To those whose knowledge of whaling comes from Moby Dick, these accounts of the more domestic side of this perilous craft will come as something of a surprise. However, except for those who have a special interest in the subject, the diligent recounting of so many voyages may prove palling. Whaling wives were often at sea for two or three years living with husbands and children in space so confining that the good wife could seldom find room to take her small organ for Sunday hymns. The dangers of being ice-locked for months on end, or running low on water miles from any port, to say nothing of occasional mutinies and head-on collisions seemed less trying to the intrepid wives who journeyed with their husbands than the curious state of whaling-widowhood to which they were subjected if they stayed at home. This is its best when tangy excerpts from contemporary diaries and ships' logs break the monotony of earnest third-person re-telling. A portrait gallery of long unsung heroines -- and ""thar she blows"" for the American minded, and those many followers of Vineyard annals.