Story: Whales

South-sea whaling

South-sea whaling

This wood engraving from the Illustrated London News in 1847 depicts a sperm whale dying after being harpooned. Sperm whales were the main prey for open-ocean whalers in the 19th century. The whalers who visited New Zealand were often American.

The American writer Herman Melville learned about whales while working as a whaler in the South Pacific, and there are some wonderfully observed descriptions of sperm whales in his classic novel, Moby Dick (1851).

Download the document to read about the strange character of the sperm whale’s eyes and ears (61 KB).

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PUBL-0033-1847-328
Wood engraving after a drawing by Edward Duncan

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Gerard Hutching, 'Whales - Sperm whale', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 June 2024)

Story by Gerard Hutching, published 12 Jun 2006