The Sea

The sea has always been important to the people who live near it. It provides food, jobs, and a route to trade with other countries, but the sea can be a hard and dangerous place to work.

In 1752 ships began to sail from Aberdeen to the Arctic to hunt whales. Whale blubber was used to make oil for lamps that lit people's homes. Whalebone was used in dressmaking. Whaling was very dangerous. Sometimes whales overturned the small rowing boats used to hunt them. The men aboard could drown or freeze in the cold Arctic Ocean.

By the 1830s there were not enough whales left for people to keep hunting them and other industries became more important. In the 1800s Aberdeen shipbuilding became well known throughout the world Aberdeen shipyards built wooden ships that were used for trading with other places in Britain, or other countries.

Until the late 1800s, there were many small fishing communities on the east coast of Scotland. Fishing was done from small boats, using lines of hooks. The first steam trawler arrived in Aberdeen in 1882. Trawlers use big nets to catch lots of fish. This way of fishing became popular and people moved to Aberdeen to work on trawlers. They could be away at sea for weeks. Because of over-fishing, there are now only a few trawlers based in Aberdeen

In the 1960s people started to look for oil in the North Sea. Aberdeen became the centre for the oil industry in Britain. Many people work in the oil industry. Some of them work in offices, but others work on oil platforms at sea. Like fishermen they have to stay away from home when they are working.

When ships are in danger of being wrecked lifeboats are used to try and save the people on board. Before the 1900s, Aberdeen's lifeboats did not have engines. They had to be rowed out to sea or towed out by the harbour tugs. Lifeboats today are very difficult to sink and can go to the rescue in very bad storms. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) runs Aberdeen's lifeboat service. The lifeboat's crew are all volunteers.

North Boats Poster Divers Helmet Vessel For Sale Poster


  1. Imagine what life is like at sea. Read about some of the boats in the timelines and select one to write a story on.
  2. Look at the fishing timeline. How had things changed between the beginning and end of the timeline?
  3. Find out what is produced from oil.  Discuss how different our lives would be without oil?