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The Greenlanders – Arctic whaleships and whalers

March 15, 2013

A fascinating and very relevant talk on Arctic whaling was given by Dr Bernard Stonehouse back in October 2012 as part of the Gresham College talks at the Museum of London. He tells of the ships, the men, and the profits and losses of a long-forgotten industry.


From 1750 to the early 20th century, fleets of ‘Greenlanders’ – specially strengthened sailing ships –  headed north each spring from Britain to the ice-filled Arctic seas between Canada, Greenland and Spitsbergen. Their business was whaling, their purpose to bring home oil and whalebone – raw materials for Britain’s growing industries. Arctic whaling involved more than 9000 voyages from 35 British ports: Rotherhith’s ‘Greenland Dock’ is a reminder that London was a prominent whaling port. Each voyage involved dangers unique to the trade, demanding extraordinary measures of skills and seamanship.

The presentation together with a transcript of the talk is available on the Gresham college website.

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