You are here

Whaling in the Hebrides

Whaling in the Hebrides

Whales have been utilised in maritime countries since pre-historic times, and the Outer Hebrides were no exception. Beached animals were stripped of their blubber, baleen and meat and the bones were used for a variety of purposes. Later hunting was pursued using small boats and wooden harpoons, and this method is largely still in use in aboriginal communities where this aspect of their culture is maintained. Whale drives - using several boats to force the whales inshore - were community affairs with spoils being divided so that everyone got a share.

From roughly 1400-1700 commercial whaling was followed in the North Atlantic, overlapping from 1600-1900 further north around Greenland and Iceland. As species declined, the Americans hunted in the Pacific. From 1880 factory ships and explosive harpoons were used in all oceans.

From 1904 shore stations were set up in the South Atlantic, particularly in South Georgia, by Norwegians. Salvesen's, a Norwegian company operated out of Leith, and it was there that all whalers from the islands signed on, and got paid off at the end of their journey home.

These operations ceased in the 1960s due to diminishing stocks and returns and the anti-whaling lobbies.

Several men from the islands were engaged in this work; some of them remaining in South Georgia for months or even years at a time. The work was hard and unpleasant, but there was good money to be made.



Title: Whaling in the Hebrides
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Record Maintained By: CEBL
Subject Id: 64571