WHALING FAMILY by Harold-Ed. Williams


Email this review


This is a pair of journals kept by a whaling family. They are straightforward accounts of the whaler's daily life, and Melville would have kicked his wife's ankle in envy. The first journal is by Eliza Azelia Williams, the captain's wife, who went to sea with him and bore him two children there. Eliza, her spelling and capitalization intact, is sometimes horrified by whaling but is more often a very neat observer. Out of New Bedford, they visit Russia, Japan, New Zealand and finally anchor in San Francisco. Despite its everydayness and what it unintentionally reveals about herself, her journal is always at one remove from the subject. For instance: ""The whale went down and stopped some minutes and when he came up it seemed as if he threw the blood thicker than before. He came up near the boats and threw the blood all in the boats and all over some of the men. I did not like to look at the poor whale in his misery any longer and so came down below to write a few words about it."" But, maddeningly, she doesn't write the few words promised. In William's diary the abandonment of thirty-one ships in an Arctic ice pack is described. In the final section he describes the outfitting of a whaler, its officers and crew and their tensions, the nature of whales and how they are caught and dissected, and this is truly fascinating material.

Pub Date: July 20th, 1964
Publisher: oughton Mifflin