Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Deptford Whale

On 23rd October 1842 a whale was sighted off Deptford Pier and caught and landed. It was identified as a 'Fin Back' whale, 14ft 6ins long and weighing 2 tons.

"On Sunday afternoon, between four and five o'clock, several watermen on duty at Bell-water-gate, near the Deptford Pier, observed a huge dark substance projecting above the surface of the river. The animal was moving down the river between the pier and the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital-ship. Five of them put off in their boat, and one of them, armed with a large bearded spear, commenced the attack upon the monster ..."

The whale was eventually loaded onto the pier where  "In a short time afterwards such immense numbers of persons congregated to gratify their curiosity that Mr John Taylor, the high constable of Deptford, was compelled to call for the aid of the R division of the police to keep order."

The whole event was recorded and published in the Illustrated London News. You can read the original on the web using our online subscription to the Illustrated London News 1842-2003. You can access this in any Lewisham library or from home with your library card number.