Otto Wilhelm Lindholm

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Otto Wilhelm Lindholm
Painting portait OWL.jpg
Born July 17, 1832
Utö, Grand Duchy of Finland
Died December 29, 1914 (age 82)
Vladivostok, Russian Empire
Nationality Finnish
Occupation Businessman, whaler

Otto Wilhelm Lindholm (17 July 1832 – 29 December 1914) was a Finnish businessman and whaleman who served under the Russian flag.

Early years

Lindholm was born on the island of Utö. He spent his youth duck hunting and fishing.[1]

Trading and whaling voyages, 1848-1861

Lindholm shipped on his first voyage aboard the ship Souame, which sailed from Turku in October 1848 with a cargo of timber to Cádiz, returning to Viborg the following May with a shipment of salt. Between September 1849 and August 1851, he sailed on the Russian-American Company ship Atka on a voyage that took him to Valparaíso, San Francisco, Ayan, and Petropavlovsk. He then sailed in the ship Turku on a whaling voyage that lasted from September 1852 to May 1857, which caught whales in the Gulf of Alaska, the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan, and the Sea of Okhotsk, and visited Honolulu, Ponape, and Guam for men and provisions. During this voyage he was promoted to chief officer and finally acting commander. Following this a whaling company in Helsinki gave him command of the brig Storfursten Constantin (214 registered tons), which sailed on a voyage that lasted nearly four years – from September 1857 to August 1861 – and cruised for bowhead whales in the Sea of Okhotsk during the summer and gray whales in the lagoons of Baja California in the winter, stopping at Honolulu, Guam, and Hakodate during the spring and fall for provisions. The vessel returned with a cargo of 1,900 bbls of whale oil and 23,000 lbs of whalebone.[1]

Whaling in Siberia, 1862-1887

Between the fall of 1861 and the spring of 1862, Lindholm traveled across Siberia by sleigh and steamer to Nikolayevsk. From there he sailed in a small sloop to the Sea of Okhotsk, where he spent the summer collecting whalebone from the shore left by stranded whales. Beaching his sloop near the mouth of the Uda River, Lindholm and his companions traveled upriver to Udsk for the winter.[1]

The following year, 1863, he found a site for his whaling station at the head of Tugur Bay. Situated at the mouth of the Kuteen River, on the eastern side of the mouth of the Tugur River, here his men built winter quarters and a warehouse for supplies. Before Christmas Lindholm had a house built for himself in "Yakut fashion": twenty square feet, it consisted of a parlor with a sofa, a kitchen and dining room, and four bedrooms divided by boat sails. Built of logs and insulted with six inches of earth and clay as well as two feet of ice and snow, a clay stove set in one corner of the main room provided heat while windows made of ice provided light. Bearskins covered the floor and most of the walls, while deerskin covered both sides of the door, built on the lee side of the house to shield the men inside from prevailing northwesterly winds. Tables were built of wood and whale vertebrae were used as chairs. On a point five miles from the station they also erected a large tank for storing blubber, provided with windlasses for hoisting the blubber into the tank – a house was built nearby with a kitchen and two rooms for fourteen men.[1]

In 1864 and for most of 1865, Lindholm was only able to send out boat crews, which were fitted out for a fortnight to search for whales in Tugur Bay as well as nearby bays and gulfs. They cruised for whales during the day and camped on the beach at night. Lindholm later purchased two schooners: the Caroline (1865-1870), which he had bought from the Russian-American Company – along with its houses and trying-out establishment on the point at Mamga – and the 160-ton Hannah Rice (1866-1875), formerly a tender to a whaleship for a number of years. In 1873 and 1874 he also used the barque Tugur, with the Hannah Rice acting as tender. With these, manned with two or three boats each, he could move back and forth between the surrounding bays, including Uda, Ulban, and Nikolaya. The boats typically sailed up to whales and fastened to them with hand-held harpoons and were dispatched either with hand-thrown lances or shot with more effective bomb lances, which were fired from a shoulder gun. Once killed, the whale was towed by several boats or the larger schooners and taken to Tugur or Mamga, pulled ashore at high water, and flensed at low water. This attracted the attention of a number of bears, which the men at the try-works had to shoot at continually – during one cull lasting eight to ten days, Lindholm, with two men and armed with a Winchester, killed fifty-five of them. The bears even broke into one of the tanks while the men were away, biting or tearing off bits of blubber.[1]

