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Whale oil

Whale oil is the oil obtained from the blubber of various species of whales, particularly the three species of Right Whale (Eubalaena japonica, E. glacialis, and E. australis) and the Bowhead Whale (Balaena mysicetus) prior to the modern era, as well as several other species of baleen whale. Train oil proper is right whale oil, but this term has been applied to all blubber oils, and in Germany, to all marine animal oils: fish oils, liver oils, and blubber oils. The most important whale oil was sperm or spermaceti oil, yielded by Sperm Whales.

Whale oil is chemically a liquid wax and not a true oil. It flows readily, is clear, and varies in colour from a bright honey yellow to a dark brown, according to the condition of the blubber from which it has been extracted. Stearin and spermaceti may be separated from whale oil at low temperatures; at under 0°C these constituents may be almost completely crystallized and filtered out. When removed and pressed, this deposit is known as whale tallow, and the oil from which it is removed is known as pressed whale oil; yet is sometimes passed as sperm oil.

The first principal use of whale oil was as an illuminant in lamps and as candle wax. Whale oil later came to be used in oiling wools for combing and other uses. It was the first of any animal or mineral oil to achieve commercial viability. It was also used to heal soldiers' wounds in war.[citation needed]

However, with the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling, whale oil has all but ceased to be viable, as substitutes have been found for most of the uses of whale oil, most notably jojoba oil.

In literature

The pursuit and use of whale oil, along with many other aspects of whaling, are discussed in Moby-Dick.

See also

  • Oleochemical

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Whale_oil". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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