- So Ends This Day: The Portuguese in American Whaling 1765-1927 by Donald Warrin
Yes, it is possible tell a book by its cover, and yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. With regard to So Ends This Day, even before opening to the pages, readers are invited aboard the bark "Sunbeam," bowsprit proudly following the bearing indicated by the compass needle, as she steadily plies the waters on her homeward bound voyage. Reflected in this photograph is the bittersweet moment of reflection and peace as the men return safely from a long, dangerous, whaling journey. Comfortable with their ship, they blend into her bow, bodies inclined towards land. The master of the ship or the keeper of the log will record the events of that day, signing off with "so ends the day."
The title of Donald Warrin's latest work could not be more fitting, for through masterful research he presents an exquisitely detailed account of the [End Page 260] 162 year history of the Portuguese presence in the American whaling industry (1765-1927). After the author ends his preface, he deliberately gives the 21st century reader an important visual orientation in spaces and places with detailed maps of whaling and sealing regions of the world. Then, as he begins introducing the reader to events, ships, and people, he presents in the first chapter maps of the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, Yankee whaling ports. This material is invaluable as a constant point of reference as the history unfolds.
So Ends This Day is chronologically structured into seven basic chapters which present the rise and fall of the whaling industry as well as the increasing importance of Azorean, Cape Verdean and Luso-American players both at sea and on land: the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, New England whaling ports, San Francisco, the Arctic, Antarctica, Australia, Hawaii. They were crewmen, boat steerers, whaling masters, agents, outfitters, shopkeepers, ship owners. Although egalitarian ethics are not the norm of life at sea, the pioneers of American whaling, according to the author, were grounded in their Quaker roots and ethics as practiced on Nantucket and Long Island. Thus, over time, with training and education, Azoreans and Cape Verdeans became the movers and shakers in their communities, and their heritage lives on today in their descendents.
Throughout Donald Warrin's history of whaling, be it focused on social, economic or political aspects, he brings together local, national and international events in such a way as to present a global analysis of the times. In introducing, for example, factors contributing to the decline of the industry he refers to the fire along the New Bedford waterfront, commercial drilling for oil, the Civil War and the damages to the fleet wielded by Confederate and British privateers. Additionally, throughout his work, the author keeps the reader abreast of the favored sailing vessels as well as changes in the technology of the dangerous hunt.
People, places, and events . . . everything springs to life through the many eyewitness accounts recorded in a variety of documents, the result of meticulous research. The reader sees that within the industry there was racial bigotry, unsavory labor practices (the slave trade, indentured labor, being shanghaied, justice on board). The chapters are full of adventuresome accounts of life on the ice, cultural conflicts, Confederate privateers, and international incidents in protected waters, U-boats. Beginning with the steady supply of Azoreans and Cape Verdeans to fill out the crews of the Yankee whalers and tracing this history through a century and a half, the author introduces the reader to individuals, and it seems that Donald Warrin really knows these people.
Testimony to the important role of individuals in So Ends This Day is the special "Personal Name Index " and the "Portuguese and Portuguese American Whaling Masters in American Whaling" Appendix included in what might be referred to as the special collection of sub-texts. Of interest is the ease of accessibility to the Yankee women who married into the industry...