On Ibbenese whaling

Joseidon1

Poet
Hello together,

as some of you might heard I am currently experimenting on Ibbenese whalers. There are some things about the processing that need some further discussion as they may imply the construction of structures on the westerosi shore. So what is known about those ship? The wiki writes the following:
"Whalers are fat-bellied ships from Ibben, with hulls black with tar, used to hunt and process whales in the Shivering Sea. Ibbenese ships, though ungainly and smelly, are renowned for their strength, as they are built to weather any storm and withstand the assaults of the largest whales."
Canon gives only indications about the ships being black and rather on the large side giving that there are leviathanes in the shivering sea. But there is a lack of information about the methods of whaling as well as the processing of the whale.
I suggest using the 16th century basque whalers in Newfoundland as inspiration to fill those gaps. The Basques were the first Europeans to travel accross the Atlantic to fish and whale at the American coast. They were already using the coast of Newfoundland as whaling grounds as well as codd fishing areas in 1534. From the 1540s on there were specialized whaling expeditions from the Basque ports in northern Spain/Southwestern France to New Foundland. Sources differ on the size of those ships (200-300 tons or 600-700 tons) used to travel through the Atlantic, but we can assueme 15-20 did this journey every year. The ships would leave Europe in Spring for whaling stations in Newfoundland. Those stations were used as base of operations during the whaling season. Once a whale was sighted, the whalers would use smaller boats (2x8 meters) to hunt the whale down. The whale would be injured and marked by a harpoon shot and alter killed by lances. A killed whale would be flensed preferably at shore, or towed to a ship. The most important part of the whale was the blubber, which would be processed further into oil. Sources suggest that four cauldrons are needed for cooking the blubber of one whale into oil, which would be stored in barrels for the transportation back to Europe. The process of cooking the blubber would be done in the whaling stations again. (sources: https://www.historymuseum.ca/virtual-museum-of-new-france/economic-activities/basque-whalers/ and https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/exploration/basque-whaling-red-bay.php)
Going back to Westeros, we need to find a solution for the base of operations and blubber processing problem. There are different approaches to handeling this situation:
1. Everything on the ship. This would mean that the whaling ships carry a number of smaller boats, which are used to track down the whale. The killed whale would than be towed to the ship and flensed afloat. The processing of the whale blubber would also be done on the ship. This would result in large whalers not far from modern factory ships. A ship needs to be quite massive to deal with the 30-50 tons weighting whales. In addition large quantities of fire wood need to be carried, as well as a rather large area on the ship would be used for the ovens.
2. Cooking in temporary camps. In this solution the whales can be hunted on sea and towed to the ship or near shores and then dragged on the coast. After the flensing, a temporary camp would be made on a nearby shore, where the carried cauldrons would be set up. A small amount of tents would be placed on the shore around it until all blubber is processed, then everything would be transported back to the ship or the camp would be used for another whale. The ships would still need to carry the small boats and cauldrons and would still be big, but not as big as in the previous suggestion. A test for this solution is on my plot.
3. Whaling stations accross the coast. This solution would use small whaling station like at /warp whwhaling as base of operation. The whale could still be flensed towed to the ship or ashore, but using only the small boats could be a possible solution here. The stations could be a small stone building with only the neccessary structures for cooking the blubber. The equipment for the cooking would also stay in those whaling stations, the smaller boats for the whaling would be stored on the big whaler or at the station.
4. Bigger whaling stations. This solution is similar to the previous one, but the whaling stations would also include a hamlet with permanent westerosi inhabitants and the small boats would also be stored here. In thsi case the Ibbenese whaler would be reduced to a mere transportation ship.
5. blubber processing in ports. Here the hunting and flensing process would be either at the coast or on sea as already described, but the cooking process would be moved to the bigger port cities like King Landing, Gulltown, White Harbor, Bravos and so on. This would imply a ship has to return after every successful hunt to one of those cities.
I think that the 1. solution is very close to 19th century whaling and would not fit the fantasy setting of asoiaf. The 5th solutions seems to include very big journeys after a successful hunt, especially when considering the whaling grounds in Northern Essos. I tend to see those as not realistic. The 4th solution would somewhat destroy the difference between the Ibbenese and other whalers and I therefore consider this solution not canonical. Solution 2 and 3 seem to be the best solutions. I personally doubt it that the Westerosi Lords would allow foreigner a kind of settlement as described in 3 without paying taxes of some sort, although it would be closer to the real world inspiration. In addition, some of those whaling stations in Essos would be placed int the zone of influence of free cities like Bravos and Lorath or in the Dorthraki sea. Due to the century of blood I find Ibbenese structures in Essos outside of New Ibbish questionable. My prefered solution would be 2, as it is still giving the Ibbenese whalers some sort of unique selling point as being able to do every step in the process on their own, while still keeping some sort of realism by forcing the use of (temporary) structures on shore.
As I heard different opinions from the mods, I wanted to open this discussion on the forums and i am looking for your opinions.
 

