Lot 234: 1853-55 Pacific Manuscript Whaling Journal Log for Ship Prudent of Stonington CT

Early American

December 10, 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, US

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Description: Post-Revolutionary War to Civil War
1853 to 1855 Handwritten Log Pacific Whaling Journal
December 20, 1853 to Mary 30, 1855, Manuscript Log of the Bark Prudent of Stonington, Connecticut, to Hawaii, Japan and China, with 90 leaves, Choice Very Fine.
This original Handwritten Whaling Log is bound in speckled boards measuring to 8" x 12.25" and records the voyage of the Whaling Bark "Prudent" of Stonington, Connecticut in its travels in the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, Japan, China and the Okhotsk Sea. The various well-written detailed notes relate to their whale hunts and blubber processing, plus standard weather conditions and navigational readings.

This historic Whaling Log records a year-and-a-half journey to the Pacific, Hong Kong, the Russian coast and beyond. Their voyage opens in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), stopping in Guam for fresh sweet potatoes and bananas before continuing on to Hong Kong where the bark remained a week while calkers went over the ship. Turning north toward the (with period spellings retained), "Strait of Corea," the bark continued through "the Perouser (La Prouse) Strait" and the "Japan Sea." From there, they sailed on the "Ochotsk Sea (Okhotsk)," where they began sighting whales with more frequency. The entry for that day begins with the whale sighting at 2 p.m. They then "chaste the whale to the south until 6 P.M. the whale then turned to the North at 7 P.M." They finally killed the whale and "at 3 A.M. got the whale to the ship by towing." Three days later it is recorded that they had "stowed down 80 barrels of oil." In the days that followed are recorded details of the crew working on deck ("boiling," "stowing oil," etc.) and various sightings of whales, as well as some unsuccessful hunts. In the entry dated June 20, the log records other vessels and the numbers of whales each had harvested; for example, the S.H. Waterman, "8 whales 835 barrels"; "the Ship Mary of Nantucket 2 whales...". Near the Shantar Islands, the ship spotted more whales, but the ice was an impediment. "Whaling the most of the time in the ice saw a number of whales very wilde. seven ships in site (June 25)." On the 27th is written, "This day saw 2 whales with small calves in the ice."

On June 30 while still in the "Shantar Bay," this Log underscores the intense competition for whales: "Saw a number of whales. The water covered with ships and boats, twenty boats after one whale." According to the Log, the Prudent killed the whale and "anchored" it, but the Mary of Nantucket "came and claimed the whale. After examining the whale found one of her Irons in the whale he had been fast sum time be for and cut his line... he had not sene the whalt after cutting the line until my boats had turned the whale. The whale spouted no blood nor shode no sines of a fast whale by my officers until my boat got fast. I went on board the Mary thinking Capt. Sire was a Gentleman and wold give me half of the whale. As there was no prospects of his finding or gitting fast to his whale but through us but he sade his craft was in the whale and he clamed it and it was no more then my duty what I had dun. So I left him loosing all my mornings work."

As the log continues, the Prudent returns southwest toward the "Sandwich Islands" where "From the 27th of Octo the Bark has been ling at anchor up to the 22nd of Novr in the mean time we have fitted and painted ship discharged all the men but the two first officers and paid them off. Shipped a new Crew 19 men all told and am ready for sea. Thare has ben a bout one hundred & forty whale ships at anchor here."

Upon departing Hawaii, the Prudent headed due south to Tahiti ("Otaheite"), before heading for Cape Horn, which they rounded (eschewing the safer but tedious Straits of Magellan) in late February 1855 encountering rough seas and gales typical to that dangerous passage. Then the bark continued to the northward, "bound for Stonington." The journal ends while the bark was still at sea, in the Atlantic Ocean just to the northwest of Bermuda en route back to the New England Coast. An amazing, well detailed firsthand period account of this Pacific Whale hunting voyage.


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