Gone A-Whaling: The Lure of the Sea and the Hunt for the Great Whale

Gone A-Whaling: The Lure of the Sea and the Hunt for the Great Whale

by Jim Murphy
     
 

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In the early days of whaling, whales were plentiful and it seemed that they would always fill the sea. When people realized how much money could be made from whales in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, entire species were wiped out in the rush to hunt these gentle and magnificent creatures. This account is an even-handed portrayal of the exciting, grisly, and… See more details below

Overview

In the early days of whaling, whales were plentiful and it seemed that they would always fill the sea. When people realized how much money could be made from whales in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, entire species were wiped out in the rush to hunt these gentle and magnificent creatures. This account is an even-handed portrayal of the exciting, grisly, and sometimes profitable business of pelagic whaling, told from the perspective of young whalers through their detailed journal entries and letters.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susan Hepler
This stunning, well-researched book about the history of whaling in the United States is written so compellingly and so well that it is difficult to put down. Using primary source material principally from diaries and reminiscences to enliven his extensive research, Murphy recreates the lure of the sea for a young man, balanced by the actual reality of low pay, boring hours, and hard and gruesome work. Murphy documents the African-American captains and seamen as well as the women who accompanied their captain husbands on shipboard but points to the racism and provincialism that prevailed in whaling times. Readers will, like Murphy, come to respect the gentle giant whose numbers are so sadly decreased that many whale populations are so low as to not be able to reproduce, recover, and thrive. Visuals include archival photographs, etchings and paintings from the era plus double-page informational spreads featuring facts about many types of whales. End matter includes a huge bibliography of sources include personal, scientific, and historic accounts of whales; a glossary; addresses of sixteen whale conservation groups, and an index. Invaluable as a natural and American history resource, it is especially useful for any middle or high school reader or researcher.
VOYA - Edward Sullivan
Murphy proves once again why he is one of the best writers of nonfiction for young people today. Through the perspectives of young men who began their whaling careers as lowly cabin boys and common seamen, Murphy traces the history of the American whaling industry from Colonial times through the twentieth century. Combined with scrupulous research are excerpts from many firsthand accounts found in diaries, journals, letters, and ship's logs. Murphy looks at the various factors that enticed men and boys to sign on for what were often very dangerous and unprofitable whaling voyages. Living conditions on whaling ships, the lifestyles of the whalers, and the dangers they faced are also described. The vivid detail in these chapters is clearly owed to firsthand accounts. Murphy is equally vivid in his descriptions of the actual hunt and the killing and dismembering of whales (descriptions that are appropriately gruesome). The author does not hide his sympathy for the whales and his repulsion at their near devastation, but he is objective enough to make clear the needs and sensibilities of the time in which the whaling industry flourished. Lending authenticity to the text, the book is illustrated throughout with black-and-white drawings and paintings from early times, and photographs from later years. Occasional sidebars describe various species of whales. The book is attractively laid out and very well organized. Appendices include an extensive glossary, bibliography, a directory of whale conservation and research organizations, and a good subject index. Murphy makes history fascinating and immediate with a lively, engrossing narrative that both informs and entertains. Readers will be introduced to a world of exciting adventure and perilous danger, and will be educated about the need for conservation and respect for other living creatures. A must for every public and school library collection. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
A lively, engaging, and well-researched book. The opening chapters look at what enticed young men and boys to sign on for whaling voyages. Later chapters go into the actual hunt, describing in great detail the equipment, procedures, and lifestyles aboard the vessels from the earliest times through the 20th century. The historical emphasis is on American whaling, although some ships from other countries are also described. Murphy combines excerpts from many firsthand accountsdiaries, letters, ships' logs, and journalsalways identifying the writer by name and age, and then adds profuse background information about various historical and scientific aspects of his subject. Numerous black-and-white drawings and paintings from the early days and actual photographs of more recent times add immediacy and authenticity. Occasional sidebars describe various species of whales. Murphy clearly expresses his sympathy for the hunted mammals, although he also mentions the dangers to the sailors and the needs and sensibilities of earlier times that made this a necessary and attractive enterprise. The awe and majesty of the great whale are expressed throughout the book in the many quotes describing face-to-face confrontations between whaler and whale, as well as in Murphy's description of his own close-up meeting with a whale on a New England whale watch. With its attractive layout, decorative chapter headings, and clear readable text, "Gone A-Whaling" is as inviting as it is interesting and informative. Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
From the Publisher

"A lively, engaging, and well-researched book. . . . Numerous black- and-white drawings and paintings from the early days and actual photographs of more recent times add immediacy and authenticity. . . . With its attractive layout, decorative chapter headings, and clear readable text, GONE A-WHALING is as inviting as it is interesting and informative."

School Library Journal, Starred

"Whaling was a young man's game, or rather a young boy's. Using a variety of sources, Murphy makes it plain that the crews of whalers included a substantial number of youths barely out of childhood. Although presented from their perspective, the book is more than a collection of biographical vignettes. It is a substantive examination of the history of whaling, the socio-economic forces that supported it, the pro-cess by which whales were transformed into salable commodities-from oil to corset stays-and, finally, the environmental impact of reckless commercialism as technology increased the hunters' success. In this context, Murphy offers proof of the innate cruelty of the whale hunt, refutes legends of the whale's evil intent and vengeful nature-including that icon of American literature, Moby Dick-and comments on the decimation of many species through lack of regulation even today. Details of life aboard a whaler, including the ethnic composition of the crews, the role of the captains, families, and the development of the art of scrimshaw, add color and drama. The concluding chapter takes the reader into the twentieth century where cameras substitute for harpoons as spectators join whale watching expeditions. The book is enhanced by drawings, engravings, and photographs, and also features information about specific types of whales in boxed inserts. The appended bibliography is substantial, drawing on a variety of sources." Horn Book

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547346304
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/24/2004
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
347,911
File size:
75 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Jim Murphy is the author of An American Plague, which received the Sibert Medal and a Newbery Honor and was selected as a National Book Award finalist. His Clarion titles include The Boys' War and other award-winning nonfiction.

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