Whaling In The 19th Century

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Whaling has been around on since prehistoric times, they were hunted by chasing the whales, and throwing a harpoon into them. Whaling and fishing in the late nineteenth and twentieth century became a tragedy of the commons where fishermen had little incentive to allow some fish to remain to only be taken by others. Countries around the world were putting whales on the brink of extinction through any means necessary. By not taking young fish, this would allow future fish to keep the population stable, but by not taking the younger fish, the fishermen would lose these to other fishermen. In the 1800s and 1900s whales were found to be quite practical and useful. Since whaling began thousands of years ago whale populations have diminished from one area to another to the “point where too few were left to reward the chase.” With the industrial revolution the uses for whales became numerous such as sperm oil being used in lubrication for factory’s machines. Baleen from whales was used as plastic in the nineteenth century and was in corsets, umbrellas, stays. Between the 1820s and 1860s Americans became a dominating force in whaling and by the 1860s almost all of the sperm and right whales were gone (Matera). Whale populations dwindled, so whalers looked towards rorquals (baleen whales), but they swam too fast to be caught by rowed boats and they sank when they died. The development of the harpoon cannon allowed a way so rorquals could be killed consistently. Norwegians refined this technology and developed a way of keeping the whales afloat by injecting compressed air into them (McNeill). The profit from hunting these whales was mainly from the whale oil; the oil from the rorquals could be made into margarine and into soap. A by-product of boiling the whale blubber into oil was “glycerin, needed for nitroglycerin which is used in dynamite,” so with the arms

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