Songs of the Sea

This page last updated on 01/17/05


The Greenland Whale Fisheries


Notes on this song:

Here's a neat song about a whaling trip to Greenland.

The date of the trip varies according to the version, as do many other aspects of the song.

A davit is a crane that hangs over the side of a shpi to hoist boats; in this case, a whaling boat.

Note that the captain is more upset about losing a whale than five crewmen.

Resources for more information:




'Twas eighteen-hundred-and-seventy-two
On March the eighteenth day
When our gallant ship with anchors weighed
For Greenland sailed away, brave boys
For Greenland sailed away

The lookout on the mainmast he stood
His spyglass in his hand
"There's a whale, there's a whale, there's a whalefish" he cried
"And he blows at every span, brave boys
He blows at every span"

The captain stood on the quarter deck
A spyglass in his eye
Lower away, lower away, let your davit tackle fall
And launch your boats to sea, brave boys
And launch your boats to sea"

The boats were launched and the men put out
And the whale was full in view
Resolved, resolved was each whalerman bold
For to steer where the whalefish blew, brave boys
For to steer where the whalefish blew

The harpoon struck and the line ran out
And the whale made a flick of his tail
And the boat capsized, and five brave men were drowned
We never caught that whale, brave boys
And we did not catch that whale

The losin' of them five jolly men
It grieved out captain sore
But the losin' of that fine sperm whale
It grieved him ten times more, brave boys
It grieved him ten times more

"Up anchor now" our captain he cried
"For the winter stars do appear
And it's time we left this cold country
And for the homeland we steer, brave boys
And for the homeland we steer"

Well, Greenland is a dreadful place
A land that bears no green
Where there's ice and snow and the whalefish do blow
And daylight's seldom seen, brave boys
And daylight's seldom seen

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