“Marine World of the long 18th Century” Conference

This new blog article reaches you form Germany. On the 21st of December, I arrived back from my over three-month research stay and took a second christmas break (after the one week summer break in Sydney). After spending almost three months in Aotearoa/New Zealand between 16th September and 2nd December, I flew to Melbourne to Australia in order to visit the “Marine World of the Long 18th century” Conference at the FitzRoy Campus of the Catholic University of Melbourne.

Three keynotes from Prof. Dr. Lynette Russell (Monash University), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kevin Dawson (University of California, Merced) as well as of Dr. Miranda Staynton (University of Melbourne) accompanied the various panels throughout the three days. You can read the full conference programm here:

On the following PDF, you can read a compilation of the other panels, presentation titles as well as their submitted abstracts:

Together in a panel with another PhD researcher Shameer T.A. from the University of Hyderabad in India, I also contributed a paper to the Conference in the Panel “Whaling and Fishing in the Global South”. I titled my presenation as “The whaling industry and the Tasman World” and provide you hereby with my abstract:


“When the Englishman James Cook and the Polynesian Tupaia left the Australian continent and the Aborigines in 1770, they, unintentionally, revealed the differential and diametric temporalities of the Tasman Sea (Alison Bashford 2021). While Cook and Tupaia only ‘perceived’ the door (1770), Lit-Gov. King and Tuki/Huru ‘opened’ the door (1793); this paper demonstrates that it was the whaling industry which eventually ‘passed’ through the door, and so enabled the alleged connecting factor of the Tasman World.

Between 1790 and 1840, Port Jackson, Norfolk Island, Hobart, and the Bay of Islands emerged as important stopover places for the transoceanic whaling industry. Rangatira of the Ngāpuhi Iwi actively fostered the interactions with whaling ships by providing supplies and young men’s labour. Many of these whaling ships were either captained or financed by Quakers in the Atlantic world. This industry enabled a new form of mobility, which crucially connected the Tasman World as an interaction space.

This paper builds on Alison Bashford’s thoughts (2021) and argues that it was the transoceanic scale of the whaling industry which contributed to the formation of the Tasman Sea. With its manifold maritime interaction spaces, the whaling industry played a crucial role in shaping the Tasman Sea.”


In my presentation, I adopted on a recent journal article of Prof. Dr. Alison Bashford (University of NSW Sydney).1 and highlight the connecting and disconnecting contributions of the whaling industry to the notions of a “Tasman World”. For this, I used a case study of one whaling family.

  1. Bashford, Alison (2021): World History and the Tasman Sea,
    in: The American Historical Review, vol. 123 (3), pp. 922-948. https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/126/3/922/6424130?redirectedFrom=fulltext []

“He Whenua Rangatira. A Māori land”

This short Youtube clip is part of the exhibition of “He Tohu”. He Tohu has been presented by two leading institutions in Aotearoa/ New Zealand – Archives News Zealand /Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga as well as the National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.1

Comprising the time period between 1200 and 1300 and 1839, the video illustrates the first recorded initial Māori settlements on both Islands and both the first European visitors bus also the first Maori travellers outside of Aoetearoa. The brief clip is separted in several ‘chapters’:

1200-1300: Māori arrivals

1300-1500: Pā Sites

1500-1700: Iwi Migrations

1500-1800: Trade routes

1600-1840: European arrivals: Explorers

1600-1840: European arrivals: Missionaries

1600-1840: European arrivals: Whalers

1769-1840: Māori explore the world

1835-183: Signing off He Whakaputanga

He Tohu is a permanent exhibition of three documents, that sustainably changed and formed Aotearoa’s history.2 In 1835, several years after his appointment, and afraid of a potential French annexation, James Busby gathered 34 Māori Rangatira together in order to organize them under the He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni, which is also known as the “Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand”.3

The second document, which the exhibition consists of, is the “Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi” of 1840.4

And the “Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine” in 1893.5

  1. He Tohu, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  2. See Aotearoa’s founding documents at He Tohu, in: Wellington NZ, https://www.wellingtonnz.com/experience/see-and-do/he-tohu/, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  3. He Whakaputanga, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/about/he-whakaputanga, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  4. Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/about/te-tiriti-o-waitangi, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []
  5. Women’s Suffrage Petition – Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine, in: National Library of New Zealand, https://natlib.govt.nz/he-tohu/about/womens-suffrage-petition, [last Access: 15.07.2022]. []

1842: Starbuck from Nantucket applies for British Naturalization in Sydney

In 29th September 1842, the “Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser” informs their readers about the naturalization of an American person named George Starbuck from Nantucket, who officially requested to become a British citizen:

“Naturalization of an Alien. – A Mr. George Starbuck, who is a native of Nantucket, in the United States, took the oaths of allegiance to her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria on Tuesday last, before His Honor the Chief Justice, in the Court of Equity.”1

