Whaling Logbooks: Records of a Maritime Industry

203-432-1491
Time: 
Monday, April 29, 2024 - 12:00am to Sunday, October 6, 2024 - 12:00am
Location: 
Sterling Memorial Library, Exhibition Corridor
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Description: 

For nearly two centuries, the ports of New England were home to the “Yankee” whaling industry. The industry operated from ports such as Nantucket, New Bedford, Mystic, and New Haven. The exhibit centers on the Sterling Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Whaling Logs Collection. Logbooks were essential navigational tools, allowing the captain to consistently track the ship’s position in terms of latitude of longitude. These logbooks also contain extensive documentation of whaling voyages and reveal the complex world of the industry.

Logbooks served another function beyond in-the-moment navigation: The whaling industry played a central role in colonial knowledge extraction, and the encroachment of the US into the Pacific world during the nineteenth century. Logbooks were tools for gathering information—logbook data was used to construct ocean charts and make sense of the broader climate patterns and wind systems governing the movement of ships through the ocean.

Journals, private letters, crew lists and ships’ contracts illuminate the lived experience of working in the industry. Onboard the ships, crew labored to transform whale blubber and bone into marketable commodities. Onshore, the whaling life caught the imagination of the US public, and whalers’ artworks and writings became another commodity of the whaling industry.

Curated by AJ Laird, ‘24