Well, tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow I launch my final book to be published this year. It is called Ancestors in the Arctic and it is a photographic history of the Dundee whaling industry.
The images are all from Dundee’s McManus Gallery and Museum; beautiful, evocative, scary, atmospheric images of a bygone age when men braved the bitter ice and storms of the Arctic in pursuit of whales. Immoral by today’s standards, but in their own day these men were heroes. Many died, of shipwreck, frostbite, scurvy and exposure, but others brought home the blubber that was boiled into oil for street lamps and industrial use.
While they worked, their women waited for them. . . worrying and hoping and suffering. I wrote about them in my earlier book, Whalehunters, and about the ships in The Dundee Whaling Fleet. This one may be my last book about Dundee whaling: we will see.
What does it mean to me? Apart from the exhaustion of an extremely busy year it means I have delved into the minds and lives of some of the hardiest mariners afloat, as well the lives of their wives. Fascinating people with a reputation for truculence. They were spirited, intelligent and brave.
But I am very glad that whale hunting has ended in the north. Seeing the images brings home the hardship but also the extent of the slaughter.