Keeping Food Fresh, cont.

William Fish Williams made several whaling voyages with his family. As a teenager he recalled: "Too much of anything palls…." One trip on the Monticello found them buying many cases of eggs "which lasted until I was so sick of eggs I never wanted to see one again." Of a different voyage on the Florence, he said, "I was fed up with bananas and have never recovered my taste for them. We had them raw or cooked nearly every meal for weeks until I could not smell them without a feeling of nausea."

Since most of the fresh water and food provisions were kept in casks that would eventually be filled with whale oil, there was a delicate balance that could be tipped if there was a sudden over abundance of oil. In 1864, the Brewster came upon great schools of whales off the coast of New Guinea. Because the casks were already filled with oil, Captain Beebe ordered that food provisions be thrown overboard to make room for more oil. He later wrote: "The molasses went down to sweeten the home of the squid and octopus, while the salt beef, pork, and flour became food for sharks." Fresh water meant for drinking went down the same way, dumped to make room for more oil which meant more profit for the ship.

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Courtesy of the Trustees of the New Bedford Free Public Library