Communicating At Sea

On December 11 Captain Jernegan 'spoke' with another ship and reported their success to date, 60 barrels of oil. 'Speaking' was the traditional method of communication between two whaleships while at sea. When two ships met like this, they paused next to each other. Each captain would stand on deck with a speaking trumpet that would make his voice louder across the water.

The captains would pass each other information such as the name of their ship, where they headed, how many days out, and how many barrels of oil they had. They would compare accuracy of their longitude by displaying the figures on a large blackboard. If the ships were not chasing whales, the exchange often concluded with a "gam," when members of each crew could spend time visiting with the other.

Captain Jernegan also wrote a letter to be taken back to New Bedford to the agent by the other ship. The position reported was Latitude 25.5 S. and Longitude 21 W.

Laura's mother Helen recalled in her memoirs, "Sometimes we would speak to a ship and get some late papers, but if it was a merchant ship, they would not want to stop, and so would only give the Latitude & Longitude."

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Martha's Vineyard Museum