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Diary by Richard Francis Burton of a whaling voyage
Title : Diary by Richard Francis Burton of a whaling voyage Diary by Richard Francis Burton of a whaling voyage
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Creator : Burton, Richard Francis, 1809-1874
Source : PRG 1135/3
Date of creation : 1832-1835
Format : Diary
Dimensions : 400 x 250 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Description :

Richard Francis Burton (1809-1874) was engaged in 1832 as surgeon on the Reliance for a whaling voyage from London to the Indian Ocean. The ship's captain was William Cockle. Burton kept a journal throughout the voyage which includes descriptions of islands, finely drawn charts and lists of crew, discoveries of shoals and reefs and "ships spoke with" at end of volume.

Burton illustrated his journal with whale tail silhouettes that recorded the size of catches. For instance on 28 January 1833 5 tails indicated that 5 whales had been caught; these were then processed or 'tried out' over the next five days; on 9 May 1833 Burton drew nine tails for the nine whales caught.

There were however days when the boats returned with no catches and reports of lost 'irons' (harpoons) and many metres of rope lost as well. He also occasionally drew barrels and delicate vignettes of ships. At the end of his journal Burton recorded the total amount of oil taken on the voyage-1829 barrels, and the tally for the individual harpooners in the boats.

Following the voyage Burton was admitted Licentiate of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries, (LWCA), London in 1838. He emigrated to South Australia aboard the Jane in 1852, registered as a medical practitioner in 1854, and served as District Medical Officer 1861-1873. He was an officer of the Sturt & Brighton Rifles and Synod member for St Mary's-on-the-Sturt, South Road where he is buried with his wife Louisa Burton, 1816-1858. Their children were Richard, William, Francis, Mary and Louisa, who married Eden Herschel Babbage.

Related names :

Burton family

Reliance (ship)


Coverage year : 1832-1835
Period : Pre-1836
Place : South Australia
Further reading :

Ellis, Richard Men and whales New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House, Inc., 1991

Haley, Nelson Cole Whale hunt: the narrative of a voyage by Nelson Cole Haley harpooner in the ship Charles W. Morgan, 1849-1853 London [England]: Robert Hale, 1950

Chatterton, E. Keble Whalers and whaling: the story of the whaling ships up to the present day London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1925

Martin, Stephen The whales' journey Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2001

Mulvaney, Kieran The whaling season: an inside account of the struggle to stop commercial whaling Washington, DC: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2003

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