The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

My father had been away from the sea for many years, but it was always there in his blood. Father was well into retirement when a replica of the Mayflower, the ship that had taken the Pilgrim Fathers over to the New World was recreated. Their intention was to retrace the voyage taken by the Pilgrim Fathers 400 years earlier. Mayflower 11, sailed from Plymouth Devon, on April 20th 1957 arriving in Plymouth Massachusetts on June 22nd 1957

An advert had been placed in the national newspaper, asking for men, versed in handling old sailing ships, to join the crew. Dad applied (but did not mention his age) he was sent a ticket to go down to (I believe it was Bristol), for an interview. They told him he was well qualified – BUT he was what the insurance man would call a bad risk, dad did not sail with the Mayflower, number one or two.

Anytime he heard of a special ship coming into any port in Scotland he would head there, with me on the back of his motorbike. I can not remember what year it was exactly, but I do remember dad taking me over to Leith Docks, Edinburgh, to see the Southern Harvester built-in 1945, it sailed south for the 1946-47 waling season, but it would have been well after that date when we visited. The Salvesen factory ship, had a huge slip cut in the stern so that whales could be dragged up onto the deck for fleshing-out.

This ship, along with her sister ship Southern Venturer, changed the way whales would be done in Antarctica. Whales would now be located, by helicopter from the ship’s deck. Hunted down by hunter boats, fast enough to outrun whales. Then picked up by the factory ship, that followed in the wake of the killing boats. Once the whale was pulled onboard, it would be quickly fleshed out on the deck and rendered onboard. No longer were there a need to tow whales back to a shore base. Economic and efficient dispatching of whales, almost to extinction. Thankfully the industry became uneconomic before that happened, with the introduction of mineral oils, in engineering, and palm oils for soap and margarine manufacturing.

I read much later that during an ocean survey of the seas of the South Atlantic, the scientists had found that the lack of whales had allowed the krill to flourish to the extent that they turned the surface waters into a living soup. Inadvertently man had upset the Eco-system of Antarctica.

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