53 - Old Maui

Words by Traditional
Tune by Traditional

This is a song about the Kamchatka bowhead whale and Pacific sperm whale fishing in the 1850s. The Pacific whalers used to meet on Maui or in nearby Oahu twice a year. In March they fitted out for the summer season in the Arctic, when they fished the bowhead grounds off Kamchatka and the Gulf on Anadyr. In November, they returned to fit out for sperm-whaling in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Southern Seas.

Some versions have unfortunate lyrics about 'native maids', which we have avoided here.

It’s a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We whalermen undergo
And we don’t give a damn when the day is done
How hard the winds did blow
'cause we’re homeward bound from the Artic ground
With a good ship, taut and free
And we don’t give a damn when we drink our rum
With the girls of old Maui

Rolling down to old Maui, me boys
Rolling down to old Maui
We’re homeward bound from the Artic ground
Rolling down to old Maui

Once more we sail with a northerly gale
Towards our island home.
Our mainmast sprung, our whaling done
And we ain’t got far to roam
Six hellish months we passed away
On the cold Kamchatka sea
But now we’re bound from the Arctic ground
Rolling down to old Maui.

Once more we sail with a northerly gale
Through the ice and wind and rain
Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands
We soon shall see again
Our stu’n’s’l booms is carried away
What care we for that sound?
A living gale is after us
Thank God we’re homeward bound

An ample share of toil and care
We whalemen undergo,
But when it’s over, what care we
How bitter the blast may blow?
We’re homeward bound
that joyful sound across the Arctic sea,
We’re homeward bound from the Arctic ground
rolling down to old Maui.