Shore whaling was one of three different types of whaling practiced during the period being researched (circa 1827 to 1850). In order to adequately define and understand shore whaling it is important to know how it differed from the other two types of whaling.
This type of whaling was undertaken from a fixed facility on land known as a “Station” or “Fishery”. The men (the shore whalers) lived on shore and left the bays and beaches during the whaling season in “whaling gangs” to row out to the sea adjacent to the coast in order to hunt migrating Southern Right Whales or Tohorā. Following their capture the dead whales were towed by whaleboats back to the station. The carcasses were then hauled up on sheers (also known as sheer legs) and processed using shore based facilities.
Pelagic or Oceanic Whaling
This is where the entire whaling process was carried out from a large ocean-going sailing ship. All facilities were carried on board and voyages of two to three years were the norm. These ships usually engaged in deep-sea whaling and only called into ports (Kororareka or Russell in the Bay of Islands and Mangonui, Northland are examples) to take on fresh water, firewood, and provisions and to recruit crew members. They frequented known “whaling grounds”. The whalers that crewed these ships and were known as “whalemen”.
British, American, Colonial (Australian), French, Canadian, Portuguese. Danish, and German pelagic whalers (whaling vessels) visited New Zealand waters. The main players during the period under consideration were the first four nationalities.
During the shore whaling era in New Zealand many pelagic whalers engaged in “bay whaling” for part of their voyage. This combined aspects of both shore and pelagic whaling.
Ocean going sailing vessels would be operated close to shore and based in a bay or harbour. Like the shore whalers they concentrated almost exclusively on the southern right whales that congregated during the winter months. This type of whaling was common until shore stations were established. Often these ships whaled in conjunction with or in competition with local shore stations. After the season had finished the ships would depart for the sperm whaling grounds or if the ship’s holds were fill to their “home ports”.