Whale oil has been used as an ingredient in soap, explosives, and even margarine. Has it also been a vital ingredient in space exploration? Shortly after the Hubble Space Telescope was placed in orbit init beamed its first images back to Earth.
The production curves of whale oil and whale bone in the United States in 19th century from "History of the American whale fishery" by A. Starbuck, Both show a clear bell shaped Hubbert's curve.
The sperm whale, also called a cachalot, made its biggest public splash in the guise of Moby Dick. The whale is generally gray with wrinkled, prune-like skin covering a torpedo-shaped body. The blunt head of the sperm whale accounts for a third of its body length, and much of it is filled with a waxy, oily substance called spermaceti that lies above and in front of the skull.
American whaling flourished from the late s through the mids. Commercial whaling began in the Atlantic, but as whale populations declined, the chase spread to the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Byoverfishing had decimated whale populations in the Atlantic Ocean. Most whalers moved to the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Today Nantucket Island is a fashionable summer resort: a place of T-shirt shops and trendy boutiques. Part of what makes the island unique is its place on the map. For a relatively brief period during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this lonely crescent of sand at the edge of the Atlantic was the whaling capital of the world and one of the wealthiest communities in America.
Sperm whales have been a part of American culture ever since Captain Ahab set out aboard the Pequod to find the infamous white whale in "Moby Dick". Large, noisy, and often social, sperm whales are a remarkable species found from the equator to the poles. The giant whales, growing up to 50 feet long, were hunted commercially throughout their global range from the s until the s.
Whale oil is oil obtained from the blubber of whales. Whale oil was sometimes known as train oilwhich comes from the Dutch word traan "tear" or "drop". Sperm oila special kind of oil obtained from the head cavities of sperm whalesdiffers chemically from ordinary whale oil: it is composed mostly of liquid wax.
The 19th-century whaling industry was one of the most prominent businesses in America. Hundreds of ships setting out from ports, mostly in New England, roamed the globe, bringing back whale oil and other products made from whales. While American ships created a highly organized industry, the hunting of whales had ancient roots.
Energy experts predict that the global production of oil will soon start to decline, what's referred to as peak oil. Now while we may not be there yet, there was a time in our history when we did reach a similar plateau, but it was a very different kind of energy source — one that could only be extracted from the heads of sperm whales. It was the intense demand for this sperm whale oil, what's called spermaceti, during the 18th and 19th centuries that nearly drove the whales into extinction.