Trying Out

While many crew members prepared the blubber for boiling, others readied the enormous metal try-pots. These huge vats sitting in a brick and mortar base were heated at first by wood. Whale blubber shriveled up as it released oil and within about thirty minutes, the cooked scraps or cracklings started floating at the top of the pot. These scraps made a quick snack, but were mostly used to fuel the fire in the tryworks. Black smoke rose into the sky and the glow of the ovens lit up the ship at night.

Crew members worked around the clock in six hour stretches. The cutting in and trying out of a large whale routinely took three days. During this time, crew members became soaked in the dripping oil and blood. They tried to avoid being hit by the hundreds of pounds of swaying flesh or spattered by hot oil around the tryworks. They also tried to maintain a secure footing on the increasingly greasy deck. The aroma of cooking blubber infused everything on board.

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Martha's Vineyard Museum