Four Years Aboard the Whaleship. Embracing Cruises in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Antarctic Oceans, in the Years 1855, '6, '7, '8, '9


Four Years Aboard the Whaleship is a first-hand account of a voyage to the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans in search of the sperm and right whales. The account is by William B. Whitecar, Jr., a Philadelphian who signed on as a common sailor on the New Bedford whaler Barque Pacific. It is based on a detailed journal, which the author kept, as he explains in his preface, “at sea, on a sailor’s chest, amongst seamen, by night and by day, amid storm and calm….” The book offers a vivid picture of life at sea, as well as observations on locations on land that the ship passed or stopped at, including the Azores, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, and numerous islands in the Pacific. Written just a few years after Herman Melville’s literary classic of 1851, Moby-Dick: or The Whale, the book touches upon many of the same topics and themes that Melville covers in his great work of fiction: the long hours at sea, the diversity of the whaling crews and the international character of the whaling industry, “gammoning” with other whaleships at sea, the dangers of the hunt, and the death of fellow crewmen at sea. In his concluding chapter, under the heading “Advice to Landsmen,” the author concludes, perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek, by “advising all young men who can gain a livelihood ashore, to stay at home.” As arguments against whaling, he cites the low pay (which he calculates at about a dollar a month, after expenses are deducted and the gains from the sale of the barrels of oil apportioned among the crew and ship’s owners), and the drudgery of much of the work.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

J.B. Lippincott and Co., Philadelphia


Title in Original Language

Four years aboard the whaleship. Embracing cruises in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Antarctic oceans, in the years 1855, '6, '7, '8, '9

Type of Item

Physical Description

413 pages

Last updated: January 10, 2018