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Whaler's Tale: Any History?

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A WHALER'S TALE


Related thread:
Lyr Req: A Whaler's Tale (Ken Graydon) (5)


Naemanson 25 Mar 02 - 06:33 PM
Charley Noble 25 Mar 02 - 07:59 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 25 Mar 02 - 08:35 PM
Charley Noble 26 Mar 02 - 08:17 AM
Robby 26 Mar 02 - 09:20 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 27 Mar 02 - 12:14 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 27 Mar 02 - 12:37 AM
Charley Noble 27 Mar 02 - 09:07 AM
Naemanson 31 Mar 02 - 06:57 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 31 Mar 02 - 07:40 PM
Naemanson 01 Apr 02 - 01:38 PM
GUEST,Vectis 01 Apr 02 - 06:40 PM
raredance 01 Apr 02 - 07:58 PM
AR282 01 Apr 02 - 08:00 PM
MMario 16 Apr 03 - 01:48 PM
Amos 16 Apr 03 - 02:20 PM
Amos 20 Nov 08 - 10:12 PM
GUEST,Glimmer 30 Mar 12 - 02:32 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: A WHALER'S TALE (Ken Graydon)
From: Naemanson
Date: 25 Mar 02 - 06:33 PM

I have been singing The Whaler's Tale for years. I know it was written by Ken Graydon and I think I remember Tom Lewis introduce the song saying it was based on an actual occurrence. Can anyone tell me anything about this occurrence? Do we have any additional information?

Just for clarity here are the words of the song.

A WHALER'S TALE
Words & Music by Ken Graydon
(Recorded by Tom Lewis.)

I signed aboard this whaling ship, I made my mark it's true,
And I'll serve out the span of time I swore that I would do.
But I'll not man your boats again, though you cast me in the sea,
For I tell you sir, them fish can think as well as you or me!

Just yesterday the lookout's call had bent us to our work,
I took me place like all the rest, I'd not be one to shirk;
Now thirteen men's been drownded, and no more of them we'll see,
I'd take an oath, them fish can think as well as you and or me!

We pulled our boats abreast the pod, the steersman took his stand;
He had no time to make his throw, when the oar flew from my hand,
Just then a great fluke smashed our boat, that whale I didn't see,
But I believe them fish can think as well as you or me!

For then them whales destroyed our boats, they rammed them one by one;
They stove them all with head and fluke and after they was done,
We few poor souls left half-alive, was clinging to debris,
I'd stake my life them fish can think as well as you or me!

The way them whale fish went for us, it seemed as though 'twas planned,
For each one had his target boat, they played us man for man;
Just knowing' now they think so clear, my heart says let them be,
I swear to God them fish can think as well as you or me!

Now John is blind, Jim's lost an eye and Caleb's lost below;
My leg will heal but other men no more aloft can go,
So I'll not man your boats again though you drown me in the sea,
For I tell you sir, them fish can think as well as you or me!


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Mar 02 - 07:59 PM

Good query! Inquiring minds want to know more.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Mar 02 - 08:35 PM

The "Whaler's Tale" is included among the sea songs and shanties at this website: Shanty


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 08:17 AM

True, Dicho, but no juicy background details.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Robby
Date: 26 Mar 02 - 09:20 AM

According to Tommy Makem, on one of his PBS specials said that it is based on the experience of a man named Scoggins, I believe. Supposedly, he wrote an article about his whaling experience. The article was later read by Ken Graydon, who wrote the song we now know as The Whaler's Tale. Makem also noted that there is a place in Baja California named after Scoggins.

