When I tell people that I wrote a book on whaling, you would be surprised how many think it is a book on wailing. So, let me clarify that up front. This is a book about a young woman who participated in one of the most dangerous and vile professions of her time. First Fury was a fun project; and, every 2 or 3 months, I would like to share some interesting facts covered in that work. These updates should be educational as well as entertaining. But, as always, you can opt out any time by clicking the Remove Me link.
Whaling ships of the mid-19th century were about 100 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 17 feet deep. The forward half of the ship was home for a contingent of 15 men. In the case of our true story of Rebecca Ann Johnson, the ship Christopher Mitchell was home to 14 men and 1 woman, whom everyone thought was a young man of about 16.
Each ship carried 3 whaleboats stocked with items required to attack a whale. When a whale was seen, the crew manned each boat with 5 rowers and a Mate. The boats were launched and approached the whale as quietly as possible. If lucky, at least one pulled close enough for the harpooner to throw the harpoon into the side of the whale. This, of course, tended to excite the beast which took off, sometimes straight down. The harpoon was attached to the boat with a rope. If the whale swam away at the surface, then the boat was pulled along in what was known as a Nantucket sleigh ride. If it swam straight down and the rope was not released in time, the boat could be pulled down with the whale.
Find out more about what whaling was like by going to this fun link on the First Fury web site.
Next time I will talk about and attach a picture of the Charles Morgan, a ship displayed at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, and almost identical to the Mitchell. I toured that ship to get a feel of what Ann would have experienced.