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The London whaling trade

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Things to do with a dead whale




Whale products

Whalebone staybusk.
View full size imageWhalebone staybusk. © NMM

The whalers' quarry - the right whale - was a slow-moving animal and easily caught. It had a very thick, oil-rich blubber and a mouth full of whale bone or baleen, which acted as a sieve to catch plankton. These bony plates were as valuable to British manufacturers as the oil and were used for stiffening corsets.

Trade token of oil merchant John Fowler.
View full size imageTrade token of oil merchant John Fowler. © NMM

The blubber from whales caught in the Arctic was chopped up small and shipped back to the Greenland Yards in British ports.

There it was rendered down to extract the oil. By the time it was processed it was usually in a fairly advanced state of decay.

Trade token of oil merchant John Fowler.
View full size imageTrade token of oil merchant John Fowler. © NMM

Whale oil was used in soap making and to clean wool before it was made into course cloth.

Rapeseed oil provided a less smelly alternative.

 




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