Drawing on over a hundred diaries and logs of sailors, Rites and Passages explores the contours of whaling life in the mid 1800s. It describes shipboard rituals, relations between sailors at sea and women ashore, and looks at the brutal and colorful world of men who took to living on vast ocean reaches for up to five years at a time.


“…artful and engaging….in this well-written and beautifully illustrated book, Creighton has done as much to open up the lost world of American whaling as any author since Melville.”

Simon P. Newman, The PA Magazine of History and Biography

“In her informative, engaging book, Creighton…offers valuable insight into the existence of real-life Ishmaels and Ahabs at the height of the American whaling industry….”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Margaret Creighton has written a fascinating book on the world of whalemen in whaling’s golden era.”

E. Anthony Rotundo, author of American Manhood

“a superb book”

Daniel Vickers, American Historical Review

“… an essential reference”

Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., Nautical Research Journal

“… a valuable and important book in a field that remains dominated, at least obliquely, by the genius of Melville.”

Stephen Innes, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“A lively book, and remarkable drawings.”

Labour History Review