Hope this helps. Robby


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 12:14 AM

Charlie, here are the "juicy" details. The story is fiction but historically based. Here is the email from Phee.
"'Whaler's Tale' is indeed historically based. The era was the California Gold Rush, 1849-1851. Charles Melville Scammon was a whaling captain, apparently based in San Francisco. He reasoned that since he saw whales journeying south in the fall and north in the spring there must be a place where they wintered and calved and, if it were possible to locate this area, he might fill his whale oil barrels much more quickly and return to port and profit sooner.
"Off the coast of Baja California, his lookout spotted whale spouts in what appeared to be sand dunes in the desert. Following logic, Scammon reasoned that there was a body of water open to the sea but hidden by shore dunes. He was correct and this area is now known as Scammon's Lagoon.
It required two days of searching and sounding in the whale boats to locate a channel deep enough to bring in the ship. Once in, they struck two whales and it seemed all was fine. When they again went after a whale, they found themselves under attack, ending up with half the crew injured and most of the boats stove. Scammon worked out a bomb-lance method of whaling and once the boats were repaired, he did, indeed, return fully laden in an amazingly short time.
"This is chronicled in Erle Stanley Gardner's non-fiction book, "Hunting the Desert Whale," which is his recounting of his 1960 overland 'safari' into Baja California. (The same Erle Stanley Gardner who created Perry Mason). The story is also included in a second book which I have read. Unfortunately, I don't recall the title or author of the second book.
"Scammon's book (1875), 'The American Whale Fishery' is a notable work. I believe he also wrote a book with a title similar to 'Marine Mammals of the Pacific' which was considered a definitive text.
"There, you have Ken's treatise. His song is fiction but tells what possibly could have happened when Scammon entered the lagoon."
Many thanks to Phee for passing on Ken's basis for his song.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 12:37 AM

I cant believe that I didn't say that Phee Sherline is Ken Graydon's wife of over 20 years. There website is : Graydon
There you will find a biography, lists of cds and tapes, etc. His "Whaler's Tale" is on the tape "Elissa, Spread Your Wings." Son of a cowboy and horse trainer, Hen Graydon sings mostly of the West.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Mar 02 - 09:07 AM

Dicho - thanks so much for the rest of the story.

Cheerily
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Naemanson
Date: 31 Mar 02 - 06:57 PM

Here is the story I got from Ken and Phee Graydon. This is from the author's mouth so the source is good.

"Whaler's Tale is indeed historically based. The era was the California Gold Rush, 1849-51. Charles Melville Scamon was a whaling captain apparently based in San Francisco. He reasoned that, since he saw whales journeying south in the fall and north in the spring, there must be a place where they wintered and calved and, if it were possible to locate this area, he might fill his whale oil barrels much more quickly and return to port and profit sooner.

Off the coast of Baja, CA, his lookout spotted whale spouts in what appeared to be sand dunes and, following logic, Scammon reasoned that there was a body of water open to the sea but hidden by shore dunes. He was correct and this is now known as Scammon's Lagoon.

It required two days of searching and sounding in the whale boats to locate a channel deep enough to bring in the ship. Once in, they struck two whales and it seemed all was fine. When they again went after a whale, they found themsselves under attack, ending up with half the crew injured and most of the boats stove. Scammon worked out a bomb-lance method of whaling and once the boats were repaired he did, indeed, return fully laden in an amazingly short time.

This is chronicled in Erle Stanley Gardner's (yes, the Perry Mason author) non-fiction book, "Hunting the Desert Whale" which is his recounting of his 1960 overland safari into Baja. This information is also included in a second book which I have read but don't recall the title or author.

Scammon's book (1875) "The American Whale Fishery" is a notable work. I believe he also wrote a book with a title similar to "Marine Mammals of the Pacific" which was considered a definitive text."

-----------

Ken's song recounts what might have happened during Scammon's whaling adventure. To say the story is true is not correct. It is an assumption of what might have happened when the whales attacked the boats. That is a recorded fact.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 31 Mar 02 - 07:40 PM

Naemason- ??same story I got from Phee Graydon. She does the computer work for Ken Graydon. Why the repeat?


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Naemanson
Date: 01 Apr 02 - 01:38 PM

My mistake. I didn't read through the thread after I got the info from Phee myself.

Sorry,

Brett


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: GUEST,Vectis
Date: 01 Apr 02 - 06:40 PM

I believe that George Scoggins wrote Farewell to Tarwathie.
A lot of scots went whaling in the winter when outdoor work dried up.
The attack on boats by whales were not common but did happen from time to time. One boat was attacked by a large whale off the Greenland coast somewhere and sunk the boat. This story was the basis of the book Moby Dick by all accounts.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: raredance
Date: 01 Apr 02 - 07:58 PM

To correct the historical reference a bit. The Nantucket whaleship Essex was stove in by a sperm whale in NOvember 1820 in the central Pacific Ocean. A few of the crew survived a horrible ordeal that included canabalism and were rescued some months later. ONe of the survivors wrote a first hand account that provided information to Melville. An excellent recent book retelling the story is: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. Also go here for Discovery account with some maps and pictures.

http://www.discovery.com/stories/history/whaleattack/whaleattack.html

rich r


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: AR282
Date: 01 Apr 02 - 08:00 PM

Moby Dick was based on the account of the sinking of the Essex which occurred in the South Pacific.


