November 1, 1820 – Meeting Whalers

He Huliau: Intersecting Worlds 1820 – 1825

Thomas Birch, A Shoal of Sperm Whale. Off the Island of Hawaii, 1833, Manoa Heritage Center.
“Nov. 1. – Ship Maro, Capt. Allen from Nantucket, a whaler, arrived. Sailed from America 2 days after our embarkation, were 20 days off Cape Horn which they passed the latter part of February, and reached Mowe in May, and has since been cruising on the coast of Japan for sperm whales with signal success.
Capt. Allen dined with us in company with Capts. Blanchard and Bennett. He visited the school with Capt. Bennett and took tea with us. He appeared highly pleased with the state of progress of the school which now consists of 40 pupils.”
Journal of the Sandwich Islands Mission Vol. 1, p. 80


On November 1, 1820, the Honolulu Mission hosted Captain Allen of Maro, from Nantucket, the first American whaling ship to enter Honolulu harbor. Earlier, in September 1819, the first whaling ships to Hawai‘i, Balena and Equator, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, arrived in Kealakekua Bay, where they caught a large sperm whale. In 1825, 42 whaling vessels stopped for provisions and Hawai‘i’s whaling era was underway. Demand for a wider variety of food spurred new crop development, including the first attempts to grow coffee and sugar.

Lahaina, Honolulu and Hilo were the major ports for whaling vessels and grew dramatically, while, at the same time, struggling with the impact of desertions and mutinies. The Pacific whaling fleet quadrupled over the next two decades, but came abruptly to an end in 1859 when an oil well was developed in Titusville, Pennsylvania, quickly depleting demand for whale oil used in lamps and soap.


“Hawai‘i became the base for the north-central Pacific whaling trade. The impetus for the new trade was the 1818 discovery of the “Offshore Ground” west of Peru and the 1820 discovery of rich sperm whale grounds off the coast of Japan. … by the late 1820s over 150 whaling ships were stopping in Hawai‘i annually.”
— Sumner LaCroix, “The Economic History of Hawai’i: A Short Introduction,” Working Paper No. 02-3, January 9, 2002, P.4


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