Reading of a Starbuck family member from Nantucket in the mid of the 19th century, one can easily draw a connection to the whaling industry. Unfortunately it remains unclear, how he arrived in Sydney or whether he captained a whaling ship or not (at least according to the database of www.whalinghistory.com). Only one entry lists a George Starbuck person as an Agent of the whaling ship “JOSEPH STARBUCK”, which went on a Pacific whaling voyage between 1838 and 1842, and was captained by Wilbur Sanford.2

The website of the “State Archives & Records” in Sydney hold the records of the Naturalization processes in detail and give further knowledge about the legal history of the naturalization too.3

Naturalization is the means by which aliens (non-British subjects) gain the privileges and rights of citizenship held by British subjects or people born in New South Wales.

There was no law covering naturalization before 1849. Prior to that year, the process of naturalization was known as denization and could only be performed through an Act of Parliament. Denization gave an alien the right to own land. The Act to Amend the Laws relating to Aliens, 1849 (No 11 Vic No 39) established the system of naturalization, which gave much broader rights and made denization obsolete.

State Archives & Records NSW

Since Starbuck applied in 1842, his records fell into the “Letters of Denization” in the collection of the State Archives. Receiving the British citizenship came along with many privileges and benefits such as the right to vote (only for men), but what might have been much more interesting for the applicants was the right to buy or own land, which seem to have been only confined to British settlers. One important requirement was the Residency of at least five years. This means that George Starbuck must have been living in Sydney since at least five years.

The database of the naturalization applicants do only consist of Non-British people with backgrounds from all over the world. Individuals from Ireland or Canada did not need to become naturalized as they already belonged to the British Empire. In these online provided naturalization database, I was able to find the name of George Starbuck, yet his name was mistyped as George Starbrick.

The entry is kept very brief, yet I assume that the entry might provide further information about the background.

  1. Naturalization of an Alien, in: Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser, 29.09.1842, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2557455, [last Access: 12.06.2022]. []
  2. Joseph Starbuck, 1838-1842, in: whaling history, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=AA1190, [Last Access: 12.06.2022]. []
  3. Naturalization / Citizenship Guide, in: State Archives & Records, Sydney, https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/naturalization-citizenship-guide?fbclid=IwAR3lEsZshEranA8ILV01U-X4iHgdq70Syw2iqbRk_TuTuxu42lYl8jom6Ww, [Last Access: 12.06.2022]. []

Review: “Grass Huts and Warehouses, Pacific Beach Communities of the Nineteenth Century”

With this new blogpost, I would like to introduce you a new format of postings. During my research, I regularly encounter fascinating journal articles and monographs, which I consider as very relevant or useful, but sometimes I approach also titles, which will not find their way into my dissertation manuscript at the end of the day.

In future similar posts, I will give selected topics, research questions and titles a platform in order to introduce them and to approach the topic from my point of view. It might be important to mention here, that I do not have any experience with reviewing titles yet, and therefore, I consider it as an opportunity for myself to learn this too. Thus, if you have comments, useful advices or instructions on reviewing academic monographs for me, I am happy to read your comment or E-Mail.

For this blogpost, I decided to begin with the following monograph: Caroline Ralston (1977):”Grass Huts and Warehouses, Pacific Beach Communities of the Nineteenth Century”, Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Ralston analyzes specifically the background, the role, the influence and the impact of individual Beachcombers on a set of five different places and Indigenous communities across the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the 19th century, the vivid Pacific islands and cities of Honolulu (Hawai’i), Pape’ete (Tahiti) , Apia (Samoa), Levuka (Fiji) and Kororareka at the Bay of Islands (Aotearoa/ New Zealand) gained increasing interest and attention of various regional, European and American agencies due to their geographical locality, their harbour or the abundance of or their proximity to natural resources.

In eight chapters and an Epilogue (chapter 9), she structures her monograph from the first “Contact and Early Trade” (1), then she jumps to “Beachcombers” (2),”First Pacific Beach Communities” (3) , “Early Beach Community Development” (4), before she devotes a general chapter on the “Consuls, Missionaries and Company Traders” (5), followed by “The Pattern of Daily Life”, (6); “Later Years” (7), and “Race Relations in the Beach Communities” (8).

The publication of the journals of Cook’s three voyages to the Pacific, together with those of his forerunners, nevertheless revealed trading and whaling resources awaiting development, and the explorers’ own experiences proved that the basic pre-rerequisites for establishing commercial relations with some groups of islanders did exist.

Ralston 1977, p. 8.

As you can imagine, I have read and scanned the publication with a specific focus on two pre-dominant aspects: on the development of the whaling industry in the Pacific Ocean as well as on Kororareka as a famous harbour for whaling ships. In her first chapter, Ralston summarizes the rise of the whaling industry. She describes the migration patterns of whales and the areas, which became increasingly famous for whaling ships.

