Once crew members arrived on shore, the shared danger and tedium of a long whaling voyage no longer held them together. They typically split off into small groups and chose different ways to explore their new surroundings. Some visited seamen's libraries and bethels while others sought out dance halls and bars. Sometimes the adventurers experimented with tattoos, tried new alcoholic drinks, and picked up small mementos of their travels.

American-born seamen and boys found the foreign landscapes and people fascinating. In particular, they found themselves shocked by the seeming laziness of "natives" who didn't appear to share their appetite for work. Whalemen typically viewed the people they met as either innocent and primitive or hostile and savage. Exposure to different cultures reinforced these mariners' sense of superiority.

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