This week in the history of King’s Lynn in 100 objects we explore the town’s maritime heritage. Like many eastern towns during the 18th and 19th century, King’s Lynn played a part in the whaling industry, sending ships north to Greenland in search of whales.
Whaling ships were often converted merchant ships measuring around 100 feet long and 26 foot wide and capable of carrying around 250-400 tons.
The Balaena was probably the most famous whaler to sail out of King’s Lynn.
Built in 1774 and registered in the north of England the Balaena could carry a cargo of 299 tons. The Balaena was part of the Greenland Company, an organisation made up of ship owners and merchants who fitted out ships for whaling.
She was Captained by Ben Baxter and in 1786 she brought back over one hundred tons of blubber and received a handsome bounty.
Whaling was a seasonal venture, ships left in April and remained in Greenland until August In between whaling seasons the Balaena traded wine and timber in the Baltic.
This commemorative mug was produced in 1800 and depicts the Balaena on a whaling voyage. The inscription reads:
A ship from Lynn did sail
And a ship of noble fame
Capt. Baxter was commander
Balaena was her name
The Balaena was wrecked and sank off the Balta Sound on the 9th March 1796.
Captain Baxter did not go down with the ship. He went on to command the Fountain, another Lynn Whaling ship.
It is thought that around nine whalers sailed from Lynn between 1774 and 1821. These were the Jango, Enterprise, Experiment, Balaena, Eclipse, Fountain, Bedford, Archangel and Form.