During the first two decades of the nineteenth century whaling activities were concentrated on the western coasts of North and South America and the eastern coast of Australia, but with the discovery of the Japanese and equatorial whaling grounds in the early 1820s, whaling vessels were drawn into the midst of the island world and were eager to find places to refresh and refit there.

In the northern Pacific Honolulu became the unchallenged centre for the whaling industry, while in the south whaling captains could choose between Papeete, Kororareka, Apia, the southern islands of Fiji, or the Marquesas to refresh and refit at, depending on which was most convenient.

Despite their seeming aimlessness whalers did not roam casually round the Pacific, but worked through the different whaling grounds systematically according to the migration patterns of the whales, and their arrival at different port towns could be estimated fairly accurately.

Ralston 1977, p. 16.

Today, over 50 years later, we can read studies, who have analyzed hundreds of whaling logbooks in order to visualize their migration patterns, but also to show the favoured ports and islands for stopovers. With these technical skills, the study confirmed many research results of Ralston.1

Due to the hard-working conditions and danger of the whaling industry or due to conflicts on board, seamen did regularly leave ships during these long voyages. Today, one considers them as Beachcombers. Beachcombers, who left the ships and tried to seek safety among Indigenous communities, are defined by Ralston as “being temporarily of permanently detached from one group, enters the web of social relations that constitutes another society and comes under the influcence of its customs, ideas and values to a greater of lesser extent.”2 The total dependency on hospitality and goodwill shaped their interaction with Indigenous communities. When it came to contact situations, beachcombers formed as important translators and mediators and so were able to demonstrate their importance towards both sides.

Campbell, however, criticized this aspect in a review of 1978:

“By overestimating the quality of the communication between beachcombers and islanders over aspects of European culture (p 33) Ralston makes the exaggerated claim that ‘the beachcombers were largely instrumental in the early processes of island acculturation’ (p 42); and surely the beachcomber era was too early, and the beachcombers themselves too few and too sparse for one to be able to speak of ‘race relations’, far less to claim for them credit in establishing egalitarian race relations (p 45).”3

For each of the mentioned Pacific ports, Ralston explains the economic activities, but also the land-transactions of individuals with Indigenous communities. She reminds that Māori did understand that they sell their land, as the early deed of sales of land demonstrate. Ralston is impressed about the fact that these deeds “contained surprisingly detailed descriptions of the land to be transferred and emphasise[…] that the Māori had relinquished all rights to the land. It is impossible to know how much the Māori understood of these transactions, but few of the Kororareka sales were later disputed. Perhaps twenty years’ experience of the missionaries’ insistence on private property had had some effect.”4

In these land transactions, she notices a high degree of Māori agency, when it came to the price of land throughout the 1830s:

“With the growing number of foreigners moving into Kororareka, the Māori were quick to appreciate the rising value of land and put up their prices accordingly. However, they would at no time (not even just after annexation when prices were sky-high) contemplate selling the land on which their pa was built.”4

  1. Smith, Tim; Lund, Judith; Reeves, Randall; Josephson, Elizabeth (2012): Spatial and Seasonal Distribution of American Whaling and Whales in the Age of Sail. In: PLoS One 7 (4), pp. 1-25.; Spatial and Seasonal Distribution of American Whaling and Whales in the Age of Sail [Last Access: 13.04.2022.] []
  2. Ralston 1977, p. 20. []
  3. Alan Frost , Roderic Lacey & I. C. Campbell (1978) Book reviews, The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 13,3, pp. 188-192, p. 191. []
  4. Ralston 1977, p. 91. [] []

Logbook analysis: “William Hamilton” (1834-1837)

Some years ago, the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island has digitized its entire whaling logbook collection, which includes over 750 logbooks of American whaling voyages and covers an amazing time period between 1762 and 1931. The whole collection is now available through archive.org1 In order to receive a certain overview, this collection offers a detailed finding aid to the public.2

During the year of 2020, when most of the world was overwhelmed with the Pandemic, I had the opportunity to analyse a part of those available logbooks of the Swain and Starbuck family, which cruised into the Pacific Ocean. In this context, I would like to introduce you the logbook of the whaling voyage of the WILLIAM HAMILTON whaling ship, which was at sea between 1834 and 1837.3

The whaling ship was owned by Isaac Howland at New Bedford, and William Swain captained the voyage. In this blog article, I want to show you how I have reconstructed the voyage and analysed the digitized logbook, which you can find here.4

For this, I used a simple Excel document, and defined already beforehand, what kind of developments and encounters I am interested in. On the Y axis, I decided to categorize my observations in “Sojourn in”, “Communication with”, “Land in sight”, trading with”, “Recruitment”, “whale in sight”, “Hunting process” as well as “etc.” The X axis marked the timeline. In doing so, I moved from page to page, and “screened” each whaling logbook page for relevant observations, which I noted down immediately. This allows me, to go through the Logbook just by scrolling the document to the right and I have immediately access to the most interesting information for myself.

