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Hamburg whaling flags in 17th century

Last modified: 2011-05-13 by german editorial team
Keywords: hamburg | whale |
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  • Introduction
  • Flag#1
  • Flag#2
    • Introduction

      Whaling was a business, that was brought to Hamburg by Dutch whalers during the sea wars English vs. Dutch in 17th century. Local whalers where catching those giant mammals from spring to the end of summer in Greenland and Svalbard. Whaling led to a temporal exhaustion of those whaling grounds and therefore whaling moved to the West Greenland seas. Being profitable in the beginning, in the new grounds whalers often were threatened by sudden break-ups of ice and by pirates. Between 1650 and 1850 the whalers of Hamburg made about 6000 voyages.
      It is doubtful, how those flags looked like, for the only source I could get were two paintings, both made about 1680.


      [Hamburg whaling #1(Germany)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 17 Oct 2009

      The ratio is approx 1:2. It is a red flag with a white oval shifted to the hoist. In the oval is the black silhouette of a sperm whale (not unequal to Soviet submarine of Typhoon class). The shade of the red colour is slightly orange in source. (my choice: RGB (255/26/0)). The flag is hoisted upon the stern of whaler "DIE SONNE", depicted by F.W.Stuhr, about 1680
      Source: Carsten Prange: "Auf zur Reise durch Hamburgs Geschichte - A Jouney through Hamburg's History", Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-920384-35-0; p.180
      Klaus-Michael Schneider; 17 Oct 2009


      [Hamburg whaling #2(Germany)] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 17 Oct 2009

      The ratio is approx 3:5. It is a red flag, divided by two narrow horizontal white stripes. Between the stripes shifted to the hoist is a white "heraldic" whale, probably a blue whale, surrounded by an oval white wreath of laurel. The flag can be seen in a painting of Elias Galli, made about 1680, showing "Hamburg seen from river Elbe", The picture shows the return of Hamburg's convoy ships "KAISER LEOPOLD I.", "WAPEN VON HAMBURG" and "KÖNIG SALOMONS GERICHT", probably just an armed merchant ship. The whaling flag is hoisted upon the stern of "WAPEN VON HAMBURG".
      Source: Hamburgmuseum, expositon no.1934,48; spotted on 9 August 2008
      Klaus-Michael Schneider; 17 Oct 2009

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