Whaling, Science, and Trans-Maritime Networks, 1910–1914
This paper addresses whale research by American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews during and after his expeditions to whaling stations of the Tōyō Hogei company in Japan and Korea. Research literature about Japanese whaling has identified numerous flows of knowledge, personnel, and technology such as ships and harpoon guns from Europe to Japan, suggesting a unidirectional flow in which the Japanese received and adopted Western technology. At the same time, the history of maritime research has, until now, focused mainly on the workings of researchers and various organizations, often neglecting the roles of more subtle yet determining factors in the production of knowledge, such as tools or the subject of study.
This investigation of Andrews’ research offers a new perspective on transcultural flows in whaling during the Meiji era by revealing the complexity of global entanglements and showing flows as being multidirectional. It also offers a multi-perspective approach towards writing a history of whale research by incorporating not only the scientist and his multinational aides at the whaling station, but also the less obvious influences on whale research such as the scientist’s tools, (Japanese) colonial subjects at the whaling station, and the interdependencies with the maritime environment including the whales themselves.
This study shows why the establishment of modern whaling made the Japanese waters an attractive area of research for Western naturalists. A close reading of the historical traces—correspondence, photographs, and published sources—shows that this research did not only rely on professional naturalists, but also on numerous other actors who influenced each other within a complex network that also involved implicit and explicit cultural hierarchies.