Private Excel document. Click on the picture in order to view the picture in more detail.

As you can see on this small glimpse of the Excel document, I can immediately reconstruct the sailing route of the whaling ship only by following the ports, which the logbook mentions. In this case, the whaling ship departed from New Bedford and most likely rounded the Cape Horn because he stopped for the first time in Chile, then went further northwards for a stopover at Payta, continued its voyage in the direction of the Society Islands and headed to Aotearoa/ New Zealand, before he sailed to Otaheite and then sailed back to New Bedford. On the whaling voyage, the ship meet many other ships, as you can see.

Stopovers were crucial for whaling voyages. They needed them for refreshment and in order to trade goods, supplies, and also to recruit Indigenous sailors for their voyages. While the logbooks keepers did routinely trace developments during the voyages at sea, they remained disappointingly silent on land, and only continued with entries when they began to sail again. Having these gaps in mind, helps me to realize for how long the ships did stay at harbour.

Now let me go in further detail on one of the stopovers and skip to January 1836, when the whaling ship arrived the Bay of Islands. At the 8th of January 1836, the logbook mentions: “5 PM spoke the LADY AMHERST5 of London 28 month out with 2500 bbl Oil” and then: “Land in sight”. You can read the entry at the end of the left page here.6

Whaling ships saw it essential in coming in touch together and to exchange crucial information, and their current state of their voyage; thus, one often read of whaling ships, which also give their amount of whale cargo which they have hunted and boiled already. As you can see from the page, William Swain did meet at the Bay of Islands also the whaling ship SARAH AND ELIZABETH7. Since the ship was on the end of his voyage, the Logbook just briefly records “spoke the Sarah and Elizabeth, full bound home”. The captain of this London-based whaling ship was also another William Swain, one of his relatives, who lived in London and was regularly with whaling voyages in the Pacific Ocean too. Together with the LADY AMHERST, the SARAH ELIZABETH sailed back to London.

Both William Swain do have the same family background in the Quaker community of Nantucket, and the name of the Ship William Hamilton shows already, that the whaling ship of owners of Howland in New Bedford seem to have been aware of the history of the Quaker whalers, who migrated to Europe roughly between 1790 and 1815 for William Hamilton is considered as the pivotal contributor of the establishment of the Milford Haven. He is known to have invited and supported those Quaker whalers to come to Wales in order to establish and to continue their whaling activities.

The whaling ship William Hamilton arrived at 10th January 1836 the Bay of Islands and seems to have remained until 27th January 1836 at the harbour, because there are no logbook entries for the days in between, which you can see on the right page.6

In the days after they sailed they prepared the stores and the logbook regularly mentions entries such as “all hands employed storing chicken” or “the watch employed in ships duty”. Just two days after they left the Bay of Islands, they saw a whale and lowered the boats, and such whale sightings were even drawn in the daily entries.

On the last pages of the logbook, the keeper shows unusually the crew of the different parts of the ship and shows, how the constitution of the boat-crews changed and differed during the voyages. This proves to be a valuable insight into the multi-ethnicity of the crew, because it also mentions the places and islands from where some crew-members were taken off. Some crew members were taken from Pacific Islands such as the Galapagos, Navigator Islands, Society Islands Tongataboo or New Zealand as you can see on this logbook page here.8

Thank you very much for reading this. This was a very brief overview of a logbook, and in case you have a question to any part or aspect, you are welcome to leave a comment.

  1. Nicholson whaling collection, in Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/providencepublicnicholson, [Last Access: 12.03.2022]. []
  2. Wells, Kate (2019): Finding Aid, Nicholson whaling logbook collection 1762-1931, https://www.provlib.org/wp-content/uploads/finding-aids/003-02-01-FA.pdf, [last Access: 12.03.2022]. []
  3. William Hamilton, 1834-1837, in: whaling history database, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=AV15649, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  4. William Hamilton Logbook 1834-1837, in: Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/journalofwilliam00will/mode/2up, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  5. LADY AMHERST, in: whaling history database, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=BV078010, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  6. William Hamilton Logbook, in: Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/journalofwilliam00will/page/n61/mode/2up?view=theater [Last Access:12.03.2022] [] []
  7. Sarah and Elizabeth, in: whaling history database, https://whalinghistory.org/?s=BV078010, [Last Access: 12.03.2022] []
  8. William Hamilton Logbook, in: Archive.org, https://archive.org/details/journalofwilliam00will/page/n127/mode/2up?view=theater [Last Access:12.03.2022] []
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