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Before Petroleum and Plastics . . . Arctic Whaling

Whalers began hunting whales in the Arctic as far back as the 16th century. By the 18th century, many European ports were sending fleets of whalers to Greenland and the Davis Strait.

In the 1800s a large population of bowhead whales was discovered in the Bering Sea. American ships sailed north from ports such as San Francisco, and a new assault on the whales began.

The season was short - whaling ships entered the Arctic as soon as the ice had melted enough to permit passage, but they had to sail out in late summer to avoid getting trapped. Many ships were lost as ice closed in around them, so by the late 1800s, a number of whaleships were wintering in the Arctic.

Click for more information. The main demand was for whale oil. Before the discovery of petroleum, it was used as fuel, to make soap, and to lubricate the machinery of the industrial revolution.

Baleen is an elastic, horny material forming fringed plates that hang from the upper jaw of baleen whales and strain plankton from the water. Before the invention of plastics, this flexible and incredibly strong "whalebone" was used to make parasol frames, whips, fishing rods, corsets and hoop skirts.

If it hadn't been for petroleum and changes in fashion, it's very likely that many whale species would have been completely wiped out.

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Library: Whales & Fish, Animals
Boats & Ships, Arctic
Links: Animals, Boats & Ships, Arctic
Arctic Maps & Weather Reports


Double-click any unlinked word DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
Arctic Library ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
All sorts of Arctic Maps ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
Links to related sites. ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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