Table of Contents
Bertram Ravenscroft Bostock (1885-1964) was born in Northwich, Cheshire, England. The 1911 census lists him as a clerk in an alkali works at the age of 24. He earned a Master’s of Science at the Institute of Chemists in Manchester in 1917. He served in the Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve in WWI.
During the first part of the twentieth century, factory ships were being designed and built specifically for the processing whales on a massive scale while other ships were being retrofitted to meet the demands of a new technology. These ships were meant to go into the southern oceans for entire seasons in order to catch a large number of whales every day. In some cases it required at least 300 men working at managing a floating factory ship and for processing whales on a large scale continuously around the clock. Smaller catcher boats and spotter planes were part of the process.
The papers in this collection seem to indicate that he was employed by Harris Whaling and Fishing Ltd. and later the Southern Whaling and Sealing Co. Ltd. By 1931 he was the technical manager and director of the Southern Whaling and Sealing Co. Ltd. It appears he was still active during the mid-1950s.
The development of the electrical killing of whales was being developed during this period. It was seen as a more humane way of killing and less destructive to the carcass of the whale. The latter was important because the processing involved using the entire whale: meat, blubber, organs, intestines, and bones. There seems to have been some social pressure in England against the more inhumane method of killing with explosive harpoons and the numbers of whales being killed.
Industrialized whaling was an international undertaking. Mr. Bostock’s records and correspondence shows the diversity of nationalities of the ship’s crews. His records show, the predominant nationalities were Norwegian, German, and English. Materials about the development of a new technology for hunting and processing whales also appear to be based on international collaboration.
The advent of WWII during this period had an effect on the whaling industry. Some ships were apparently captured by the Germans, or were converted for other uses. After the war they reappear under English ownership with new names. The exchange of technology and manufactured goods so important before the war was soon resumed after the war. According to “Patentmaps,” Bostock was the inventor of six patents having to do with the processing of whales in order to extract meat products and oils.
The B. R. Bostock Papers contain a collection of manuscripts, related data, and correspondence related to the work of B. R. Bostock and the modern whale processing industry. It also includes three photograph albums illustrating the various floating factory ships and whaling stations with which he was involved.
Mr. Bostock was trained as a chemist. Much of the material in his collection contains his data records and chemical analysis for processing whales in large numbers. His position as a technical manager and a director at Southern Whaling and Sealing Co. Ltd. involved him in the development and design of the ships and the processing machinery required for large scale processing. He was also responsible for the treatment and analysis of the products developed from the whales.
The collection contains the reports on the trials carried out during the whaling seasons in the southern oceans. The work was experimental and involved both the physical aspect of processing whales and the analysis of the end product.
Three photograph albums and other photos in the collection illustrate the extent of the processing being done on the floating factory ships and shore stations.
Arrangement of Collection
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 139, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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The B. R. Bostock Papers came to the New Bedford Whaling Museum Archives when the Kendall Whaling Museum merged their collections in 2001. They had previously been held by the Nantucket Whaling Society.
Processed by: Jalien Hollister, 2014
Encoded by: Mark Procknik, 2 February 2015
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Last modified: December 9, 2016