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The British Whaling Trade$
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Gordon Jackson

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780973007398

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780973007398.001.0001

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Chapter 9 New Whaling Techniques

Chapter 9 New Whaling Techniques

(p.141) Chapter 9 New Whaling Techniques
The British Whaling Trade

Gordon Jackson

Liverpool University Press

In the middle of the nineteenth century the British whaling trade had been overtaken by an entrepreneurial and technical paralysis that was barely hidden by the continuing activity in Scotland. Faced with difficulties on both the demand and supply side, the industry prepared itself for its supposedly inevitably doom. Here, as elsewhere, modern scholars might detect not so much a realistic acceptance of fate as a diminution of the enterprise and initiative that had created the trade in the first place. Capitalists were leaving the trade; young whalermen were no longer entering it. A huge fund of bravery and skill was resting on its laurels, its only answer to changing conditions being to push both bravery and skill beyond the limits of physical endurance. This very doggedness of the last whalermen has earned them a fine reputation; but as businessmen they were ultimately a failure. They lacked the resilience and ability to change that was essential for survival. They did not seek out and exploit new opportunities. Above all, in their determination to press traditional whaling to its limits, they consistently ignored the most significant developments that were to lead to modern whaling. The sad irony is that despite the sacrifice in fortunes and fingers, there were more whales off the coast of Scotland than there were off the coast of Greenland. But the Scotsmen could not catch them, and, apart from unsuccessful experiments by Peterhead men in the 1840s, made no serious attempt to do so....

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