Rites and Passages presents a social history of American whaling. Drawing on the diaries of sailors and on ship logs, this volume examines the beliefs and behaviors of men who labored at sea. It looks at the relationship between sailors and society ashore, reexamines the "tyrannical" sea captain, and studies the social dynamics of the ship's company. In particular it considers the ways in which whalemen related to women and how seafaring served as a rite of passage into manhood. For more than a century the American public has understood whaling primarily through the work of a gifted man named Herman Melville. It is clear that other whalemen had tales to tell as well, and in Rites and Passages they share their compelling vision of life at sea.