One of my favorite folk albums is “Thar She Blows” with A. L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl on vocals, Peggy Seeger on banjo/guitar and John Cole on harmonica. I recorded this song in Lloyd’s vocal style, adding mandolin, banjo and guitar.
Here are some notes from A. L. Lloyd:
“The English whaling ship Emilia was the first to inaugurate the Pacific sperm whale fishery in 1788, rounding Cape Horn to fish in the waters of the South Sea islands and the coasts of Chile and Peru. By the 1840s, the days of the South Seamen were numbered, but they left behind a fine memorial in their songs, of which The Coast of Peru is perhaps the most impressive. Tumbez, mentioned in the last verse, is in the far north of Peru, on the Gulf of Guayaquil, near the equator. Its girls are remembered in several whaling songs.
By no means all the old time whaling was done in northern waters. In the 1820s, for example, more than a hundred British ships, mostly out of Hull or London, where fishing in the sperm whale grounds round the Horn off the coast of Chile and Peru and taking the long, long run across the Pacific by way of Galapagos Island and the Marquesas, to Timor. The trip would last three years. The Coast of Peru is the most important ballad of the South-Seamen. Possibly it describes the chase of a southern right whale, not a sperm. Sperms were usually harpooned by running the boat close to the whale. Right whales, who tend to fight with their tail, were more often harpooned with the “long dart” from perhaps ten yards away. Mention of the mate in the “main chains” dates the song before the 1840s.”