Thursday, July 09, 2015


Few people realize that residents of the Outer Banks occasionally engaged in whaling as a commercial enterprise. Unlike New Englanders who pursued whales in the open ocean in square-rigged sailing ships outfitted for the task, North Carolinians typically relied on "drift whales" or Right Whales which ventured closer to shore.

Whale at Ocracoke

In 1737 John Brickell, in The Natural History of North-Carolina, described an incident involving whaling and the Outer Banks: “These Monsters [whales] are very numerous on the Coasts of North-Carolina, and the Bone and Oil would be a great Advantage to the Inhabitants that live on the Sand-Banks along the Ocean, if they were as dexterous and industrious in Fishing for them as they are Northwards; but as I observed before the People in these parts are not very much given to Industry, but wait upon Providence to throw those dead Monsters on Shoar, which frequently happens to their great advantage and Profit. For which reason abundance of Inhabitants dwell upon the Banks near the Sea for that Intent, and the benefit of Wrecks of Vessels which are sometimes driven in upon these Coasts. Not many Years ago there were two Boats that came from the Northward to Ocacock Island, to fish, and carried away that Season Three Hundred and Forty Barrels of Oil, beside the Bone, but these Fishermen going away without paying the Tenths to the Governor, they never appeared to fish on these Coasts afterwards, or any other that I ever could hear of.”

Look for more information, stories, and pictures of the North Carolina whaling and porpoise fishing industries in a future Ocracoke Newsletter (it will be called "Whaling & 'Porpoise' Fishing on the Outer Banks").

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter relates the story of the prohibition-era rum runner Messenger of Peace that brought much pleasure to the residents of Portsmouth. You can read it here:

1 comment:

  1. Debbie Leonard9:30 AM

    Haha...not given to industry? He should see the people who live here now! :)