In 1860 fourteen-year-old Nathaniel Ransom followed his five older brothers into the dank foc'sle of a whaling vessel. For fifteen years he hunted seventy-ton bowheads in Arctic waters, for the many uses of bone, blades of flexible baleen from the leviathan's ermous jaw, raised its value, even as petroleum replaced whale oil as a source of lighting. In 1871 Ransom survived the loss of thirty-two whaling vessels in the frigid waters off Alaska's Icy Cape. With him he carried a journal - and kept it, as he and his shipmates jettisoned weapons and warm clothing to save their very lives. His eyewitness account of whaling's brutal slaughter and sudden losses is enriched by the author's affection for an ancestor she discovered through his journals a century after his death.
HELEN HILLER FRINK is descended from two families of Yankee whalers. When she embarked from Newington, New Hampshire on her first voyage, her mother told her never to fear seasickness, for she had salt water instead of blood in her veins. She is the author of These Acworth Hills, Alstead Through the Years, and Women after Communism; the East German Experience. Retired from Keene State College as Professor Emerita of Modern Languages, Helen lives too far from the sea in Acworth, New Hampshire.