KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Haiku Sequence: 75 words
Author’s Note: 132 words

Out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1847

by Adelaide B. Shaw
foaming white caps
in the wind
a taste of the sea

there she blows
from the crow’s nest
clear to the horizon

arms to the chase
the burning speed
of uncoiling ropes

roiling of the sea
a harpooned whale
before it sounds

capsized boat
a dying whale
and a dead man

slabs of blubber
melting in a caldron
a steaming stench

a sweetheart waits
with a new bonnet
The Charles W. Morgan whaling ship, 1915
The Charles W. Morgan whaling ship

Drawing of Whale, Balaenoptera physalus

Author’s Note:

By the mid 1800s, New Bedford was the leader in the whaling industry. From its port sailed more whaling vessels than from all other American ports combined. By the end of the 19th century, the industry was on the decline: many whaling grounds worldwide were depleted; the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859 caused the price of whale oil to plummet; and substitute materials, rather than whale teeth and baleen, were being used to make corsets, collar stays, buggy whips, piano keys, etc. In 1925, the schooner John R. Manta was the last whaling ship to leave New Bedford.

I was inspired to write this sequence from a movie set in 1847 about two whaling-ship captains from New Bedford. The plot didn’t hold my interest, but the scenes of whaling did.


Publisher’s Notes:

The author kindly provided the two images above.

1. “FMIB_44638_Out of Commission, the Bark Charles W Morgan,” built in 1841, one of New Bedford’s famous whalers as it was in 1915, appears here courtesy of Freshwater and Marine Image Bank, University of Washington digital collections: “Materials in the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank are in the public domain. No copyright permissions are needed. Acknowledgement of the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank as a source for borrowed images is requested.”

(See also The Last Wooden Whaleship in the World: “The Charles W. Morgan is the last of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels. Built and launched in 1841, the Morgan is now America’s oldest commercial ship still afloat—only the USS Constitution is older.”)

2. This image of a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) by Charles M. Scammon is in the public domain and was downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

The original drawing is from Natural history of the cetaceans and other marine mammals of the western coast of North America, with an account of the American whale fishery by Charles M. Scammon (Captain United States Revenue Marine), a circular published in 1872 by J.H. Carmany & Company, San Francisco. The circular proposes to issue “in large quarto form, elegantly printed, and illustrated with thirty or more fine full-page plates, exhibiting the forms, habits, and peculiarities of the whales, seals, etc., of the Pacific Ocean, and showing also the various weapons used, both by civilized whalers and the savage natives, in the capture and destruction of the animals.”

Adelaide B. Shaw’s
Issue 6, Fall 2016

stories have been published in several literary journals, including By-Line, The Greensilk Journal, The Country and Abroad, Bartleby Snopes, Loch Raven Review, American Literary Review, The Writers’ Journal, SN Review, Bewildering Stories, The MacGuffin, and Storyteller. She also writes haiku and other Japanese poetic forms such as tanka, haibun, and photo haiga, and her work has been published widely. A collection of short stories Potpourri, Volume 1, as well as her award-winning collection of haiku An Unknown Road, are available as e-books on Amazon Kindle.

Author’s blog: White Petals

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