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Picture Library catalogue: Eclipse and Maud Voyages 1888-89

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Eclipse and Maud Voyages 1888-89

These photographs were taken during voyages by Walter Livingstone-Learmonth on the whaling ships 'Eclipse' and 'Maud'. Whilst the practice of whaling was purely a commercial one, Livingstone-Learmonth sailed aboard the 'Eclipse' and 'Maud' for a different reason – that of sport. Born in Australia to Scottish parents he was educated in Edinburgh. He travelled on board the 'Eclipse' with Captain Gray in 1888 to the Arctic and on the 'Maud' the following year with Captain Adams to Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. He hoped to write a book about his travels, but unfortunately was unable to get a publisher. Relations between Livingstone-Learmonth and Captain Gray appear to have been a little strained, Captain Gray is reported to have said of Livingstone-Learmonth that he ‘knows everything and has been everywhere. He knows how to shoot seals and bears before he has seen any of them’. Livingstone-Learmonth was a keen hunter and travelled to the Arctic to shoot different species. On his voyage onboard the 'Maud' he shot 26 walruses and seals and four polar bears. Some of his photographs depict him proudly standing over his spoils. Livingstone-Learmonth was purely there for his enjoyment, describing a harpooned whale as a ‘truly fine sight’ and the heavy thud of a dead Eider duck hitting the water as a cheerful one!
These images depict some of the gruesome spoils of whaling which at this time was a major industry. In the nineteenth century the commercial success of ports such as Hull, Whitby, Peterhead, Dundee and Aberdeen rested on whaling. Whales produced raw materials required by the growing industrial cities. The key product of the whale was its blubber which could be boiled down to produce an oil used for lighting street lamps, to lubricate machinery and in soap. Whale baleen, a bendy bone like substance which a whale uses to filter its food through, was also a very popular product used in all manner of things, especially feminine fashion items such as umbrellas, corsets and wide hoop skirts.

The 'Eclipse' was based in the port of Peterhead and the 'Maud' in the port of Dundee. The Gray’s of Peterhead had the longest connection of any British family to the Arctic whaling industry, with three generations of the family in the business; they were involved with whaling right up to its decline after the First World War. David Gray took command of the 'Eclipse' in 1867 and retired in 1890. He died in 1896. William Adams became a master of the whaler 'Arctic' in 1868. He bought the wooden barque 'Maud' in 1883 and converted her to a whaler in 1886. He died in 1890 whilst in command of the ship. The 'Maud' was wrecked at Coutts' Inlet, Davis Strait in 1892.
After the decline of the Arctic whaling industry the 'Eclipse was sold to Russians who changed her name to 'Lomonessoi'. She served some time in the Russian Imperial Navy and at the end of the First World War was serving in the Arctic as a supply ship. Sinking in 1927 she was raised in 1929 and went to Siberia as a research ship.

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Data in this catalogue was last updated on Tuesday, 13th June 2023.