"In 1860 fourteen-year-old Nathaniel 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."
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