Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Dundee Whaler

Scottish Song Traditional Sea Shanty

The Dundee Whaler (also known as The Balaena) is a Scottish sea shanty song featuring whaling ships from Dundee.

Ships like the 'Aurora' a barque-rigged steam yacht built by Alexander Stephen and Sons Ltd. in Dundee, Scotland, in 1876, for the Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company, 'Polynia', a 472-ton vessel owned by the Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company (decimated by ice in 1891) and the 'Balaena', a steam whaler sailing from Dundee first in 1891, which outlived all competitors and survived World War I as the last Dundee whaler.

As with most old shanties sung ashore and at sea, there are many different versions of both the song and the title.

Related Scottish Country Dances

The Dundee Whaler

The Dundee Whaler (The Balaena) Traditional Sea Shanty

The noble fleet of whalers went sailing from Dundee
Well manned by British sailors to work upon the sea
On the Western Ocean passage none with them can compare
But the smartest ship to make the trip is Balaena I declare

Oh the wind is on her quarter her engines working free
There's not another whaler that sails out of Dundee
Can beat the ol' Balaena she needs no trial run
We challenged all both great and small from Dundee to St John

It happened on a Tuesday three days out of Dundee
The gale took off her quarter boat and a couple of men you see
It battered at her bulwarks her stanchions and her rails
And left the old Balaena boys a frothing in the gale


There's the new built Terra Nova, she's a model of no doubt,
There's the Arctic and the Aurora, you've heard so much about,
There's Jacklin's model mail boat, the terror of the sea
Couldn't beat the aul' Baleana, boys, on the passage from Dundee.


Bold Jackman cut his canvas and fairly raised his steam
And Captain Guy with Erin Boy was ploughing through the stream
And the noble Terra Nova her boilers nearly burst
And still at the old whaling grounds Balaena got there first


And now the season's over and the ship half full of oil
Our flying jib boom points for home towards our native soil
And when that we have landed boys where rum is very cheap
We'll drink success to the skipper's health for getting us over the deep

The Dundee Whaler Song Video

The Dundee Whaler (The Balaena) Song - Information Video
The Dundee Whaler
Dundee Whaler, The Aurora, c. 1913

Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original The Dundee Whaler, Aurora article on Wikisource.
Image copyright Frank Hurley (public domain), via Wikipedia.

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