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In 1818 the Chief Manager of the Russian-American Company, Hagemeister, wrote to his subordinate manager Potorochin:

When sperm whales are cast up try to collect the teeth. Send the brains here in barrels, marked with a special inscription. Near the kidneys, in the intestines of these whales, ambergris may be found; order it collected wherever possible....

The teeth were decorative trade items and the ambergris was used in perfuming. Potorochin's station also supplied whale oil for lighting. What was the use of the barrels of brains?

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    There was this group of needy scarecrows... ;) – Schwern Dec 31 '16 at 18:46
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I'm betting they don't really mean brains, that they are talking instead about the spermaceti organ in sperm whale's head. Spermaceti was valuable. They certainly wouldn't skip collecting the spermaceti. See also this article on sperm oil, a major commercial product.

  • OK -- I wasn't aware of the distinction between sperm oil and whale oil from blubber. If sperm whale brains are "on average about 7.8 kilograms" (Wikipedia) they would not fill any barrels anyway. – Aaron Brick Dec 31 '16 at 18:35

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