UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Finding the mighty whales : eighteenth century Nantucket whaling and the development of environmental knowledge Adams, Nathan Tristin


When Nantucket whalemen moved from a shore based fishery to one prosecuted on the high seas, they had to devise a system to locate whale populations. To do this, the whalemen systematically recorded their observations of the ocean and whales and developed a knowledge of the environment. This knowledge was rooted in new scientific ideas rather than traditional knowledge forms. As a result, when whale populations diminished over the eighteenth century Nantucket whalemen were able to adapt and find new whaling grounds expanding from the North Atlantic south to the Azores, of the coast of Brazil and Guinea, and eventually into the Pacific. This public scientific approach to their work catapulted a small island into the forefront of the global whaling industry and underpinned the remarkable prosperity Nantucket enjoyed in the golden age of American whaling.

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