Monday, January 11, 2010

San Pedro and Palos Verdes Shore Whaling History, Part 1

For several years I have been researching the history of the whaling industry at and near Los Angeles Harbor and Portuguese Bend, Palos Verdes Peninsula. Here is a preview:

Two sites near San Pedro were active in shore whaling in the years after 1860: (the former) Deadman’s Island and the Portuguese Bend area. California shore whaling, long obsolete, was a method of whaling whereby small boats rowed out by men armed with throwing harpoons, Greener harpoon guns, and “bomb lance” guns intercepted migrating whales. The boats were between twenty-six and thirty feet long, had one sail, and operated within a radius of about ten miles from shore.*

Shore whaling occurred off the coast of California from 1854 to about 1900.

In a 1925 interview, Captain John Anderson of Wilmington, described as an “old-timer in the Pacific whaling business,” recalled the old days of local shore whaling in the 1870s when as many as forty whales at one time spouted off White Point, and when three or four whales at one time were cut up for oil at the Deadman’s Island or Portuguese Bend whaling stations.

As he recounted: “Whaling ain’t what it used to be. We used to take the blubber and try it out, let the birds have the carcass and Davy Jones’s locker the bones. Now they cut the whale up for fertilizer, body and bones. They use everything but the spout.”

*The above recent image of the Portuguese Bend area in Palos Verdes southern California, near San Pedro, shows the area near where a shore whaling station operated in the early 1860s, and which was active off and on through at least 1885. 


G Daniel said...

This suggests that the above photo of Abalone Cove was the sight of the whaling station. However as I recently found out it was actually located 2 coves south on the land later used for the Portuguese Bend Club. This land was later engulfed in the Portuguese Bend landslide

G Daniel said...


Harbor History Guy said...

G Daniel, Thanks for your input. I posted the recent photo to show the general vicinity of near where the Portuguese Bend shore whalers operated in the nineteenth century. I've done a lot of research on this, and hopefully I'll be able to post more soon including images.

davbert said...

You might be interested in the book, The Portuguese Shore Whalers of California: 1854-1904. It has a complete chapter on shore whaling at San Pedro Bay and at Portuguese Bend. It gives dates and sites of operation and names of some of the men involved.

G Daniel said...

Thanks I look forward to seeing more on this from you!