Made in Dundee
18th Century House 2
By 1890 Dundee was the only UK whaling port. This was because there had been a huge decline in the number of whales. Dundee survived as it had led the way in making wooden-hulled steam whaling ships. Theoretically steam ships were supposed to be safer than sail, as it gave ships greater speed and ice-breaking capabilities. In reality it made things more dangerous as ships were inclined to stay for longer in dangerous conditions. Eventually whaling stopped at the time of the First World War.
Participating in whaling was a real gamble – but the rewards were staggering. As whales became rarer, the prices became higher. Whale bone could go for up to £3,000 per ton at the Dundee docks - the equivalent of £300,000 in today's money. During 1 season, a man might earn more than 5 years in mills. A ship that returned filled with seals and whales might make £87,500. That's about £10m in today's money.