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Shetland and the Greenland Whaling


by Adrian Duncan

For almost 150 years, from the mid-18th century, the annual “Greenland time” was a major event in Shetland. This was when the whale ships arrived to recruit their crews in Lerwick and Baltasound and old hands and “green” young hopefuls signed up for arduous voyages into Arctic waters after the elusive “right” whale. Some seasons saw good returns for whale ship owners and crews. Others were disastrous with loss of earnings, ships and lives. Whales, ice and disease all took their toll, as did the notorious navy press gangs. Lairds and local merchants also had a hand in an economic system seemingly designed to ensure that poverty was never far away, and which crushed lives as surely as the Arctic ice crushed whale ship hulls. For the first time, the full story of Shetland’s vital contribution to the Greenland – Spitsbergen and Davis Strait – “fishery” is told. The author discusses, in detail, the economic and social implications of the bloody trade in their local, nation and international contexts. A well-researched account that will appeal to anything with a local interest in Shetland and its maritime history.

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Adrian Duncan


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