Article ID: CBB364878269

War of the Whales: Climate Change, Weather and Arctic Conflict in the Early Seventeenth Century (2020)


Beginning in 1580, average annual temperatures across the Arctic cooled amid the regional onset of the 'Grindelwald Fluctuation', a particularly cold but volatile period in the Little Ice Age. By contributing to socioeconomic trends that raised the cost of vegetable oils, climatic cooling encouraged European merchants to establish rival whaling operations around the frigid archipelago of Svalbard, roughly halfway between Norway and the North Pole. From 1611 until 1619, European whalers depended on temporary encampments set up along the shores of bays in the islands of Svalbard, and eventually the nearby island of Jan Mayen. When regional sea ice registered the climatic trends of the Grindelwald Fluctuation by besetting these bays, whalers from different European nations and companies coped by cooperating with one another. Yet when the volatility of the Grindelwald Fluctuation in the already variable climate of Svalbard and Jan Mayen drew ice away from the bays, violence often broke out between rival whalers and their escorting warships. Shifting environmental circumstances therefore played a previously ignored role in inciting and mitigating violence in the first decade of the Spitsbergen whaling industry. These relationships can offer new perspectives on the future of geopolitical competition in a warming Arctic.

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Authors & Contributors
Smith, Hilda L.
Dorsey, Kurk
Harris, Jonathan Gil
Mulcahy, Matthew
Heazle, Michael
Borrelli, Arianna
Environment and History
Environmental History Review
Renaissance Studies
Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Journal of Historical Geography
William and Mary Quarterly
Cambridge University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
University of Washington Press
University of California, San Diego
Liveright Publishing Corporation A Division of W.W. Norton and Company
Climate and climatology
Social relations; social groups
Environmental sciences
Environmental history
Pomponazzi, Pietro
Descartes, René
Cabeo, Niccolo
Ekman, Vagn Walfrid
Nansen, Fridtjof
Banks, Joseph
British Isles
Northern Europe
17th century
16th century
18th century
15th century
19th century
Stanislaw Leszczynski Academy

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