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whales-msg - 1/10/02


Hunting and use of whales in period.


NOTE: See also the files: fish-msg, Shrympes-art, Iceland-msg, Basques-msg, fishing-msg, cooking-oils-msg, ships-msg, eels-msg, seafood-msg, bone-msg, ivory-msg, ivory-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: "Nanna Rognvaldardottir" <nanna at idunn.is>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Sperm Whales

Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 17:45:18 -0000


Stefan wrote:

> There is evidence of whales being hunted and eated in period. Do we

> have any idea when the sperm whales were first hunted for this

> spermaceti? Or perhaps in period these whales were considered edible

> and were hunted for food as well as for this oil?


The Basques were hunting whales for their oil from the 14th century

onwards - not sure about sperm whales, though, but by the 16th century they

had developed a technique for rendering whale blubber into oil aboard ship,

eliminating the need for a land base, so they could go on whaling trips for

many months at a time. They were hunting whales around Iceland and

Newfoundland at that time.


As to the edibility of sperm whales - well, I come from a whale-eating

nation and everyone agrees that sperm whale meat is indigestible, I think

mostly because it is so fatty - permetrated with whale oil, so to speak.

Tastes awful and very hard to keep down. Or inside, at least. Meat from

beached sperm whales may have been eaten during famines in earlier times - I

remember a story about a 19th century farmer who got some sperm whale meat

and cooked it and had his least favorite son eat some of it because he

didn't  want to risk one of his dogs.


> How were whales hunted in period? I guess going after them in a longship

> type vessel isn't any more hair-raising than in a whaleboat, but not

> something I would willingly do.


Around here, the smaller whales, like minke and pilot whales, were sometimes

caught in nets or driven to the shore and stabbed. But most of the whalemeat

that was eaten came from large whales that had beached themselves.



(and in case anyone wants to know, no, I don't eat whale meat. Not minke

whale, at least. Not any more. Got an overdose of it during my university

years, when it was practically the only meat I could afford. Whalemeat two

or three days a week and guillemot or puffin on Sundays.)



From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

To: "'sca-cooks at ansteorra.org'" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Sperm Whales

Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 14:45:08 -0500


According to my notes:


There is archeological evidence of prehistoric Northern European whaling



Small whales were hunted in northern waters during the Middle Ages.  The

modern pilot whale drives of the Faroe Islanders is one of the last remnants

of the Medieval practice.


Reference:  Bloch, D. 1996. Whaling in the Faroe Islands, 1584-1994: An

Overview. Pp. 49-61 In: P. Holm, D.J. Starkey and J.Th. Th=DBr (eds) The North

Atlantic Fisheries, 1100-1976 - National Perspectives on a Common Resource.

Studia Atlantica, 1.


It should be noted that the Aleut and Inuit hunt small whales from umiaks.

It is a traditional practice probably with prehistoric origins.


The Basques were whaling at Red Bay, Labrador around 1560 (1540?) and there

were about a dozen whaling ports along the coast. According to Basque

tradition, there was a whaling station in Newfoundland around 1372.

(Archeology 46:5, National Geographic July 1985, 1999 Conference of the

Association for the History of the Northern Seas)




An excavation of Erik the Red's farm in Greenland produced the ruins of a

cowbarn unearthed a whale scapula being used as a stall divider.  The last

occupancy was estimated to be around 1350.



"And if on a fish day or in Lent there be whale-flesh (craspois), you ought

to use it as you use bacon on a meat day." Le Menagier de Paris


Menagier suggests slicing whale raw and cooking it in water "like bacon" and

serving it with peas.


Whaling from Hull begins in 1594.  --






Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 22:02:45 +0200

From: Volker Bach <bachv at paganet.de>

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Sperm Whales


"Mark.S Harris" schrieb:

> How were whales hunted in period? I guess going after them in a longship

> type vessel isn't any more hair-raising than in a whaleboat, but not

> something I would willingly do. (actually, for more reasons than the

> just the hazard). Perhaps the whales were more common, and came in closer

> to shore such that you didn't need a large ship to act as a home base.


To my knowledge, whaling was mostly done inshore

in period. Whales frequently approach coasts even

today (in remoter places where they weren't killed

and eaten or turned into lighting on sight). In

the Faroes and northern Norway you could still get

at them with boats, and Native Americans on the

Pacific coast actually still hunt them that way

AFAIK. Also, whaling was not really the industry

it would become in the 1600s. I know for a fact

that whaling the Moby Dick way was done in the

mid-17th century, but I'm not sure how far back

the tradition goes.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org