Whaling History Timeline

Seal of the Basque town of Biarritz, 1351, depicting a whaling scene with a two-flued harpoon.

For context, here's a basic timeline of key events in whaling history:

900 - 1600: Basque whaling in the Bay of Biscay, Spitzbergen, and Newfoundland.

1610: England begins whaling in Greenland with the Muscovy Company.

1640: Shore whaling starts in the Massachusetts Bay Colony; Germany also begins whaling.

1650: Shore whaling begins on Long Island, NY.

1600 - 1700: Shore whaling along Cape Cod.

1700: The peak of Dutch whaling.

1715: Six whaleships set sail from Nantucket.

1731: First use of swivel guns in England.

1750: Tryworks are first used on board whaleships.

1756: The first recorded whaling voyage from New Bedford (Dartmouth) by the Sloop Manufactor.

1789: The Ship Beaver of Nantucket is the first American whaleship to enter the Pacific Ocean.

1824: The Ship Stanton of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, records the first use of the single-flue harpoon.

1837: William Greener of Birmingham, England, introduces the Greener gun.

Circa 1835: Nantucket reaches the peak of its whaling industry with over 70 vessels.

1846: Shoulder guns and bomb lances are introduced in American whaling.

1848: Lewis Temple of New Bedford invents the toggle iron; whalers begin venturing into the Bering Sea and Arctic regions.

1857: New Bedford reaches the peak of its whaling industry with a fleet of 329 vessels.

1859: Oil is discovered in Pennsylvania, marking the beginning of the decline of whaling.

1861 - 1864: During the Civil War, 35 whalers are lost, and 40 more become part of the Stone Fleet in Charleston Harbor.

1864: Sven Foyn of Norway invents the cannon-fired explosive harpoon, ushering in the era of modern whaling.

1865: Darting guns are introduced.

1869: The last whaling voyage departs from Nantucket.

1871: The entire Arctic whaling fleet, consisting of 34 vessels, is lost in the ice.

1925: The Schooner John R. Manta undertakes the last sailing whaleship voyage, and the first modern factory ships are used.

© Website originally created by Thomas G. Lytle.


Back to Main Menu

Bibliography  Harpoons  History  Knives  Lances  Links  Markings  Non-Whaling

Patents  Poison  Processing  Shoulder-Guns  Shoulder-gun Irons  Spades  Swivel Guns and Irons