This book contributes to what has recently been called a 'new social history of seafaring'. This new maritime history places sailors themselves at the center, t the periphery, of the maritime past, and explores ways that the history of the sea and the history of the shore have intersected. It differs from traditional accounts which celebrate exotic trades, powerful merchants, maritime techlogies, and military exploits. Drawn on the evidence of nearly two hundred ship logs and sailors' diaries, Rites and Passages examines American whalemen at the height of the whaling industry in the 1800s and argues that whaling life and culture was shaped by both the American mainland and by the exigencies of ocean life. Unlike other published accounts of seafaring, this work brings gender into the maritime equation, t only with a discussion of the ways that women figured in this male world, but also with an examination of the ways that seafaring served as a rite of passage into manhood.