They say that size isn't everything. But when it comes to displaying photographs, it counts for a great deal. This superb large format book allows the reader to enjoy many of the photographs of Arctic whaling and whalers held in the collection of Dundee Art Galleries and Museums. The size at which many of the images are displayed means they have real impact, really bringing to life the men who, not so very long ago, faced dangers and lived lives that are barely comprehensible to the modern reader. And the book does not overlook the lives of the whalers' families and the Inuit with whom they, almost uniquely in a colonial era, often forged close and constructive relationships that were beneficial to both sides. The size of the images also allows the reader to appreciate the detail of the ships, and of the sometimes grisly work of chasing, killing and processing whales; and seals when over-exploitation of whales made them much more difficult to find.
Dundee has a unique place in the story of British whaling. The first ship to leave the Tay to hunt for whales in the Arctic did so in the early 1750s, and Dundee ships continued to sail north each spring for over 160 years, until 1914. The industry played a huge role in the development of the city throughout this period, with as many as seventeen ships hunting the waters either side of Greenland each summer. And because whale oil was needed in the city's jute processing industry when other uses had declined, Dundee's whaling fleet continued to operate long after the industry had ceased in other UK ports: bringing its activities much further into the photographic era.
The beautifully evocative images in this book are accompanied by excellent introductions to each chapter, and highly informative extended captions. The book is divided into five sections intended to flow like a voyage seen through the photographer's lens. A section looking at the men who sailed on the whaling ships, and their families, is followed by another showing some of over 110 whaling ships that sailed from Dundee over the years. We then look at the actual practice of whaling and the work the men did; at relations between the whalers and the Inuit; and at the end of the whaling era.