BSWF British Southern Whale Fishery

The British southern whale fishery, which operated to the south and west of England, commenced in 1775 and for the next eighty-five years the trade was almost exclusively carried out from London.  For the first fifteen years the trade was conducted primarily in the mid to south Atlantic but by the mid-1790s it had moved to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Initially, the move was limited to the areas off the coasts of Africa, South America and the east coast of Australia.  But by 1815 the trade (which was often referred to as the south seas trade) had spread to the wider Pacific, encompassing areas in the south, central and north Pacific, as well as the rim areas between Japan and New Guinea.  In the Indian Ocean the trade extended north to the Seychelles and into the waters around Timor and the Moluccas.

This project is a robust and coherent area of applied research into the British Southern Whale Fishery, building on work undertaken by A.G.E. Jones between 1960 and the mid 1980s. The online, searchable database supplies details of voyages, and the people involved in the BSWF between 1775 and 1859. A complete, static dataset will be available for downloading and continuing research.

The Harpooner: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

BSWF Voyage Database

The BSWF Voyage Database contains some 2550 whaling voyage entries dating from 1775 to 1859. Search now

 Whaling c 1800 - photo by Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images

BSWF Crew Database

The BSWF Crew database includes over 13,500 individual crew entries relating to voyages between 1775 and 1859. Search now

 The ships 'Vigilant' and 'Harpooner' offshore

Ships of the Trade

Some 923 vessels sailed as part of the British Southern Whale Fishery. Read about some of these vessels. PDF

Sperm Whale

An Overview

Overview of the BSWF which operated from British ports and covered all waters south of Britain. PDF

Daniel Bennett - owner of many BSWF vessels

Owners and Masters

Owners and Masters of the vessels engaged in the BSWF have rich histories to reveal. Open page

Sperm Whale

Explanatory Notes

The BSWF project recognises the efforts of those who have contributed directly or indirectly. PDF

Sperm Whale

Statistical Datasets

Contemporary Statistical tables illustrating aspects of the BSWF trade. PDF

By Gabriel Barathieu ( [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Get in Touch

Do you have any questions, comments or information to share?

Please contact us by email:, or use the online comments page


  • Compilers - A. G. E. Jones (Tunbridge Wells, deceased); Dale Chatwin (Brisbane, Australia); Rhys Richards (Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Contributors – Jane Clayton (Crete, Greece); Mark Howard (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Database Management and Programming – John Nicholls (University of Hull)
  • Databases hosted and supported by Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull


Back to top