Crown. Under the agreement the four principle ports on Spitsbergen will be reserved for English ships authorized by the Company. The Dutch have been granted rights to hunt and to establish rendering sites ashore to the North and South of the English ports. In return for these concessions, the Dutch have agreed to support the English ships against all other nations that may attempt to hunt for whale in these waters.

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Muscovy Company Turns Unauthorized Hunters Away

1613

A fleet of seven Muscovy Company ships were sent on a whaling expedition to the English islands of Spitsbergen. It is believed that the fleet included a Royal Navy warship for the first time. It has been announced that the Company fleet encountered twenty five ships, Basque, French and Dutch, that were planning to illegally hunt for whales in the area. These ships were turned away. The Company has confirmed that the expedition was a success and all of its ships safely returned to England with full cargoes of whale oil and whale product produced at its bases on Spitsbergen.

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Successful Voyage by Muscovy Company Ships

1611

The Muscovy Company has again sent two ships to Spitsbergen to hunt for whales. It has been announced that this latest voyage has met with great success. However, the Company has noted the presence of one Dutch ship and one Spanish ship engaging in whale hunting against the terms of the monopoly granted to the Company by the English Crown which holds sovereignty over Spitsbergen and the waters around it. A spokesman for the Company stated that a request would be made for Royal Navy warships to accompany the expedition presently being planned.

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Sovereignty of Spitsbergen Asserted

His Majesty King James I of England

1610

His Majesty King James I of England has asserted English sovereignty over the Spitsbergen. His Majesty has become aware that vessels from other countries have been sailing the waters off Spitsbergen in the hunt for whales. Ambassadors have been dispatched to offending countries to assert English sovereignty over Spitsbergen and to assert His Majesty’s right to maintain the monopoly granted by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth to the Muscovy Company to hunt whales in the waters around Spitsbergen.

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