The Greenland Whale Fishery

Northeast Region

Whaling was an important industry before the use of electricity. (Whale oil was used in lamps.)  Sailors were often in great danger while hunting whales.  This song and others like it were used as entertainment and as work songs.  The steady rhythms allowed the sailors to work together more easily while they were at sea.


1.  In eighteen hundred and forty-nine,
     On March the seventeenth day,
     We hoisted our colors to our topmast high
     And for Greenland bore away, brave boys,
     And for Greenland bore away.

2.  And when we reached that icy shore
     With our gallant ship in full fold,
     We wished ourselves safe at home again,
     With our friends all on the shore, brave boys,
     With our friends all on the shore.

3.  Our captain stood on the fo’cas’le head  
     With his spyglass in his hand.
     “There’s a whale, there’s a whale, there’s a whale,” cries he,
     “And it blows on every span, brave boys,
     And it blows on every span.”

4.  And when this whale we did harpoon,
     He gave one slap with his tail,
     He upset the boat, we lost five of our crew,
     Neither did we catch that whale, brave boys,
     Neither did we catch that whale.

5.  “Bad news, bad news,” our captain, he cried,
     For it grieved his heart in full store,
     But the losing of that hundred barrel whale,
     It grieved him ten times more, brave boys,
     It grieved him ten times more.

6.  “Then hoist your anchors and away,” cries he,
     “Let us leave this cold country,
     Where the whalefish does grow and the stormy winds do blow,
     And daylight’s seldom seen, brave boys,
     And daylight’s seldom seen.”

You can find a version of this song in Silver Burdett's Making Music 5th Grade
and MacMillan/McGraw-Hill's Spotlight On Music 6th Grade.

Return to Northeast Region Lyrics Sheet Finale File MIDI File

With thanks to Sharon Ogorzalek
 Created: July 2005, Last Updated: 07/28/10