Like many people, I've had a few more hours for reading over the last couple of months, and have finally got around to polishing off Moby Dick. I now know more about the whaling industry in the 19th century than I ever imagined was possible.
I also learned a little more about the importance of the Mate sounding the pump, morning noon and night. In Chapter 54, Melville's narrator, Ishmael, describes the fate of a ship, the Town-Ho, which had sprung a leak.
"It was not more than a day or two at the furthest after pointing her prow for an island haven, that the Town-Ho's leak seemed again increasing, but only so as to require an hour or more at the pumps every day. You must know that in a settled and civilized ocean like our Atlantic, for example, some skippers think little of pumping their whole way across it; though of a still, sleepy night, should the officer on deck happen to forget his duty in that respect, the probability would be that he and his shipmates would never again remember it, on account of all hands gently subsiding to the bottom. Nor in the solitary and savage seas far from you to the westward, gentlemen, is it altogether unusual for ships to keep clanging at their pump-handles in full chorus even for a voyage of considerable length; that is, if it lie along a tolerably accessible coast, or if any other reasonable retreat is afforded them. It is only when a leaky vessel is in some very out of the way part of those waters, some really landless latitude, that her captain begins to feel a little anxious."
And because I'm from Hull here's a plaque with the Truelove 'the last of Hull's whalers'. The US ship was captured in the American War of Independence and refitted as a whaler, killing over 500 whales on over 80 voyages to the Arctic.
Stephen Smith lives in London, and is always happy to hear from other collectors. If you have an interesting collection of plaques, and are based in the UK, he will photograph them for you. Free advice given regarding selling and dispersal of a collection, or to those wishing to start one. Just get in touch...
This website is indebted to collectors, dealers and enthusiasts who have shared their knowledge or photos. In particular: Ian Holmes, Stephen Duckworth, Dick Henrywood, Norman Lowe, Keith Lovell, Donald H Ryan, Harold Crowder, Jack and Joyce Cockerill, Myrna Schkolne, Elinor Penna, Ian Sharp, Shauna Gregg at the Sunderland Museum, Keith Bell, Martyn Edgell, and Liz Denton.