Animal Encounters

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Whale drawings, Logbook #019

One Saturday in March of 1864, a man aboard the whale ship John P. West wrote in his journal, “My Pidgeon layed 4 eggs.”  He also documented the day that his dog fell overboard (Logbook #027).  Nine years earlier Asenath Taber, daughter of a whaler, noted the “beautiful little chicken” her family had on board their ship (Logbook #002).  For these and other people at sea, animals could provide food, serve as companions, and bestow a sense of comfort during what were often years-long journeys abroad.

The life of a whaler was often one of extremes – some days were exciting, with several whales encountered and caught, while others were long and lonely, with nothing on the horizon and feelings of listlessness and homesickness setting in.  Sightings of whales and other animals receive frequent note in many of the journals, with log keepers recording a variety of wild encounters, including sperm whales, right whales, turtles, porpoises, Portugese man o’ war, an array of birds and fish, and – as the log keeper aboard the Courser states rather ominously in his entry from October 6, 1860 – “Monsters of the Deep” (Logbook #300).   Read more