N.M.P.L. | AUSTIN
SETS FOR SALE
ABDULLA / ARDATH
LAMBERT & BUTLER
suggest you do not read this page until you have read the various pages on sports of the olden day variety, perhaps Players, Riders of the World  would be a good warm up exercise for you. If you find some of the sports described in that set, tiger hunting, bit of pig sticking this sort of thing unpleasant, then read no further, this page it will not do you any good at all.
Indeed I have been steeling myself to write this page for sometime now. It is rather a sensitive issue nowadays and Ogdens dealt with the subject with all the sensitivity you would expect of a different age.
All this vileness happened in 1927 and was condensed into 25 cards which even as I pulled them from their dark hiding place the Greenpeace boats gathered. Bearded blokes kept hurling themselves in front of my path as I struggled to get the set to the Post Office but I just had time to scribble this note in the hope I can explain myself.
even more unpalatable than it sounds.
Okay brave souls, prepare to travel with me on a Whaling expedition.
First things first Whaling in the good old days was a bad business to be in. Card One explains; you would be away for three or four years and often the crew was made up of all manner of people with good reason not to be found on-shore for a good few years. The crew consisted of 35 to 40 men and often did not have a common language.
Clearly the set was harking back to an earlier age of Whaling, even in 1927, there are constant references to old time whaling and the last two cards of the set there are cards which depict the modern whaling techniques.
Lets get these out of the way now. Card 24: Shows the 'Southern Princess' (obviously vessels are named like housing estates; Green meadows, is the one thing they are not) a steam whale-catcher capable of firing a hundred-weight harpoon from a front mounted muzzle loaded gun. It belonged to the Southern Whaling and Sealing Co. Ltd, Liverpool. The final card shows the CA Larsen a modern whaler through and through (it is named after the famous Capt. Carl Larsen the first Norwegian Whaling expedition in the Ross Sea, 1923-4) By now we were getting into the floating factory area, the Mother ship (Sir James Carl Ross) was serviced by 5 steam whalers. An expedition in 1924-5 obtained 32,000 barrels of oil and described as very succesful. The card also notes these ships have bow doors which open to haul the whales deep into the ship.
That is only the last 2 cards of the set and really this is not the point of the set at all.
So lets get back to the romantic nature of the issue.
The old style whaling vessel was romantic, it truly has that exciting and mysterious quality for an outsider looking in. There is adventure to be had, hardships to be endured and heroic deeds to do.
So lets begin the adventure in earnest and get back to the docks where the crew are embarking.
Card 4 deals with one of the most important people on the boat and certainly one with a great deal of skill, The Harpooner. The card shows him throwing the lance by sheer physcial strength at the great bulk of the whale. By any stretch of the imagination this was a skilled job to be undertaken by a fellow that knew what he was up too. There were very real risks rowing about in a boat which is described on card 5. Between 27 & 35 feet long, it had to be neat, the harpoons were no good if they were not attached to rope and the rope was no good if it was not long enough. Indeed worse than no good, imagine being attached to a whale, plunging into the depths of the ocean. A few feet of rope is a certain way in which you would be visiting a watery grave. There was up to 300 fathoms of rope attached to the harpoons, get a bit of that stuck around your leg as it whips out of the boat and you better hope it takes your leg clean off, otherwise you were certainly dead.
Harpooning was only the first stage, it was not up to the job of killing the whale, this was just the means of attaching the boat to the beast so the killing could be done by the lance. Described on card 6 this was a slender spear of about 4 foot in length with a handle of similar length.
Now that is the most dangerous part of the business and easily the most glamorous, a few men in a wooden boat pitting themselves against the might of the whale and whatever you think about the odds there is no way on this small planet I would be taking them.
After the adrenaline of the fight comes the drudge of the basic work. It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like although if you want an idea you could buy a large fish cut it open and wear it on your head for a couple of days.
Card 8 describes 'Cutting in'. The whale has been dragged to the side of the boat and too large to be taken on board the whale is cut up whilst in the water and blubber is removed by men standing above the whale by means of a whaling spade. This was a knife about a foot long put on a flexible pole up to 18 feet in length. It is not difficult to imagine how tricky that must have been in heavy seas.
Cutting the whale up was probably pretty unpleasant but that is the half of it, next comes the boiling down of the stuff to get the whale oil. This goes on in the 'Try Pots', card nine. The boiling down of the blubber goes on 24 hours a day until the job is done.
