Many of our members ask why whaling is still permitted and why they do it?
Here I share some information with you, so you have an idea why!!
Sperm whaling is the hunting of these marine mammals for the oil, meat and bone that can be extracted from their bodies. Sperm whales, a large and deep-diving species, produce a waxy substance that was especially useful during the Industrial Revolution, and so they were targeted in 19th-century whaling, as exemplified in Moby Dick. Sperm oil is no longer needed, but another unusual product, ambergris, is still valued as a perfume fixative. Although the animal is classified as a vulnerable species, aboriginal whaling in limited numbers is still permitted, notably from two villages in Indonesia, for subsistence.
Sperm whales were hunted in the 19th century by American, British and other national whaling fleets. As with all the species targeted, the thick layer of fat (blubber) was flensed (removed from the carcass) and rendered, either on the whaling ship itself, or at a shore station. This was the whale oil, stored in casks for the long journey home. It was sold as a lamp fuel, not a food product; the whale meat was discarded. The other species that were within reach during the Age of Sail were filter-feeders, and their baleen had many commercial uses. The sperm whale, being a toothed hunter, lacked this so-called whalebone, but it did produce a valuable commodity: sperm oil.
Each whale’s head held up to a ton, in a cavity called the “case”. It was part of a waxy liquid called spermaceti, from which the whale got its common name. The liquid was removed from the spermaceti organ at sea, and stored separately from the rendered whale oil for processing back in port. On return home, this headmaster, which was worth around 20% more than the oil from the blubber, was divided into two valuable commodities. One was a very pure type of sperm whale oil that required little or no additional processing. It was found particularly suitable as a lubricant for fine machinery, such as pocket watches. What remained after the oil was extracted was a waxy substance that could be made into spermaceti candles. These burned longer and brighter than tallow candles and left no smell and, as a result, sold at a higher price. Although spermaceti by-products were high-value, they made up only a small proportion, perhaps 10%, of the substances extracted from sperm whales.
This product had a variety of commercial applications. In addition to the manufacture of candles, spermaceti was used in soap, cosmetics, machine oil, other specialized lubricants, lamp oil, paint, putty, pencils, crayons, leather waterproofing, rust-proofing materials and many pharmaceutical compounds.
Two other products of the sperm whale are of economic importance. Ambergris, a solid, waxy, flammable substance produced in their digestive system, was also sought as a fixative in perfumery. The whales’ teeth were carved by sailors into scrimshaw art.