Elduwin

Sorcerer
Hey Jose, nice research work!
As I told in game, there will be a whaling station/blubber processing at the Arbor, as they have whalers as part of the fleet. There are also quotes about Ibbenese whalers seen as far as OT and the Summer isles. So it might be interesting to include this in OT (proper or extended region).
In my opinion, it makes sense for WH and maybe Gulltown to have blubber processing in ports (like the one there is currently in WH). I'd find it strange in KL though.
And the option 5 doesn't exclude the 2nd and 3rd options. But for 2 and 3, I'd limit it to the North exclusively. There could be 1 or 2 whaling stations on the northern-most part of the region, and maybe here and there a few temporary camps with Ibbenese ships anchored. Ideas for immersion builds probably ;)
 
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Joseidon1

Poet
I would agree on combining 5 with 2 or 3 and on building a whaling district/hamlet in Gulltown, although it can be of the local population. Another topic that should be discussed before starting the construction of a whaling industry in Westeros is the use of Whale oil, the main product of whaling (the meat was more of a lent food). The main uses were for lighting, as lubricant, for soap production, for tanning and some wool products. I don't know the extent of those industries on the server, so I can't judge them.
 

AerioOndos

Sorcerer
the western part of the Shivering Sea is the richest fishing ground in the world, so of course the Ibbenese whalers would be there. The North has not had naval strength for centuries (soon after when the server is set there will be two fleets of ships in the region, Manderly galleys and Umber longships).
The north would not be able to police brief random forays onto the coast in temporary camps/stations. Permanent structures definitely not. Such things would be noticed if they occurred and written about in TWOIAF by Yandel in universe. Its too big to miss, especially as there would likely have been border struggles between the two.

A grey area is Skagos and Skane. Those are blank areas where the Ibbenese could possibly land, however we know pretty much nothing about them.

That being said, having temporary stone buildings connects with an idea of mine. In Scotland and other cold climate areas there are traditions of having shelters open to any who need them. These are called Bothies in Scottish I think and essentially get used as a place to stay warm in a terrible storm. Perhaps if there were these near the coast they could be used and maintained by the men of Ibb too.
 

Joseidon1

Poet
I'll take a look at the "bothies" and maybe try out what I would like in the camps and whether I can implement those.
In my opinion Skagos & Skane are more difficullt when talking about the ibbenese. I think it is rumored that the Skagosi are the closest people to the Ibbenese, so some ties could be represented by the whaling fleet. According to twoiaf Skane is believed to be uninhabited, so any kind of whaling related structrues would be probably be noticed by a passing ship. But it might be worth to wait for winds of winter before dealing with those Islands, assumeing GRRM actually gets the book done.
 

