Pirate attacks on whaling ships?

May 2019
236
Earth
So, was re-reading some stuff on the CSS Shenandoah and its raids on American whalers around the Arctic, and it got me wondering: were pirate attacks on whaling ships ever much of a concern in any part of the world? Anyone know of examples?
There was a time when whale oil could almost be called liquid gold, I could imagine that a whaling vessel loaded up after a successful hunting voyage would make an enticing target for piracy, particularly because whalers were often so loaded with supplies/cargo that they did not have room for much in the way of defensive arms...

And no, I'm not counting examples of Sea Shepherd boats pestering whalers as "pirates" :p
 
Sep 2019
51
Toronto
Here is one pirate that attacks whaling ships in the modern world. He says that he is actually trying to "prevent poaching and illegal fishing", but one judge deemed him a pirate because of his tactics.

“Thousands of whales are now swimming and reproducing, that would now be dead if not for our intervene.”

 
May 2019
236
Earth
Here is one pirate that attacks whaling ships in the modern world. He says that he is actually trying to "prevent poaching and illegal fishing", but one judge deemed him a pirate because of his tactics.

“Thousands of whales are now swimming and reproducing, that would now be dead if not for our intervene.”


As I already said:

And no, I'm not counting examples of Sea Shepherd boats pestering whalers as "pirates" :p
I'm looking for examples of armed attacks on whaling ships for the purposes of robbing them, not environmental protests.
 
Jan 2009
1,275
The heyday of piracy was before the heyday of whaling.

However, if we include privateering and commerce raiding (by naval ships), then very much yes.
 
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May 2019
236
Earth
The heyday of piracy was before the heyday of whaling.
That depends what part of the world you're talking about. Not all piracy was in the 17th century Caribbean...

However, if we include privateering and commerce raiding (by naval ships), then very much yes.
Privateering I would include, but commerce raiding is (as you said) normally conducted by commissioned naval vessels, so not what I'm asking about here. Do you know of any examples of the former attacking whaling ships?
 
May 2019
236
Earth
Found an example of Edward "Ned" Low attacking a whaler:

"Low, still captaining the Fancy, sailed north. He captured a whaling vessel 80 miles (130 km) out at sea, and in a foul mood following the encounter with the Greyhound and the loss of Harris, tortured the captain before shooting him through the head. He set the whaler's crew adrift with no provisions, intending them to starve to death. They were lucky, and reached Nantucket, Massachusetts, after a difficult journey."
source: Edward Low - Wikipedia

Pages 33-34 of the book 'Whale Ships and Whaling: A Pictorial History' by George Francis Dow have a description of Low's attack.
 
Mar 2018
888
UK
"Low, still captaining the Fancy, sailed north. He captured a whaling vessel 80 miles (130 km) out at sea, and in a foul mood following the encounter with the Greyhound and the loss of Harris, tortured the captain before shooting him through the head. He set the whaler's crew adrift with no provisions, intending them to starve to death. "
And I thought I had bad moods
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,723
Dispargum
Privateering I can understand - if the objective is to harm the enemy economy. If the goal is theft and enrichment of the pirate crew, whale oil is bulky and difficult to carry off to market for resale. Whale oil as whale oil has limited value to a pirate. A pirate's interest is in the ability to turn loot into cash - difficult to do with whale oil because of the bulk and distance to market.
 
May 2019
236
Earth
If the goal is theft and enrichment of the pirate crew, whale oil is bulky and difficult to carry off to market for resale. Whale oil as whale oil has limited value to a pirate. A pirate's interest is in the ability to turn loot into cash - difficult to do with whale oil because of the bulk and distance to market.
I'm not really buying that. Plenty of examples of pirates taking bulky or heavy cargoes aboard their vessels (Francis Drake loading up with silver from the Cacafuego and then sailing around the world with it being one example). And as for distance to market, a pirate capturing a whaler off Greenland would have a much shorter distance to Europe or the North American colonies than those English and Dutch guys raiding Manila Galleons in the 16th-17th centuries. Ditto to someone capturing a whaler in the Okhotsk Sea and sailing down to Japan with their cargo. And as for turning loot into cash... people in the first half of the 19th century were paying through the nose for the stuff...

EDIT: Page 43 of the book 'Pirates: A History' by Timothy Travers mentions Ned Low's attack, and also mentions two other whalers near Rhode Island who were captured by pirates around the same period. I'm not going to go into detail about what was done to their captains. I'll have to do some more reading into the New England whaling industry during this period to see how common/uncommon this kind of danger was...
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,723
Dispargum
Silver, for all intents and purposes, is already cash. It has value anywhere and does not need to be converted. I'm OK with seizing whale oil close to a market, but there were relatively few markets where pirates could sell their loot. Pirates needed a market where buyers wouldn't ask too many questions. Depending on time, place, and other circumstances, pirates could not always access the closest market.
 
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