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: MMario
Date: 16 Apr 03 - 01:48 PM

Anyone ever ask Ken or Phee if the tune could be posted?


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Amos
Date: 16 Apr 03 - 02:20 PM

At least one of the books documenting the intelligent and repeated attack on the Essex by a single whale also mentions hisotrical instances of apparently intentional attacks by whales against whale-boats. While the Essex was the first case recorded of a whale attacking a ship, as far as I know, there had been many cases of whales going after boats; and one of these was the source of the name "Moby Dick", which was combined by Melville with the Essex story.

A


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: Amos
Date: 20 Nov 08 - 10:12 PM

1820: The whaling ship Essex is rammed and sunk by a sperm whale 2,000 miles off the west coast of South America. The ordeal of the crew inspires Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick.
The Essex was an aging vessel from Nantucket, which at the time possessed the largest whaling fleet in the world. The three-masted ship was 87 feet long and weighed 238 tons. She was captained by George Pollard Jr., at 28 already an experienced whaler.
By November 1820 the Essex had been at sea for over a year (three years out was not uncommon), surviving an early knockdown in an Atlantic squall and a rough passage around Cape Horn. Once the ship reached the fertile Pacific whaling grounds, however, things began looking up.
If the risks of whaling were many, the rewards could be great. Whale oil was prized as a lighting fuel. A successful voyage could make a captain wealthy, and meant a good payday for the crew as well. The Essex had taken its share of whales and on Nov. 20 appeared ready to take a few more when a pod was sighted off the starboard beam.
The ship's three remaining whaleboats — one had been destroyed by a whale's flukes during an earlier hunt — were dispatched for the kill. As the harpooning began, First Mate Owen Chase, commanding one of the whaleboats, looked back and saw a large sperm whale, which he estimated at 85 feet, approaching the Essex.
As he watched helplessly, the whale propelled itself into the ship with great force. Some crewmen on board were knocked off their feet by the collision, and Chase watched in disbelief as the whale drew back and rammed the ship again. This time the Essex was holed below the waterline, and doomed.
The crew organized what provisions they could and two days later abandoned ship aboard the three whaleboats. Twenty men left the Essex. Eight would ultimately survive the harrowing ordeal that played out over the next three months.
Fearing the "cannibalistic savages" of the South Seas islands (the irony of that reasoning will become apparent momentarily), Pollard decided to head for the more distant coastlines of Chile or Peru, first heading south to catch the expected favorable winds.
The winds, it turned out, weren't favorable at all, but Pollard was determined to reach South America. Eventually the three boats became separated from one another. One vanished and was never heard from again. The other two, one commanded by Pollard and the other by Chase, thrashed against the elements, and as the provisions dwindled and ran out, men began to die.
The first to go were given proper burials at sea, but as food ran out and the survivors on both boats became delirious from hunger, they turned to cannibalism. In Pollard's boat, straws were drawn to see who of the remaining four would be sacrificed so that the other three might survive. Pollard's young cousin, Owen Coffin, drew short straw. He was shot and eaten.
Only two men on that boat, Pollard and Charles Ramsdell, were alive when they were rescued by the whaling ship Dauphin after 95 days in an open boat. Chase and the survivors of his boat were picked up after 90 days. Three other men, who had chosen to remain on a small island shortly after the ordeal began, were also rescued.
What is known of the details of the ship's ill-fated voyage rests largely on Chase's memoir. He could offer no reason why the whale should attack the ship. But another young Nantucket whaleman, Herman Melville, drew his own conclusions. Moby Dick was a very, very smart whale.
Source: BBC


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Subject: RE: Whaler's Tale: Any History?
From: GUEST,Glimmer
Date: 30 Mar 12 - 02:32 AM

Thank you, so much, Naemanson, that is the song I have been looking for. Wonderful song, and I wish all whale hunting would end.


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