I'm currently reading The Collector of Lost Things. The author mentions that whalers went blind due to the gas escaping from barrels of blubber. Has anyone come across references to something like this related to whaling?
Susan, I did a little research and found that the gas of rotting blubber is probably methane. Consumed in liquid form, as methanol, it is highly toxic and can cause blindness as well as death. The gas is also highly flammable. Sunlight will break down the gas into harmless components but I doubt that sunlight would penetrate a whaler's storage holds.
What I find most troubling is that blubber is usually boiled down fairly quickly into whale oil. Whale oil itself is stable. Could it be that, depending on the weather or other conditions, the raw blubber would be stored below decks for some period before being processed? Or could it be that the whale oil has been improperly processed?
I checked my library and found that this work is available here but, sadly, only the 10 CD audio version. I realize that most historical fiction writers rarely show a bibliography even when they have Author's Notes or an Afterword, but does a bibliography exist in this novel by Jeremy Page which might offer a clue?
The book itself seems very interesting.