Polar Whaling. A Sea-Letter Narrative of a Cruise in the Okhotsk Sea in 1849


Polar Whaling: A Sea-Letter Narrative of a Cruise in the Okhotsk Sea in 1849 is an account of a whaling voyage of the bark Shepherdess of Mystic, Connecticut, written by the vessel’s first mate, William Henry Holmes of Mystic. The volume presented here is a typewritten transcription of Holmes’s manuscript, published by the Marine Historical Association of Mystic in 1948. The account was written from Lahaina, Mowhee, Sandwich Islands (Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii) and dated November 1, 1849. It is addressed to Holmes’s mother, brothers, and sisters. In his opening paragraph, Holmes states that he is in excellent health and adds: “I can think of nothing that would be very interesting so in order to write something, I will give you a brief account of our cruise in the Okhotsk Sea.” The Shepherdess left Mystic on August 1, 1848, under the command of Captain William Benjamin. She reached Maui on April 1, 1849, and, after spending only a single day in port, left for the Sea of Okhotsk off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, where the bowhead whale was reported to be in abundance. At the time of Holmes’s writing, the Shepherdess had on board about 1,500 barrels of whale oil, a somewhat disappointing harvest owing, according to Holmes, to the shortness of the whaling season and the large number of ships cruising the same grounds. According to an editor’s note, the Shepherdess arrived home at Mystic on January 28, 1851, with 2,300 barrels of oil on board. The volume contains a foreword by Thomas A. Stevens.


Author of Introduction, etc.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Marine Historical Association of Mystic, Mystic, Connecticut


Title in Original Language

Polar whaling, a sea-letter narrative of a cruise in the Okhotsk Sea in 1849

Type of Item

Physical Description

10 pages : illustrations


  • A publication of the Marine Historical Association, volume 2, number 5

Last updated: January 10, 2018