During his first decade of whaling, 1864 to 1873, Lindholm managed to catch sixty-five whales, which produced 4,710 barrels of oil and 15 tons of bone.[2] The catch at the end of the season was shipped to Honolulu or San Francisco by a chartered vessel. Lindholm and his men usually wintered at Tugur in the 1860s and at Mamga in the 1870s, while the schooners were hauled up the riverbank at high tide either at the mouth of the Tugur or Mamga River to protect them from being damaged by the ice. During the spring and fall Lindholm traveled to Nikolayevsk for supplies and men, either by reindeer or canoe when the ground was bare and the navigation was open, or by snowshoe and dog sled when sufficient snow had fallen and the ice was solid fast. They also hunted game – including ducks and geese, reindeer, moose, and foxes – and fished for tomcod in the Tugur River to provide additional fare – the sled dogs, meanwhile, were given salmon and seal or whale meat.[1]

Lindholm employed a diversity of men at his stations, including fellow Finns, Tungus and Yakuts, Americans, Russians, Japanese, and Pacific Islanders. His right hand man was Tornqvist (1862-1870), a Finn like himself, whom he had first met in Honolulu in the fall of 1853 when he had transferred from the barque Souame to the Turku as a harpooner. When Lindholm was promoted to acting captain during that voyage Tornqvist was made acting first officer, and he served in that capacity on the brig Storfursten Constantin as well. Tornqvist led boat crews and commanded the Hannah Rice – as Lindholm usually commanded the Caroline – and was left in charge of the station when Lindholm was gone. In January 1871 he decided to settle in Nakhodka – later that year he accidentally shot and killed himself while out duck hunting. Lindholm also hired his brother Adolph as shipkeeper for a couple of seasons (1871-1872), but he proved inept. Gregor (1863-1868), a Tungus, went on hunting expeditions with Lindholm and often accompanied him on trips to Nikolayevsk. He hired several Americans experienced in the whaling trade, including Hutchinson (1865-1875) and Rice (1866-1867) – former commanders of the Caroline and Hannah Rice, respectively – as boatheaders, while the former also commanded the Hannah Rice (1873-1875) after the death of Tornqvist; Watson (1864-1868), former second officer of the Mary, of New Bedford, who was also engaged as a boatheader by Lindholm following the wreck of that vessel in Uda Gulf; and Lewis Williams (1873-1874),[3] who commanded the bark Tugur. Three Russians – Koustakin (1863-1872), son of a farmer in Blagoveshchensk, Habarov (1864-1872), and Phillipov (1870) – served as boatheader and harpooners, respectively. Lindholm also shipped four Japanese sailors in Hakodate in the spring of 1871, but two died of exposure during a September storm in Uda Gulf. A Kanaka named Jack served as harpooner and boatheader for a few seasons (1870-1871) as well.[1]

In 1880 and 1881, Lindholm fitted out the steam-brig Sibir on whaling voyages, the first going to the Sea of Okhotsk. In 1886 and 1887, he again sent out the Sibir on whaling and trading voyages, this time to the Bering Sea.[1]


Lindholm settled in Vladivostok in 1873. There he was involved in the shipping and banking businesses, built five lighthouses (including one on Askold Island in 1880-1881, one at the mouth of the Syfoon River, one at the western entrance to the Bosphorus in 1883, and another on Cape Povarotnaja in 1894), flour mills (1879 and 1880-1881), houses, barracks, hospitals, the naval yard and dry dock (1891-1896), and founded a brick factory and gold and coal mines.[1]

Personal life

Lindholm married twice: first to a Miss Bothmann in Bremen (1869-1873), and then to Natalie Nordman (1876-1914) in Saint Petersburg. In 1869 he brought Miss Bothmann to Tugur with him, even bringing up her piano and furniture. There they spent the winter together, while in the summer of 1870 she accompanied him on cruises for whales out in the bay. He had four daughters with his second wife, including Natalie (1878-1962), Helen (b. 1879), Ella (1880-1882), and Aina (b. 1884).[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lindholm, O. V., Haes, T. A., & Tyrtoff, D. N. (2008). Beyond the frontiers of imperial Russia: From the memoirs of Otto W. Lindholm. Javea, Spain: A. de Haes OWL Publishing.
  2. ^ Tønnessen, Johan; Arne Odd Johnsen (1982). The History of Modern Whaling. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-520-03973-4.
  3. ^ Williams, H. (1964). One whaling family. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, p. 64.
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