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Portsmouth Goes Whaling


Illustration with Leander Huntress whaling diary / Portsmouth Athenaeum

Voyage of Ann Parry  

The final voyages of the Ann Parry are easy metaphors for the sudden rise and fall of the Portsmouth whaling industry itself. Generally the ship made money for the Ladd's, but it made trouble too. Much of the story was recorded by whaler Leander Huntress whose illustrated journal is part of the collection at the Portsmouth Athenaeum. It was Huntress' journal that sparked interest in further research and a book on the Portsmouth experiment by whaling historian Kenneth Martin.  

Huntress' whaling diary tells of bad food, endless floggings, sailors jumping ship, the deaths of crewmen --  and lots and lots of fighting. Ann Parry's final voyage in the Indian Ocean sounded the death knell for the industry in Portsmouth. At one port, rowdy battles between crewmen and locals led to the murder of a native. The captain was too ill to remove the vessel quickly from foreign waters, so local officials appointed a surrogate captain, a man despised by his crew. Simply put, the new captain took advantage of his rank, spending much more time among island prostitutes than among whales. The captain, it is reported, came aboard ship to steal equipment that he took ashore and sold to support his licentious habits.  

By 1848, with the final voyage of the Ann Parry, the "gilded" age of Portsmouth whaling was over. Pocahontas had run herself upon a rocky reef in 1838. Plato went to New Bedford, but was grounded. Triton was still whaling in 1848, and remained in service until 1857. After her Portsmouth whaling years, the Ann Parry became a Gold Rush ship and remained afloat until the Civil War. Portsmouth continued to enjoy a solid reputation for building fast sleek clipper ships. and for ships of war constructed at the shipyard in Kittery. But the whaling industry in Portsmouth, endangered from the start, was quickly extinct.  


Source: “Heavy Weather and Hard Luck”: Portsmouth Goes Whaling, by Kenneth Martin (1998) is still available on and from Peter E. Randall Publisher at the Portsmouth Marine Society Web site.


Copyright © 2010 by J. Dennis Robinson, all rights reserved. Robinson is editor of, the regional Web site of history and culture. His history column appears in the Herald every other Monday and is available online at  

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