Many of the teenagers who had signed on for the voyage three or four years earlier had grown into men. Their calloused hands and weather beaten faces revealed long hours of physical labor. Some now sported a tattoo, mustache, or beard. All had stories about places and ways of life in other parts of the world.
Families and the hometown port had also changed while the whale ship was at sea. The children of captains and other older crew members had grown taller. Babies had been born and wives had managed households alone. There was a lot of news to share.
The crews that returned to New England hailed from ports around the world. Up to half of the men who disembarked in New Bedford came from other ports and countries as far away as China and Japan. A sizeable population of Portuguese-speaking seamen arrived from the Atlantic islands of Cape Verde and the Azores. Many of these sailors decided to settle in New England. They eventually became boarding house owners, policemen, boat builders and coopers or barrel makers. Some ran grocery stores and went to work in textile and glass factories.
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