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Whale Oil
Whale Oil Versus the Others
Whale Oil Uses
The Size of the Sperm Whale
Sperm Whale Head Anatomy
Sperm Whale Oil
Whale Oil Barrel
Historic Prices
Whalemen in the Oilfields
Whaling Control
Cia. Ballenera del Norte S.A.

Whale Oil Barrel

Through the years there has been occasional idle speculation that the petroleum barrel was somehow a descendent of the whale oil barrel.  Such is not the case, and it never was.  They are not related.  The petroleum barrel, as explained in a previous chapter, contains 42 gallons.  Sources used in researching the whale oil barrel ranged from 30 to 35 gallons.  Like the early days of the petroleum barrel (1860's), the whale oil barrel didn't seem to settle exactly for a prescribed gallonage in its infancy.  The sources used here mentioned capacity as follows:


Scoresby (1820)

30-33 gallons


Ellis'es glossary (1980)

35 gallons (approx.)



 Ellis (1980) in his glossary states that a whale oil barrel of approximately 35 gallons is a unit of measurement.

In the early days of the fishery, the ship's carpenter might have been an influence on the size of actual whale oil barrels, if they were made at sea.  The size could have depended on his store of wood and the dimensions of the pieces, especially in the last months of the whaling season when perhaps only scraps were left.


© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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