Sunday, November 4, 2012

The HMS Bounty, Tall Ships and whaling remembered!

Well what a terrible week for so many in the coastal area of the United States.  I of course, am a tall ship junkie and so the sinking of the HMS Bounty replica captured my attention.  The comments on the story story were in part humorous, as every one put their two cents in as to how the Captain (who went down with the ship) screwed up. Most failing to understand how fickle “Mother Nature” is.

The Bounty was a throwback to the past, a past that littered the ocean floor with wooden ship laden with people, goods, and those that went in search of the whale.

Many of these ships were lost working the Greenland waters, some of the most dangerous waters that were fraught with storms and ice that could crush a wooden ship to splinters.  There are stories of men living on the ice under pieces of the ships that they once sailed on…trying to stay alive.

The quest of these men was the Humpback Whale, baleen-eating whales that inhabited these waters and who were hunted almost to extinction until a ban was put in place in the 1960 – 70’s.  As a matter of fact one of my favorite songs from Gordon Lightfoot was the song “Ode to Big Blue”, a Humpback.  His small group of three musicians was able to capture the sound of the whale jumping and landing and the ocean around it while telling its sad tale in words. Here's a great video with the song..

In the early years they were in search of the whale for a commodity that we are still in search of today…oil.  Whale oil lamps graced many homes and lit the dark night in history. 

Sailors on these ship carved gifts out of the whales bones and teeth and today anyone owning a piece or a tooth has a prize possession.  Less remembered however, are the songs sung by these sailors… so Gavin Greig, a well-known song collector of the early 1900s, started collecting whaling songs.  Many of the songs were written down with lines removed because of their crude language yet others remained intact and from these can the favorite…”Farewell to Tarwathie”!

A common miller in Scotland who went to sea in the 1850’s in search of money...and possibly excitement… wrote this song!  The song was picked up in modern times by many folk artists including Judy Collins who did something special to it, Judy sang the song ocapela with the sounds of the humpback whales behind her….an awesome cut.

Today we go on whale hunts, record the whale’s songs and many of us still wonder at life on the sea in those early seems that today we are still in search of the things that drove these men to the sea…excitement, the search for wealth and …..oil!! 

Here's Judy Collins....listen to the enchanting sounds...

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