Children of the Light: The Rise and Fall of New Bedford Whaling and the Death of the Arctic Fleet

A somewhat elegiac tale of the decline of whaling and New Bedford, contrasted with descriptions of the life of the Inuit, before and after the coming of the whalers to the Beaufort Sea area. Main focus at the end is on the disastrous season at Pt. Barrow of the whaling fleet which abandoned over 25 ships, but managed to rescue over 1200 whalemen.

p. 89: When a library was donated to New Bedford by the Friends Society in 1813, a committee of members went over the list of books and discarded many, such as several foremost English poets and Shakespeare’s works, as unfit for young people to read. This opposition to certain aspects of culture and the arts, implemented by the influential Quaker leadership, was dominant in the New Bedford area for many years.

p. 114, discusses acquisitions in 1871 for the New Bedford library from the Sylvia Howland fund, and promotion of a book on the evils of Romanism as it is—"It shows its insidious workings which strongly tend to bring this country under full Romish control." Such attitudes could easily have influenced what reading would be available aboard Quaker whalers.

p. 164-65: In almost every way, the whaling masters repudiated the landsman’s concept (especially that of the journalist and novelist of their times) of what they were. They were scornful of what these people had to say about them and their scorn included Herman Melville, whom they knew less as a writer than as a ship-jumper. They did not understand at all what he had written in Moby Dick, or why; they had a vague notion that he was a homosexual, and they believed he had purposely drawn an unbecoming, perhaps even indecent caricature of what they were and did.

p. 181: Above the wooden belfry of the Seamen’s Bethel at Honolulu flew the flag of salvation for the lonely sailor far from home, to whom the Reverend John Diell and his wife distributed Bibles and spelling tracts, the latter because many men of the Yankee fleet were illiterate. Below the belfry, in the crooked streets of the haole district (four hotels and nine grogshops), the word was "There is no God this side of Cape Horn."