Humans have long hunted whales, but it wasn't until the 17th century that whaling became an industrial enterprise.
Although people ate whale meat and used the baleen for making things like umbrellas, it was the whales fat - it's blubber - that made whaling on such a large scale profitable. The blubber would be boiled down into oil, which could be used to make soaps, lubricants, margarine, and lamp oil. Today, whale oil is only used by a small number of indigenous/aboriginal communities, for whom whales still provide a vital source of food.
In her poem "The Whalers Song", Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791 - 1865) imagines the whalers life, just as they spot a whale...
The Whalers Song originally appeared in Poems for the Sea in 1850, and has been reproduced here under the Public Domain licence.
Header Image: The original art that accompanied The Whalers Song in Poems for the Sea. Creator unknown, but is thought to have been an employee of HS Parsons & Co., who published the works. Reproduced here under the Public Domain licence.