The Whaler

Unlike the merchant ships of its day, the whaler was not built for speed. Wider and sturdier than a clipper ship, its design reflected the need for durability and seaworthiness. The whaling bark had to carry not only a full cargo of oil, but also a large amount of special equipment not required by other ships.

The whale ship was really a floating factory designed to process whale carcasses at sea. It included heavy tryworks, or brick ovens, that held two huge iron trypots for boiling the oil out of whale blubber at sea. The ship's timbers had to support not only the heavy masonry, but also a basin of water that kept the hot tryworks' fire from charring the wooden deck.

All of the work involved in hunting whales and boiling oil out of blubber meant that whale ships also had to carry a lot more men than did merchant ships. Whale ships needed sleeping quarters for crews of sixteen to thirty-six men.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum