1853, a U.S. navy fleet, commanded by Matthew C. Perry, arrived
in Uraga, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo. This incident eventually
led to a conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Amity between the
United States and the Empire of Japan --commonly known as the Kanagawa
Treaty--in 1854. The U.S. motive for concluding such a treaty was
apparently their need to secure fuel and food for American whaling
ships then harvesting whales in the coastal waters of Japan.
than 300 whaling
U.S. whaling ships, based in New Bedford in the 19th century, numbered
over 300 in the peak period of whaling. While whaling in the sea
near Japan, those vessels rescued Japanese adrift on the sea. One
of such incidents is observed in the dramatic story of John Manjiro
who was rescued by an American whaling ship, lived in the United
States for several years and later became the official of the Tokugawa
Shogunate and the Meiji Government. The whaling fleet which left
the home port caught the whales, discarded the meat and produced
whale oil by boiling only whale fat in a large pot onboard. The
oil was brought back to New Bedford. The whaling ships had been
unable to return to the home until their holds were filled with
whale oil barrels. The whalers must have led a very harsh life
on the sea--at times away from home for more than two years. In
their pastime, the sailors competed in making craftworks using
whale teeth and bones.
New Bedford Whaling Museum
oil obtained at the risk of whalers' blood and sweat brought a
huge wealth to New Bedford through sale
of lamp oil. In the true sense of the word, New Bedford was called "the
City that lit the World."
A blue whale skeleton at the lobby of the Museum
in the city of New Bedford now, we can find some tall buildings with
high ceilings --they used to be banks in the whaling days.
whaling took a turn for continuous decline due to various reasons,
among them, outflow of labor because of discovery of gold mines in
California (1848) and decrease of demand for whale oil in the wake
of discovery of oil fields in Pennsylvania (1859).
If you want
to see the rise and fall of the Yankee Whaling Industry, you should
visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Town of New Bedford
Once you step
into the museum, you are greeted by a huge skeleton specimen of a
blue whale displayed
in the lobby. You will also see a reproduction
of residential space on the ship where whalers led daily living.
A half-scale model of the actual whaling ship is also exhibited.
through the museum, you will certainly feel yourself slipped into
the United States in the 1840s.