Must be the Weather (III)

In recent years I have been fortunate to see and photograph some of the old Arctic whaler log books held in Hull History Centre and Hull Maritime Museum. I have then used my photos to transcribe the entries.  I’ve been fascinated as the individual voyages unfold, reading of the frustrations of the captain not catching whales when other ships had, the tragedies of losses of sailors and ships, the arctic whaler traditions and initiation ceremonies.  But as the word cloud illustrates, there is one overriding interest – the weather.  And that isn’t really surprising.  Even with our technology arctic weather can be unpredictable, and it can be very dangerous.  An 18th Century whaling captain had to rely on his experience and a thermometer.

Truelove 1860 log book word cloud

Truelove 1860 log book word cloud

Being able to predict the weather in the short term was important, for example to ensure that the sails were configured in the fastest/safest way.  But also combined with the location of the ship these observations of weather and the status and position of the ice lead to a body of knowledge and experience that could make a Captain a better whaler (whales often fed along the edge of the arctic ice cap).  The observations in these log books fascinate me, you get a real feel for the day to day operations and concerns of the whalers.   

The information in whaler log books both in the UK and US are being used to stretch arctic weather and ice records back further than modern records allow.  In this was scientists have a larger data set and time period to observe the patterns of arctic weather.  An example of this work can be found at the Old Weather Project https://whaling.oldweather.org/#/about . 

Whaler Truelove nr Davis Straits

Whaler Truelove nr Davis Straits

The word clouds generated by my log book transcriptions are interesting, but one of my long term aims is to use these resources in some way to draw the historical weather and ice observations and the huge amount of contemporary meteorological and climate data together in some way. Given that I am predominantly a textile artist this will be an interesting challenge…