Meaning of WHALING in English


hunting of whales for food, oil, or both. In some areas of the world, whaling dates to prehistoric times. Modern hunting so depopulated whale herds around the world that new regulations and increased costs have reduced the industry to a tiny fraction of its former size. Evidence indicates that ancient Eskimo and North American Indians hunted whales as early as AD 100, finding in the large animals a plentiful source of food, fuel, and material for tools. In Europe the systematic hunting of whales began around the Bay of Biscay in the late Middle Ages. Basque whalers ventured great distances in pursuing schools of whales, arriving on the shores of Newfoundland and Iceland early in the 16th century. Some scholars have suggested that these transatlantic voyages began as early as 1372. During the 17th century both the Dutch and the English built large whaling fleets. In one year the Dutch had an estimated 300 ships at sea with 18,000 seamen aboard. In the first decades of the 18th century, these fleets were forced to hunt in more distant waters around Greenland and the Davis Strait as the number of whales closer to home dwindled. Whaling vessels from the British North American colonies began to appear on the Atlantic Ocean in the 18th century, and with them came an innovation that greatly extended the capabilities of whaling ships. Brick ovens called tryworks were installed on board ships and allowed whalers to boil and process the precious whale blubber (fat) into oil at sea and store it in barrels instead of hauling it to onshore facilities. With such capacities, whaling ships commonly stayed at sea for up to four years before returning with their cargoes. Whaling in the 19th century expanded into the Pacific Ocean and northward toward the Arctic. Ships from the United States dominated the world industry, with a fleet of more than 700 ships by mid-century, mostly sailing out of New England (especially New Bedford, Mass., and Nantucket, Mass.). Whaling declined at the end of the 19th century with the rise of the petroleum industry, which captured the market for illuminants and lubricants, but new uses were found for whale products in the 20th century. Before the advent of modern whaling, the nearly universal method of whaling was the use of harpoons from open boats. When Europeans first came upon Eskimo whaling in the 17th century, they found the Eskimos using skin boats, harpoons with toggle heads (pivoting heads that barb in the whale's flesh), and ropes of skin with inflated sealskins fastened to them for tracking and exhausting the submerged animal. European and North American practice was similar. Working from a large vessel, crews of six went after whales in boats usually 28 feet (8.5 m) long, equipped with barbed harpoons and long ropes. Once hit, a wounded whale ran with the rope until exhausted and came to the surface, where it was killed with a longer harpoon called a lance. The whale was then strapped to the side of the ship and flensed (stripped of its fat) with long blades mounted on pikes, and the carcass was abandoned. Modern whaling had its start in the mid-19th century when a Norwegian, Svend Foyn, developed a gun that launched harpoons containing an explosive charge. For centuries, whalers had been restricted to such slower breeds of whale as the humpback, sperm, bowhead, and gray, because they were within a harpoon thrower's short range. Foyn's gun hurled a harpoon a greater distance. At a time when the slower breeds were becoming scarce, whalers could go after the faster-swimming blue, sei, and fin whales, whose populations had been previously undisturbed. The subsequent use of power craft aided in this development, and the methods have remained essentially the same to the present day. Using helicopters, underwater sonar, and high-powered harpoon guns, the modern whaling industry was capable of enormous catches. Catcher boats of about 200 feet (60 m) in length can cruise at a swift 18 knots and shoot explosive harpoons of 120 pounds (54 kg) as far as 75 feet (23 m). Factory ships constitute enormous operations that are completely self-sufficient, with on-board processing equipment, laboratories, and hospitals. A blue whale, whose size may exceed the largest prehistoric dinosaur, can be flensed, dismembered, butchered, and pressure-cooked to produce oils and various meals in about 45 minutes. The oil from whales falls into two categories, whale oil and sperm oil, depending on the species. Whale oil comes from baleen whales; it is an edible oil that once was largely put to use in the making of margarine and cooking oil. Greater rorqual whales are the main catch in this category. Sperm oil comes from the sperm whale; the oil is inedible and has been used for industrial processes. Highly refined sperm oil, spermaceti, is a white waxy solid that was used to make some of the finest candles. Soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes also formerly made use of whale products. Whale meat was processed for human consumption, especially in Japan. Meat meal was made into animal feed, and bone meal was used as fertilizer. Because of the large number of whales that were taken by modern methods, the whaling industry has been subjected to restrictive regulation in the 20th century in order to preserve whale species. