From several side streets that branched off from the waterfront came the clanging of a blacksmith's hammer and anvil. In front of their bright hot forges, shipsmiths made the metal eyes, hooks, and sheeting needed for the whale ships. They hammered out the harpoons and blades needed to kill and cut up the whales. They also formed the hoops of iron that coopers used to build barrels.
The fresh smell of white oak shavings wafted out from a cooper's shop. Conveniently located on the waterfront, cooper shops oversaw the construction of casks to hold whale oil. Highly skilled coopers cut planks by eye so that they fitted together with a watertight seam. The oak planks were shaped, heated, and pulled together with iron hoops into a barrel shape. Many casks were then disassembled and bundled together to be stored in the ship's hold until needed. Other barrels were filled with fresh water, ships' bread, and other supplies necessary for the long whaling voyage.
Library of Congress