Joseidon1

Poet
So I have looked a little bit into the Bothies. I think the idea itself is not bad, though they should be a little bit bigger if they are ment of ship crews in a storm and not for some hikers in the Scottish or Alpine mountains. The place of those bothies would also need some kind of bay to protect the ship itself during the storm
I have looked on the eastern coast of the North on the dynmap and most places with a kind of bay I where I thought a ship could be protected have already a hamlet. But i am by no means an expert on this topic, so some recomendations for spots on the coasts would be appreciated if someone finds one.
 

AerioOndos

Sorcerer
I would assume that a hamlet would be okay with allowing an ibbenese ship to winter with them, as per laws of hospitality, and there are a number of settlements along the coast. An issue is that Karhold is not 100% complete, it still has gold roads in some places and incomplete hamlets. An ibbenese exclusive hamlet would be quite irregular. Perhaps there could simply be a large barn in one village turned into a barrack or something similar?
 

Joseidon1

Poet
I have a (superflat) test for a whaling camp on the northeastern part of my plot. I might add one or two more tents, but the overall ideas should be implemented there. Thanks to Luk, Ark, and especially TheYoungWolf for helping/making the dead whales.
If a whaler docks at a town, I can imagine them being harbored there over the winter, especially if they can trade some whale meat or fish against other food (scurvy should be a thing here).
I would use the camp as baseline for implications on the whaling ship size and design if no one objects.
 

Joseidon1

Poet
After some discussion about the state of the whaling of the Arbor, I've come back to this post to write down some new ideas/discussion points.
It is stated that the Arbor has a whalers in canon, but only in one quote. Those are fewer mentions than the mentions about ibbenese whalers. That seems to imply that while the Arbor has whalers, the Ibbenese must have some special part to their whaling. Choosing a more recent inspiration for the ibbenese whalers seems pretty difficult, as those ship building and craftsmen techniques seem out of the medieval era and considering the otherwise pretty simplistic inspiration for Ibben, out of the norm for them. Choosing an inspiration other than the basque new Foundland whalers for the Arbor doesn't justify whaling ships worth mentioning then talking about the Redwyne fleet, leaving the same inspiration for both.
Earlier whaling relies on people using some sort of watchtower to look for whales (like the medieval basques or modern Faroer islands) or travelling out on small boats to spot whales during a whaling season. Then the whalers would man small boats (something around ten men per boat) and row out to the spotted whales. The whales would be then be killed by being stabbed by spears and harpoons and towed back to the shore. This is built at /warp whwhaling and can be seen here
, although this is in modern Indonesia.
While I think this should be implemented on the Arbor, Elduwin wants (additional) big whaling ships like currently only planned for Ibben. One way to still show a difference between them is to make a clear difference in hunted species. In this case both could hunt the baleen whales, while the Ibbenese hunt sperm whales and Leviathanes (who are sized up sperm whales in my headcanon). Sperm whales provide an additional oil type, the sperm oil, which is of high value and could see some use in manufacturing in more advanced cities like Oldtown and some free cities. Although sperm whale hunting isn't documented until the 18th century for Western whalers, there is an Indonesian Island which is hunting them in a traditional way, so it would be doable in a medieval setting (sources:
and https://www.hakaimagazine.com/videos-visuals/photo-diary-of-a-whale-hunt/ ). In addition, the ibbenese ships should be larger and stronger as they are able to hunt leviathanes.
 
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Elduwin

Sorcerer
Heee, I'm not wanting anything, I could personally do without the whalers. But the fact is that they are mentioned (as ships, not just the people or the profession) in a list of ships to describe the Redwyne fleet.
So, I'm not gonna ignore that there are whalers (ships) in the fleet.
Though I'm perfectly fine (and that's the plan) to not have hundreds of them and just 1 or 2 whaling sites. But yeah, there'll be whaling ships.

Complain to GRRM if you think he has written yet another inconsistency ;)
 

AerioOndos

Sorcerer
I think of the Arbor whaling ships as being the smaller harpooning ones and/or a sailboat to help tow corpses back to shore, with mostly dolphins and pilot whales being targeted rather than larger species.
 
