The Balaena The noble fleet of whalers went sailing from Dundee Well manned by British sailors to work upon the sea On the Western Ocean passage none with them can compare But the smartest ship to make the trip is Balaena I declare cho: Oh the wind is on her quarter her engines working free There's not another whaler that sails out of Dundee Can beat the ol' Balaena she needs no trial run We challenged all both great & small from Dundee to St John It happened on a Tuesday three days out of Dundee The gale took off her quarter boat & a couple of men you see It battered at her bulwarks her stanchions & her rails And left the old Balaena boys a frothing in the gale Bold Jackman cut his canvas & fairly raised his steam And Captain Guy with Erin Boy was ploughing through the stream And the noble Terra Nova her boilers nearly burst And still at the old whaling grounds Balaena got there first And now the season's over & the ship half full of oil Our flying jib boom points for home towards our native soil And when that we have landed boys where rum is very cheap We'll drink sucess to the skipper's health for getting us over the deep THE OLD POLINA There's a noble fleet of Whalers, a sailing from Dundee Manned by British sailors, to take them o'er the sea On a western ocean passage, we started on the trip And we flew along, just like a song in our gallant whaling ship. CHORUS For the wind was on her quarter, and the engines working free There's not another whaler, that sails the Arctic Sea Can beat the Old Polina, you need not try me sons For we challenged all, both great and small, from Dundee to St. John's. 'Twas the second Sunday morning, just after leaving port We met a heavy Sou'West gale that washed away our boat It washed away our quarter deck, our stanchions just as well And so we set the whole she-bang a-floating in the gale [Note: some sing "a-floating off to hell"] [chorus again] Art Jackson set his canvas, Fairweather got up steam And Captain Guy, the darling bye, came plunging through the stream And Mullins in the "Husky" tried to beat the blooming lot But to beat The Old Polina was something he could not [chorus again] There's the noble "Terra Nova", a model without doubt The "Arctic" and "Aurora" they talk so much about Art Jackman's model mail boat -- the terror of the sea Tried to beat the "Old Polina" on a passage from Dundee [chorus again] And now we're back in old St. John's, where rum is very cheap So we'll drink a health to Captain Guy who brought us o'er the deep A health to all our sweethearts and to our wives so fair Not another ship could make the trip with the "Polina" I declare. NOTE: The Balaena was right around the time (1890's) of cutting edge tech. fast steamers & the harpoon cannon. While Captain Guy started the hunt for bottlenose whales ( considered the most dangerous to chase), the Balaena went into the Ant arctic after the finn and blue whales. They were fast swimmers & couldn't be cau ght in the old style, they were too big & too fast, yet the finn was easy to cut & try & had a good yield. The blue was the was a great yield & meant big money for the men. The fast steamer and cannon changed the face of the industry & its music. BF Yes, the song is a Newfoundland song, but the ship's name (says Edith Fowke, Pen guin Book of Canadian Folk Songs) is the Polynia, launched 1861, a 472-tonner ow ned by Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company (so you didn't know whales and seal s were fish?). It was commanded by Capt. William Guy from 1883 until it was lost in Davis Strait 10 July 1891, being crushed between two ice floes in a gale. Fo wke got the song from Doyle (Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland, 1955 ed.), and it's also mentioned in Paul Mercer's "Newfoundland Songs and Ball ads in Print 1842-1974" and Michael Taft's "A Regional Discography of Newfoundla nd and Labrador 1904-1972", both lovely books from Memorial U. Folklore dept. JB The Report of the Commissioner of Fish & Fisheries (New England), register a Ba laena from the 1850's up till it's sale in while in the port New Bedford 1871. She had been managed by the same ship's agent (James Howland & among her captain s there was never a Guy), tonnage was 301. She was ship rigged & sometime betwee n 1863 & 64 rerigged as a bark. She fished the Alantic, Pacif the reports cover futher north than Mass. only from New York to Mass. but I'd t hink that those ports handled a very large percentage of the ships in the whalin g industry for the North Alantic. BF And for your etymological digression, I wonder if Polynia is a spelling of "poly nya", an area of open water in sea ice, from Russian polyn'ya. If so it was a ne w word then--Merriam-Webster On Line gives the first use in English as 1853. And the pronunciation changed, as the Newfoundland tape I've heard pronounced it to rhyme with "Carolina". And the fate of the ship was ironic. TJ EDITOR'S NOTE: I included the commentaries in hope that they'd be a reminder of the difficulties of establishing historical truth of folksonsgs. Also of the fut ility of relying on proper names. I've seen it spelled Baleena, Balena, Balina, Polina and Balaena. Go figure. RG TJ, JB, BF apr00
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