It’s doubtful any of us will find stocks of this prized oil at sporting stores today. Since bans on whale oil use instituted in 1972 the stuff has become scarce as rocking horse poo. Yet whale oil is still mentioned by contemporary authors as the most revered by noted scribes of the past in their writings on black powder lubes and preventative maintenance of flintlocks. There was simply nothing better or even close!
Whilst the Japanese continue to make news hunting the Minke whales in the southern oceans, we don’t hear about the much larger sperm whales. According to Wikipedia a full grown bull sperm whale can reach lengths of almost 20 metres while weighing in at more than 60 tons.
The sperm whale is decidedly weird in appearance. Its frontal portion consists of a gigantic bulging forehead “the case”, nearly one third of its overall length, which is filled with that finest of oils known to man. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. Early whalers mistook the oil for sperm and named the animal accordingly. Spermaceti was used in numerous applications, such as lubricants, oil lamps, ointments, candles and more.
Once the oil’s value was realised, the sperm whale was relentlessly hunted down. Scientists still debate the function of the huge “case” and its reservoir containing 10 to 15 barrels (1500 – 2000 litres) of high-quality oil. No one yet knows the answer.
Among all the great whales, the sperm whale alone has teeth, which although impressive, are thought to be secondary when it comes to feeding. These teeth make desirable keepsakes especially when scrimshawed by artistic craftsmen sailors. The species is now protected by a whaling moratorium – being listed as “vulnerable”.
A botanical alternative to spermaceti is jojoba oil which is chemically and physically very similar to spermaceti and may be used in many of the same applications.
Then there’s T/C Natural Lube 1000 Plus Bore Butter and Trapper’s Mink Oil among fancy lubes available from arms dealers. See our Trading Post listings – Save a whale!
Welcome to Volume 55
Our first newsletter for the year. Well there wasn’t anything much to write about, simply because we’ve been dormant regarding black powder doings. But we’re into it again now, so our cover story was prompted by the whale of a time we all had at our ANZAC holiday weekend camp.
We had survived a rather hot dry summer when it seemed we would wait forever for black powder season to commence. It was good to see most members paying up their subscriptions meeting club timelines. Anyone who is yet to renew subs will now need to include a re-joining fee. Oh but that fee is a mere twenty bucks extra and it goes straight into the thin coffers of our great little club. Thanks to delinquent payers!
What a shame that Easter occurred so early this autumn. Easter is regarded by many as the absolute best time of the year for outdoor camping – stable warm sunny days followed by cooler nights when the campfire scenario becomes rather magical. But we needed to cancel Easter camp this year due to the hotter, dryer weather so early in the autumn. Bummer!
Only for those who can hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic or whistle Dixie with equal enthusiasm. Of course it is all just a game. There is no life or death need to know either tune. Learning both might just help us to survive the stresses of the 21st century with its religious fanaticism, rape and pillage, the road toll, or the universal random school shootings and political flap-doodle.
Just like with marbles, some will tire of the game in five minutes while others continue to play for five years or perhaps fifty five. What I’m on about here is the degree of authentic we each hope to find in our hobby sport. For some, black powder stuff is merely buying a cap lock rifle and shooting at regular intervals on a range. So mundane! Why not choose a modern centrefire? Others decide to wear a “funny” hat, you know, one reserved for just that black powder occasion – an Akubra, of course. Almost as boring as elastic sided boots!
At the other extreme the more exuberant among us want to dress and camp to match the original era of our chosen black powder firearms – doing it in “the old ways” whatever our interpretation of the old ways might be. That’s far more interesting and can be enchantingly complex as we research human history and a bygone way of life.
So now the “in-group” camp under white canvas, wear “funny” clothes and hide all signs of 21st century gear. It’s great! That is until we view the sneaky photos taken by hidden cameras and discover that we didn’t entirely let go of the 20thC after all. Look for them! Tomato sauce on the cause.
Footwear and eyewear are probably the last items on our primitive want lists due to the higher costs of these. We’ve managed to retire those rubber soled moccasins. But it’s the little things that show up in the photos. Like coloured screw top bottle fasteners, plastic fresh food wrappers etc. Then for the ultra-extreme Trapper who rejects period cookware, tea bags and instant coffee in whatever container, there is always a search for purity. Whiskey Tipi Foofaraw, didn’t I say it’s all just a game?
Next event will be our Queen’s birthday holiday weekend 11th, 12th & 13th June.
A 12th anniversary of our Winter Quarters camp for serious mountain man hivernants.
ANZAC holiday weekend camp at the Caveat, April 23 – 25, 2016.
Only a small number of pilgrims showed up to our camp over the ANZAC day holiday weekend. Well those who didn’t show really missed the pay dirt! The weather was superb, being warm sunny days cooled with a slight chill on the evening breezes. Great for lounging about in company around a good fire with your favourite tipple. Sharing a drop every now and then. As one must after being gifted with a bottle of good throat oil. Thanks Bob!
Anyway, Peter and Charlie were first to set up, then Jim was followed in by Chook. Bob turned up with grandsons Kaia and Nash helping to erect the tipi, so a camp atmosphere was shaping all about the Painted Pony Plains. What grass there was … actually there wasn’t any grass! You could have named the site as the Hungry Horse Hills but for Bernard hand feeding daily. Those painted pets really do set the scene when feeding through on their way to water at the creek. Least that is permanent!
Others to arrive were Jenny and Gary Baker, John Morland, Tom Jefferies and Murray Convey. Probably not in that exact order, but near enough. Soon there was a flurry of Trade Blanket activity with the young lads drooling over handmade knives and all sorts of “stuff”, bargaining for their growing collections. Whether you’re a younger boy or considerably older it’s still great to have lots of good “stuff”.
Ian, who could not attend, had wanted a feather shoot. Said we had to shoot the vein of the feather at 20 yards. Blimey, I couldn’t see the flaming feather at 20 yards. We walked up a bit, then more closer. I had 10 misses, I think everyone did. Except Bob, who won the event on his er oh about tenth shot? Lots more plinking took place over the weekend but no one got all fired up competitive. That’s the way we Trappers are!
Meanwhile, Kaia and Nash were giving our new Throwing Block a severe workout in between trading and re-trading and polishing those new knife blades in their leather sheaths. In and out, sheathed, unsheathed, admired, fondled and sheathed again. A versatile tool to be carried with pride of ownership.