Transoceanic Voyages

Throughout the 19th century, whale oil was a natural resource that was in high demand as both a lubricant and a means of illumination for the growing cities of the Atlantic World. One can even say: It fuelled the Industrial Revolution in this period. After having exhausted whale populations in the Atlantic, whaling ships from both London and New England ports ventured from the 1790s onwards into the Pacific.

Such transoceanic whaling voyages, which could last up to four years, required regular stops for provisions and supplies at ports and islands. During their stopovers, members of whaling ships came in touch with local communities, traded not only guns and goods, but also employed Indigenous peoples on various islands in the Pacific Ocean. As such, these transoceanic whaling voyages put “thousands of people from around the world on the move”1 and “provided mobility and travel, which facilitated a kind of freedom that was not [always] present on land”2. The whaling ventures departed from Atlantic ports followed the whale migration patterns as far as the Pacific in order to fulfil “the [growing] demands of a vast network of consumers”3 for its oil.

My dissertation project shows on the example of the Swain and Starbuck families how Quaker whalers constituted an interaction space with Native American, African and African American individuals already in the Atlantic. Having these backgrounds in mind, I argue that these families had already formed a specific interaction space in the Atlantic, when they reached the Pacific from 1790 onwards. I aim to reconstruct these multiple socioeconomic relationships of these global interactions between whalers and Māori Iwi between 1790 and 1840.

This research blog shall give my dissertation project a (digital) audience and allow me to discuss specific topics and aspects, to introduce research details, key publications, and accompany me in the academic journey on a regular base.

  1. Wanhalla, Angela (2013): Matters of the Heart. A History of Interracial Marriage in New Zealand. Auckland: Auckland University Press, p. 7 []
  2. Russell, Lynette (2012): Roving Mariners. Australian aboriginal whalers and sealers in the southern oceans, 1790-1870. New York: State University of New York Press, p. 97 []
  3. Shoemaker, Nancy (2014): Living with whales. Documents and oral histories of Native New England whaling history. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, p. 4 []
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