Whaling was a tough job, with the Seamen risking their lives in the Arctic ice. However, there were compensations. The main attraction must have been the pay. For the first voyage, adventure and a chance to visit a largely unexplored part of the globe may also have entered into it.
The thought of a good catch and a big payday almost certainly brought some crewmen back year after year. Basic pay was at a standard rate usually 10/6 per week in pre-decimal currency. There was also a sliding scale bonus system of 'oil money' and 'bone money', which could make a significant enhancement if the voyage was a productive one. In the 1870s some ordinary seamen could leave the ship with in excess of £10 for their 6-month voyage, a considerable sum in those days. While at sea a married seaman could sign over all or part of his weekly wage to his wife. This would be collected from the ship's agent each week on production of a receipt known as an allotment note.
Whaling ships were allowed to carry duty free goods for their crew. This included spirits, coffee and tobacco. Mr John Hume, manager of three whaling ships had asked permission to carry rum. A reply sent to the customs official at Dundee gave permission for whaling ships to carry duty free rum.