Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/87

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83
THE AMERICAN WHALING INDUSTRY

GRAPHICS OF THE AMERICAN WHALING INDUSTRY
By Dr. J. ARTHUR HARRIS
CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON

RECENTLY in connection with another piece of work, I found it desirable to express graphically various phases and factors of the rise and decline of American whaling.

In these graphs nothing is added to the facts recorded by Scammon, Starbuck, Goode, Tower and others who have investigated and written on the economic phases of the problem, and from whose tables the various diagrams have been compiled. But the graphical treatment seems to bring out so forcefully some of the points of greatest biological and economic interest concerning the remarkable development and decline of the once great and now insignificant industry that I have ventured to offer them for publication, with a few explanatory remarks.

In Fig. 1 the abscissæ are years from 1805 to 1905, while the ordinates are marked off by the total tonnage[1] of the whaling fleet.

Here are clearly shown (a) the vascillations in size of fleet during the first few years of trial and establishment of the industry, (b) the depression associated with the war of 1812, (c) the phenomenal growth of a quarter of a century made possible by the unrestrained exploitation of ocean-wide resources up to the maximum point where there were over seven hundred vessels aggregating over two hundred and thirty thousand tons and valued at over twenty-one millions, (d) the temporary fluctuations when the industry had reached its crest, (e) the precipitous fall due to the depletion of the resources of the seas, to the risks and losses of the great war, and to other causes, and finally the decline which followed more slowly with the restoration of safety, but inevitably as almost every product of the whale except the bone was replaced by those derived from petroleum.

The curve is remarkable for its regularity and for its similarity to a biological variation polygon—to the normal or "Quetelet's" curve. Indeed, the factors to which the form of the curve is due are in large part biological, although economic and social forces are also patent.

Some of the minor irregularities are doubtless due to the unavoidable inaccuracies in the data. Apparently, the depression in 1850 and '51 is a real one; the revival of the industry resulting in the second mode

  1. Number of sail which in 1846 reached 736 would be interesting for comparison, but the data are not available for so wide a range of years.