Filming the Process of Whaling

Whaling Afloat and Ashore
R: Robert W. Paul. P: Paul’s Animatograph Works. UK 1908

“Although R.W. Paul remained in the film business until 1910, Whaling Afloat and Ashore is thought to be the last of his films to survive, and exists only in an incomplete copy. (…) It is immediately notable for its length and variety. Two years earlier, Paul’s cameraman had made a very static and repetitive film of the Aberdeen University quarter-centenary celebrations, but here there seems to be a genuine effort to instruct the audience in the process of whaling, in much the same way that the near-contemporary A Visit to Peek Frean and Co’s Biscuit Works (Cricks and Martin, 1906), showed every detail of the biscuit-making process. Although the term ‘documentary’ had yet to be coined, this film is a clear ancestor of pioneering works like John Grierson’s Drifters (1929) and Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran (1934), albeit made over two decades earlier.”
Michael Brooke
Screenonline

“In 1896, the Norwegian Government had restricted whaling during certain parts of the year as a result of lobbying from the fishing industry that considered whaling harmful to their operations. This provided an opportunity for Ireland’s Local Government Board to encourage the Norwegian whalers to establish stations on Ireland’s west coast and the Congested Districts Board sold Rusheen to the whaling company for £100. The Norwegians lived and socialised mainly on the nearby ships, coming ashore occasionally to visit the pubs on Inishkea North and South Islands. Once the station was operational, another strange sight greeted the islanders when a film crew arrived and proceeded to capture the whaling activity for posterity in a film entitled Whaling Afloat and Ashore. (…) The film may have had a promotional basis as commercial whaling was a lucrative business at the time and there was also an emerging genre of showing the intricate detail of industrial production processes.”
Patricia Byrne
The Irish Story

More about Robert W. Paul on this site:

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