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) instituted a moratorium on commercial whaling beginning in 1986, but a few countries (such as Japan, Iceland, and Norway) maintained reduced industries with whales caught for scientific research. In 1992 Iceland withdrew from the IWC, and Norway resumed small-scale commercial whaling. In 1994 the IWC banned whaling south of Africa, Australia, and South America. hunting of whales for food, oil, or both. The activity has been documented in records from Neolithic cave art to present-day annual reports of the International Commission on Whaling, with no firm proof as to what people first engaged in it. Lacking adequate agriculture, early inhabitants of the polar littoral developed successful whaling techniques using Stone Age weapons. When first contacted, the Inuit (Eskimo) of eastern and western North America showed mastery in whale hunting, and much the same methods were in use up to 1900. For them a captured whale supplied food, fuel, and light; sinews provided cordage, and skeletal parts were used for tools and construction. Not until the 20th century, when floating factories came into use, did another civilization succeed in the same efficient use of the whole carcass. A possible exception is Japan, where whale flesh has been popular from early times. Elsewhere, however, from the first intensive exploitation of whales in the early 17th century to quite recent times, little more than blubber was used, the remainder being discarded. Each successive discovery of a new whaling ground resulted in the near disappearance of a particular species. The efficiency of modern hunting methods speeded this trend to the point that the industry has all but taken its place in history, leaving only a few enterprises to carry on in a limited fashion. International whaling developed in stages that were determined by changing demand, diminishing stocks, and advancing technology. The lengthy primitive stage eventually led to commercial whaling; new markets and technical and chemical advances produced modern whaling; and virtual extinction of the quarry led back to a final primitive stage. The commercial stages were overwhelmingly dominated by northern Europeans and Americansfirst by the Dutch, then by the British and Americans, and finally by the Norwegians and British. Only at the very end, when the Europeans found the trade no longer profitable, did they surrender the remaining whales to the Japanese. Additional reading Early descriptions of whaling include W. Scoresby, An Account of the Arctic Regions with a History and Description of the Northern Whale-Fishery, 2 vol. (1820, reprinted 1969); and Alexander Starbuck, History of the American Whale Fishery from Its Earliest Inception to the Year 1876 (1878, reissued with a new preface, 2 vol., 1964), featuring a list of all known voyages of 17151876. Early modern surveys, some of them with fascinating descriptions of whales, include J.T. Jenkins, A History of the Whale Fisheries: From the Basque Fisheries of the Tenth Century to the Hunting of the Finner Whale at the Present Date (1921, reprinted 1971); and R.B. Robertson, Of Whales and Men (1954, reprinted 1969), a contemporary whaling narrative. Later histories include Leonard Harrison Matthews et al., The Whale (1968, reissued 1975), a general work on whaling; E.J. Slijper, Whales, trans. from Dutch, 2nd ed., edited by Richard J. Harrison (1979); and Harry Morton, The Whale's Wake (1982).The standard work on modern whaling remains J.N. Tnnessen and A.O. Johnsen, The History of Modern Whaling (1982; originally published in Norwegian, 4 vol., 195970). N.A. Mackintosh, The Stocks of Whales (1965); and K. Radway Allen, Conservation and Management of Whales (1980), examine the problem of extinction. Valuable information on whaling in the Arctic is found in Arctic Whaling (1984), one of a series of papers published by the Arctic Centre, University of Groningen, Neth. Gordon Jackson

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