|Date(s):||September 16, 1844 to March 23, 1846|
|Location(s):||NEW LONDON, Connecticut|
|Tag(s):||whaling industry, Food/Provisions|
|Course:||“Literary Theory and Writing,” St. Norbert College|
|Rating:||5 (2 votes)|
On the monday morning of September 16 in 1844, the ship Morrison, of New London, Conn., sailed out for a whaling voyage that concluded in 1846. On board, the first mate Rev. Thomas Douglass recorded the happenings of the Morrison in a log book, often mentioning the poor quality of food, and the ways that the ship’s crew tried to supplement themselves with other foods. Whalers like the Morrison were often at sea from anywhere to six months to several years--except for emergencies, they rarely docked. Considering the number of men needed to work the ship was often in the thirties, much food was needed to keep all of the men fed and alive. Ships were limited in space and money, and therefore needed to store the most amount of food for the least amount of money. Because most food would spoil, the crew would often have a very limited diet of biscuits, dried and salted meat, and beans.
Douglass often speaks of the crew’s endeavors to find fresh food. They caught fish and other seafood to create a change in their “one unvarying round of salt beef & pork,” such as “fish porpoises & black fish . . . 3 barrels of most excellent fish . . . [or] two Albatrosses.” These caught foods at sea would provide a replacement for the salt beef and pork Douglass often mentions.
Unending meals of salted meat and dry, moldy, or otherwise insect infested biscuits were often the only choice for the lowly crew; however, the captain was able to eat better prepared food, as well as a greater variety of foods. The New Bedford Whaling Museum explains the differences in more detail: “The captain . . . ate the best meals on shipboard. Ducks, pigs, and chickens were often carried in crates to provide meat for his table. Although the crew's rations ranged from unpleasant to revolting, hard work gave them good appetites, even for greasy pork, hard biscuits, and cockroach-laden molasses. Other fare included “heavily salted beef, pork, or horse, [and] beans, rice, or potatoes.” The luxuries that could be afforded by the captain were more expensive than the simple menu of the crew, but were also harder to keep. However, all of the crew fared from shortages of fresh fruits and vegetables, making the life of a man on board of a whaling ship hard, despite the chances to catch food from the sea.