Not sure about this

In Moby Dick, Herman Melville included a drinks list for a whaling voyage that included “550 ankers of Geneva (gin) and 10,800 barrels of beer”.

Taking a barrel to be 9 gallons that\’s nearly 400 tonnes of beer.

The Essex (the ship that Melville used as his real life starting point for Moby Dick) weighed 238 tonnes.

Yes, I know, tonnage of a ship is not the same as tonnage of a cargo but 400 tonnes of beer on a 238 tonne ship? No, don\’t think so.

6 comments on “Not sure about this

  1. It probably referred to what used to be known as “Thames Tonnage” – which actually had no direct relation to the gross weight of the ship. It was based upon a calculation of the weight of corn sacks that could be fitted into the hull leaving room for space for accomodation, stores etc.

    As a ton of sacked corn takes up much more volume than a ton of beer, it’s not totally impossible. 🙂

  2. A whaling voyage could last up to five years, so obviously they stopped off now and then along the way.

  3. It’s for a whaling fleet, not a single ship:

    “I found a long detailed list of the
    outfits for the larders and cellars of 180 sail of Dutch whalemen; from
    which list, as translated by Dr. Snodhead, I transcribe the following:

    400,000 lbs. of beef. 60,000 lbs. Friesland pork. 150,000 lbs. of stock
    fish. 550,000 lbs. of biscuit. 72,000 lbs. of soft bread. 2,800 firkins
    of butter. 20,000 lbs. Texel & Leyden cheese. 144,000 lbs. cheese
    (probably an inferior article). 550 ankers of Geneva. 10,800 barrels of
    beer.”

  4. Tim,

    A propos of hee-haw, family legend has it that one of my great-great-grandfathers, a blacksmith to trade, is believed to have sailed on a sail-powered whaling ship as a harpoon maker. For more accurate info on the chandlering of such vessels, there might just be a book on Amazon about it all – a very old volume called ‘Peter the Whaler’.

    As Jan Moir’s critics might say – she blows!

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