The White Whale Sighting May 1647


The White Whale Sighting May 1647

The following entries were found in the memorandum book of Antony de Hooges, secretary of the patroonship of Rensselaerswijck.
The whale sightings must have created quite a stir because it is extremely rare to find such accounts preserved among mundane business records. As you read these accounts keep in mind that Herman Melville could trace his ancestry back to New Netherland through the Gansevoort family in his maternal line, and that Petrus Stuyvesant arrived in New Netherland as the new director general in May of 1647.
(The memorandum book is in box 31 of the “Van Rensselaer Manor Papers” held by Manuscripts and Special Collections of the New York State Library.)

Transcription:
On the 29th of March in the year 1647 a certain fish appeared before us here in the colony, which we estimated to be of a considerable size. He came from below and swam past us a certain distance up to the sand bars and came back towards evening, going down past us again. He was snow-white, without fins, round of body, and blew water up out of his head, just like whales or tunas. It seemed very strange to us because there are many sand bars between us and Manhattan, and also because it was snow-white, such as no one among us has ever seen; especially, I say, because it covered a distance of 20 [Dutch] miles of fresh water in contrast to salt water, which is its element. Only God knows what it means. But it is certain, that I and most all of the inhabitants [watched] it with great amazement.
On the same evening that this fish appeared before us, we had the first thunder and lightening of the year.
On the 19th of April in the year 1647 another fish appeared here around noon before Fort Orange with the high water (seafaring men who have sailed to Greenland judged it to be a whale). It was of considerable size as the previous one (we estimated it to be over 40 feet long). It was brown in color like a [ ] with large fins on its back and blew water out of its head like the one before. He swam upstream against this extraordinary current. It seemed strange to me because it has been several years since a tuna has appeared here. It caused great amazement how the fish had swum so far and [ ] in this spring two such large fish should appear, [ ] is unheard of, for reasons stated about the previous fish.

Pasted from <http://www.nnp.org/nnrc/Documents/white_whale/whale.html

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