July 19, 1857

Joseph E. Ray, a harpooner aboard the whale ship Edward Cary from 1854 to 1858, kept a journal of his trip and, in 1857, expressed frustration to be working on a Sunday: “At it again. Laying off and on at Upola, what for I do not know. All I know about is they went off this morning with flying colours. So it is haul and pull all this blessed day and I hope if there is any religion to be had ashore that they will get a little for themselves for they need it bad enough. So ends by standing from the land with squally weather and wind from the ENE ship head North.”

His unhappiness had begun in the prior day’s entry: “I shall be glad when this voyage is up for the laying off and on has commenced again. Tomorrow is Sunday but the boats has got to be put in order for whaling, Sunday or no Sunday, Itmakes no difference it’s got to be done. So you can see how this cruise has begun the two first Sundays everybody employed. Six days shall thou labour and do all thou art able and on the seventh break thy back in two or three several different places.”

Ray’s cruise of the Edward Cary came at time when whale populations were diminished. The ship came home with a modest 665 barrels of sperm oil. Later, Ray sailed on the Meteor of Mystic, Connecticut, and was lost at sea during a storm.


Excerpted from On This Day In Nantucket History
By Amy Jenness
The History Press
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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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