The end of an era

“So little by little they got rid of the whale, and they all disappeared – and the winter reclaimed its land to own it, undisturbed.”
(Nansen, 1920)

In the beginning of the 1600s, there were reports of large numbers of whales in the waters surrounding Svalbard. Poole, who was a skipper, wrote in 1612 that there are so many whales by the sides of the ships that they practically had to wrestle their way ahead. At the end of the 1700s it was over. The populations of bowhead whales to the east and the west of Greenland were collapsing. Years of intensive hunting resulted in the near extinction of the whale. The ships that did go out to hunt them, returned almost empty. The western European whaling adventure in the Arctic had come to an end.

Updated December 2008

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Norwegian Polar Institute
Fram Centre
NO-9296 Tromsø