Nobody knows how many whales were killed during the great age of whaling, but one estimate suggests that about 300,000 were slaughtered in the four decades or so to 1870. That may not seem an especially vast number, but then whale numbers were not vast to begin with. In any case, the hunting was enough to drive many species to the edge of extinction. As whale numbers dwindled, whaling voyages grew longer and longer – up to four years became common and five years not unknown – and whalers were driven to search the loneliest corners of the most distant seas. All this translated into greatly increased costs. By the 1850s a gallon of whale oil sold for $2.50 – half an average worker’s weekly wage – yet still the remorseless hunt continued. Many species of whale – possibly all – would have vanished for ever but for a sequence of unlikely events that began in Nova Scotia in 1846 when a man named Abraham Gesner invented what for some time would be the most valuable product on earth.
-From At Home by Bill Bryson, page 129
Teaser Tuesdays is a fun weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. I change the rules a little bit to suit my own purposes: I hand pick the teaser, rather than choose one randomly. I also very frequently post more than two sentences. :)