"A boatsteerer in any whaleship was one of the most responsible members of the ship’s company. He had to be a skilled harpooneer to fasten on to the whale, and an able boat-handler to guide the frail craft while the boatheader (officer) took up the lance to kill the whale. Incompetence could result in injury or death."1.3
As soon as her anchor was down we went aboard, and found her to be the whale-ship Wilmington and Liverpool Packet, of New Bedford, last from the "off-shore ground," with nineteen hundred barrels of oil. A "spouter" we knew her to be, as soon as we saw her, by her cranes and boats, and by her stump top-gallant-masts, and a certain slovenly look to the sails, rigging, spars, and hull; and when we got on board, we found everything to correspond,-- spouter fashion. She had a false deck, which was rough and oily, and cut up in every direction by the chines of oil casks; her rigging was slack, and turning white, paint worn off the spars and blocks, clumsy seizings, straps without covers, and "homeward-bound splices" in every direction. Her crew, too, were not in much better order. Her captain was a slab-sided Quaker, in a suit of brown, with a broad-brimmed hat, bending his long legs as he moved about decks, with his head down, like a sheep, and the men looked more like fishermen and farmers than they did like sailors. Though it was by no means cold weather (we having on only our red shirts and duck trousers), they all had on woollen trousers,-- not blue and ship-shape, but of all colors,-- brown, drab, gray, aye, and green,-- with suspenders over their shoulders, and pockets to put their hands in. This, added to Guernsey frocks, striped comforters about the neck, thick cowhide boots, woollen caps, and a strong, oily smell, and a decidedly green look, will complete the description. Eight or ten were on the fore topsail yard, and as many more in the main, furling the topsails, while eight or ten were hanging about the forecastle, doing nothing. This was a strange sight for a vessel coming to anchor; so we went up to them, to see what was the matter. One of them, a stout, hearty-looking fellow, held out his leg and said he had the scurvy; another had cut his hand; and others had got nearly well, but said that there were plenty aloft to furl the sails, so they were sogering on the forecastle. There was only one ``splicer'' on board, a fine-looking old tar, who was in the bunt of the fore topsail. He was probably the only thorough marline-spike seaman in the ship, before the mast. The mates, of course, and the boat-steerers, and also two or three of the crew, had been to sea before, but only on whaling voyages; and the greater part of the crew were raw hands, just from the bush, and had not yet got the hay-seed out of their hair. The mizzen topsail hung in the buntlines until everything was furled forward. Thus a crew of thirty men were half an hour in doing what would have been done in the Alert, with eighteen hands to go aloft, in fifteen or twenty minutes. We found they had been at sea six or eight months, and had no news to tell us, so we left them, and promised to get liberty to come on board in the evening for some curiosities. Accordingly, as soon as we were knocked off in the evening and were through supper, we obtained leave, took a boat, and went aboard and spent an hour or two. They gave us pieces of whalebone, and the teeth and other parts of curious sea animals, and we exchanged books with them,-- a practice very common among ships in foreign ports, by which you get rid of the books you have read and re-read, and a supply of new ones in their stead, and Jack is not very nice as to their comparative value.
[Dana makes further interesting comments about his description of whalemen]
I have been told that this description of a whaleman has given offence to the whale-trading people of Nantucket, New Bedford, and the Vineyard. It is not exaggerated; and the appearance of such a ship and crew might well impress a young man trained in the ways of a ship of the style of the Alert. Long observation has satisfied me that there are no better seamen, so far as handling a ship is concerned, and none so venturous and skilful navigators, as the masters and officers of our whalemen. But never, either on this voyage, or in a subsequent visit to the Pacific and its islands, was it my fortune to fall in with a whaleship whose appearance, and the appearance of whose crew, gave signs of strictness of discipline and seaman-like neatness. Probably these things are impossibilities, from the nature of the business, and I may have made too much of them.
Copy of the William L. Hudson journal is available at the American Museum of Natural History. Titian Peale's is at the NY Botanical Garden library. deed Bennett/Briggs 107:342, Byington/Bennett 103:189 194/195 Frankfort, Parker property Genesee farm, mtge 3 June 1850 to A. S. Beckwith ($1200), Roch Savings Bank 1 Nov 1847 ($1000) and 9 April 1849 ($1200), sold with assumable mortgages by John and Sophia to Bennett 7 June 1852, 103:483, $8000, witness Hope S. Davis John and Sophia to Peter B. Warner, 24 Mar 1853, 110:440, deed from Bennet to Briggs mentioned, $3025 same, 150 Buffalo St., north side, $700, to Joel B. Bennett, 16 Mar 1853 - no grantee deed found Sophia to Elizabeth Reid, 1863, 178: Sophia sued Warner and others in Supreme Court in 1863