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Joseidon1

Poet
At least my understanding of the current Arbor whaling plans is that the Arbor has two kinds of whalers: the primitive/medieval ones and a ship based approach. There are a small number of whaling stations planned which would be used for a medieval kind of whaling like at whwhaling. In addition, those stations can be used as "home port" for whaling ships. Those whaling ships are supposed to be smaller in size (~35 blocks length with the stuff in front of the main hull) which can go out on the sunset sea in the near waters to the Arbor (like shield islands distance wise) to catch some whales in those waters. The whales could be flensed floating/towed next to the ship, but the blubber parts must be brought back to the Arbor for processing. That way the Arbor still has noteworthy whaling ships but is still inferior to Ibben. I can't give you the source, but I think i read something about medieval Basque whalers in the English Channel or around it, so there could be some historic evidence.
Regarding the size of the whales, due to the fact the indigenous Indonesians are hunting Sperm whales, I wouldn't see a problem in letting the Arbor people hunt some smaller great whales. They wouldn't go for something blue whale/Leviathan sized, but maybe something like the Northern Atlantic Right Whale (who was the primary prey of the early whalers). Although the size of Leviathanes is another topic that needs discussion for the Ibbenese due to canon stating that Leviathanes are hunted by the Ibbenese.
If I said something wrong, please correct me Eld.
 
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Arkilstorm

Dowager Countess of Grantham
Taking a look through all this, it's some amazing research Jose!

I'm in agreement with those above that a combination of 5, 2 & 3 make the most sense. I think processing onboard the ships is very advanced and runs into too many complications. Landing to set up processing camps when necessary or waiting to process in port sounds more realistic.

When it comes to the difference between whaling off the coast of the Arbor and the whaling practices of the Ibennese, I don't think the 'size' of the ships is the issue at all. The very large ship I made which has been used as a reference so far is based on the Mary Rose, the largest ship at the time built by Henry VIII of England - this ship is really about as technologically advanced as we should really push toward, in order to keep within the historical accuracy of our server. I built it with the intention of setting an upper limit for both scale and historical accuracy.

That being said, it's clear that the Ibbenese people are renowned for whaling and it being a huge part of their culture - the ships are very large, and strong, but I don't think that would distinguish their vessels as purely being the largest. There are a number of ways ships can be identified without such an identification being 'extraordinary' - Whaling ships would likely fly different colours (flags), the sail pattern would differ, rigging, and mast formations may be different to make handling easier when pursuing a whale. The 'big-bellied' reference shouldn't solely be used to signify size either..the shape of the hull would most certainly indicate the purpose for such a ship. The wider the hull, the more ballast, the larger displacement, the sturdier the ship will be, which is important when carrying barrels of heavy fat, and withstanding the thrashing of a whale nearby. This may be a simple identifier, rather than a statement of sheer scale.

For example, Chinese junks famously have very wide hulls but aren't exceptionally large, giving them greater stability and load-carrying ability, perfect for trade, but at the expense of speed and swift maneuverability.

In the Arbor, the majority of ships built, serve as warships and trade vessels, all with size, displacement, draft, calculated for the specific purpose - I think whaling ships in the Arbor are likely to be a different shape, and likely more specialised for hunting whales who venture to warmer waters as part of their migration or to give birth to young. Hunting the younger whales would be easier, and smaller faster ships would be most likely. They have less sea to travel so would likely return to the islands to process the catch.

The main point of this is to think about the Ibbenese culture a little more and the realistic types of vessel that were around at the time geographically, and not to get too carried away on the assumption that the mention of these specific vessels distinguishes them as of setting precedence or standard of excellence. There is so much scope for this mysterious north-eastern culture, and I just want to avoid comparisons between two wildly different cultures and misinterpretation of canon setting a style that's difficult to come back from.