Abraham Storck: Whaling Grounds in the Arctic Ocean (1654 - 1708)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Abraham Storck (1644 – 1708). The Netherlands was an important player in the whaling trade during the 17th century (about 40% of the whaling trade). From 1614 to 1642 the whaling trade was done by the Dutch Noordsche Compagnie (English: Northern Company) whose ships sailed from the Netherlands to Spitsbergen where they hunted for whales, walrus, seals and polar bears. On Spitsbergen there was an outpost called 'Smeerenburg' (English "blubber town") from where captured whales were processed. In 1642 the charter was not extended by the Dutch government and from the moment on the whaling trade was privatized. This individual trading caused the whale population to decrease dramatically: the Noordsche Compagnie send about 15 ships each year to hunt for whales, the individual companies send more than 200 ships each year. Territorial conflicts with other countries and an decrease of the whale population caused the Dutch whaling trade to come to a virtual standstill in the 18th century. Painting from around 1654-1708.