Keeping Food Fresh

Keeping food in good condition was a constant challenge. Insects and rodents invaded food supplies no matter whether they were stored in boxes, crates or barrels. Worms and weevils in the bread were so common that whalers thought nothing of soaking their bread in a hot beverage, scalding out the insects and then skimming them off the top before drinking the liquid. Without refrigeration many foods simply went bad. There was also a constant danger of the food getting wet and mildewed.

Once in the Pacific Ocean, the islands there offered a rich variety of fresh foods. The Marquesas and Hawaiian (Sandwich) Islands all presented delights like breadfruit, bananas, plantains, coconuts, oranges, pineapples, papayas and figs as well as pigs, chickens, fresh fish and occasional seabirds. The Galapagos Islands became known as "Tortoise Islands" because the whalers would capture giant reptilian tortoises and feast on their meat. Sometimes they caught giant sea turtles as well.

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Nicholson Whaling Collection, Providence Public Library