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Oil, Ice, and Bone; Arctic Whaler Nathanial Ransom by Helen Frink - Zoom Lecture

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

Just in case you missed the Zoom presentation on February 16, with Helen Frink, you can watch it here!

In 1860 fourteen-year-old Nathanial Ransom followed his five older brothers into the dank foc'sle of a whaling vessel. For fifteen years he hunted seventy-ton bowheads in Arctic waters, for the many uses of "bone", blades of flexible baleen from the leviathan's enormous jaw, raised its value, even as petroleum replaced whale oil as a source of lighting. In 1871 Ransom survived the loss of thirty-two whaling vessels in the frigid waters off Alaska's Icy Cape. With him he carried a journal – and kept it, as he and his shipmates jettisoned weapons and warm clothing to save their very lives. His eyewitness account of whaling's brutal slaughter and sudden losses is enriched by the author's affection for an ancestor she discovered through his journals a century after his death.

Helen Frink is descended from two families of Yankee whalers. When she left her family’s farm in Newington, New Hampshire, and made her first voyage, her mother told her never to fear seasickness, for she had salt water instead of blood in her veins. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of New Hampshire, and master’s and doctoral degrees in German from the University of Chicago. She is the author of two town histories: These Acworth Hills (1989) and Alstead Through the Years (1992). Her book Women after Communism; the East German Experience(University Press of America, 2001) examines the effects on women of the transition from socialism to capitalism. After three decades teaching French, German, Women’s Studies, and Holocaust Studies, she retired from Keene State College as Professor Emerita of Modern Languages. Her exploration of family history brought her to the journals of great-grandfather Nathaniel Ransom. She delights in using original letters, newspapers, journals, and documents to bring to life social and material history centered in New England. She lives too far from the sea in Acworth, New Hampshire.

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