Card 10 shows us an enormous Sperm Whale (either that or it is feeding on a very small squidy type thing). Anyway the card tells us about the feeding habits and the fact a Mr FT Bulen spoke of a fragment of squid which was disgorged from the belly of a whale. This fragment was a tentacle as thick as a man's body with suckers like saucers. Big then.
Card 11 is illustrated and is something called a Right Whale. Illustrated it looks a bit like a whale Disney studio's would produce and looks like it is about to burst into song.
Right Whales are now rare in the Northern Hemishere and got their name because they were the right sort of whales to catch. I kid not, things were simpler then. The illustrator has choosen not to add those spongy growths which stick from all points of the whales head. An obvious feature of most of the breed so not sure why not included, perhaps it did not look good.
That aside the card informs us this species is a primary source of whalebone, which is the sieve like structure in the mouth. A surface feeder it zips along consuming large quantities of the sea in the process. The whale closes its mouth at intervals forcing water though the whalebone (some 380 on each side of the mouth) leaving the little bits of food it exists on inside the whale.
Card 12 discussing a school of whale and shows some tenderness in the beast, mothers protecting calfs and the like. The card also mentions 'There is some strange medium of communication between the whales in a school...'
Card 13 states something you would have thought was blindingly obvious but for some reason the compiler does not think so. 'Strange as it may sound, the whaler sees more Sharks than any other seaman.' Well you don't say, you mean cutting up whales by the side of your vessel after harpooning it in a titanic struggle of man and beast is going to attract the attention of sharks. Now we all know cut your finger in the wrong water and you are going to be wearing shark gloves right up to your shoulder blades.
Clearly this is a problem the sharks start consuming the profit and pretty good at it they are too. The only real defence the seaman have against this sort of thing is to kill the sharks, something they seem to be pretty good at with those knives on poles. Mind you cutting a sharks head clear from its body might not be the best way of calming the situation.
'Trying out' must have been the most ghastly of tasks. I have been in slaughterhouses and there is a certain atmosphere in these places but it could be nothing on this. Card 14, blubber is removed in slabs called horse cuts. These are taken to the mincer (a bloke) he cuts the large slab of blubber into smaller strips called bible leaves. 'Trying out' was started at the head where there is a large cavity filled with liquid spermaceti which solidifies and can be used for candles and ointments. Next on the high prized list is an area called the junk. This is a triangular mass at the snout. The horrible thing is I think it was even more unpalatable than it sounds.
So far it all seems pretty simple, up to 40 cut-throats with no common language jump into a wooden vessel and sail about for 4-5 years and basically capture whales with their bare hands.
Of course it is not as easy as that and card 17 gives you an idea of the possibilities when it all goes wrong. 'Stoved' it shrieks, and stoved it is. A whale has splintered one of the frail rowing boats sent out to round it up. Now if the impact of the whale does not kill you and you do not drown then in a lot of the waters you are going to find yourself in you are liable to freeze to death. That or a shark takes a fancy to your feebly waving limbs.
Whatever way you look at it, having a whale land on you cannot be considered a life enhancing experience.
The remainder of the set (remember there are only 25 cards in this one unfortunately) is devoted to some of the vessels which actually did the deeds. Card 20, The Truelove. The card informs us this is the most famous whaler of the lot. Built in Philadelphia in 1764 it was captured by the British in the American War of Independence. Sailing out of Hull the vessel was 42 years old when it first sailed and after 72 voyages its last voyage was in 1868 and had captured 500 whales by this time.
Obviously the whole business was not frightening enough for that crew, they had to go too see in a 120 year old boat to add to the excitement.
Card 21 'The Diana' is shown ice-bound, something not uncommon for whalers. When this happened it was just a matter of waiting for the ice to melt the following year and hoping in the meantime the ever increasing pressures of the ice did not splinter the wooden vessel. The Diana did survive the encounter but was later wrecked off the Lincolnshire coast in 1865.
Finally card 22, The Kathleen, the card illustrates the ship moments before destiny takes a hand. A whale had been harpooned but it had all got out of hand. The whale was enraged by this and went straight at the whaler. Smashing into the Kathleen the massive timbers were shattered and the vessel filled and sank in short order.
Land was fortunately close at hand and a number of the crew managed to escape with their lives.