OPEN-BOAT WHALING ON THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR GROUND AND ADJACENT WATERS

Authors


Abstract

Logbooks (n= 317) from whaling expeditions made in the North Atlantic during the 19th century were examined to investigate activity in the Gibraltar Straits grounds. At least forty expeditions of whaling vessels from European and American ports visited the area. In all cases the main target was the sperm whale, but pilot whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and even a blue whale were also taken. Whaling effort concentrated on the Atlantic side of the Straits; only two expeditions ventured into the Mediterranean Sea, obtaining negligible catches. The whaling season extended during spring and summer and peaked in June–July. This seasonality appeared not to be governed by changes in whale density but by the trade winds necessary to sail southward or westward to cross the Atlantic. Searching effort continued while trying out, but the rate of sighting cetaceans was about half that of searching periods. However, the rate of sighting or capturing a sperm whale remained unchanged during processing, probably because the gregarious habits of the species produced clumping of catches. For every whale secured, 1.31 whales were struck. After correcting for struck but lost whales and for “gammed” vessels, the minimum number of removals of sperm whales during 1862–1889 is estimated at 237.

Ancillary