what were whale oil's uses during wwii

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During World War II, whale oil had several uses, primarily due to its unique properties and the scarcity of other resources due to the war effort. Here are the main uses of whale oil during that period:
  • Lubrication: Whale oil was used to lubricate precision instruments and industrial machinery, including those in automotive applications. It was particularly valued for its reliability and efficiency in automatic transmissions and locking differential fluids.
  • Machinery and Instruments: The United States used sperm whale oil in instruments aboard aircraft and submarines. The oil's properties were beneficial for high-strength loading applications, and it remained liquid at freezing temperatures, which was ideal for military instruments and machines.
  • Manufacture of Explosives: Whale oil was used in the production of nitroglycerin, a key component of cordite, which was the standard propellant used in British artillery shells and small arms ammunition. The high demand for cordite during the war made glycerine, a by-product of whale oil processing, a crucial material.
  • Food Production: As supplies of butter and vegetable oils failed, whale oil was used to make margarine through the hydrogenation process, which allowed liquid oils to be made into solid fats. This provided an alternative source of fat for the population during wartime rationing.
  • Protective Coatings: Soldiers used whale oil to protect their feet from trench foot, a condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp and cold conditions. Whale oil was also used by British pilots as a protective grease against the cold.
  • Textile Industry: Whale oil was instrumental in allowing jute fibers to be spun mechanically to make fabric, which was then used to produce sandbags for trench fortifications.
  • Soap Production: A common use of whale oil was to make soap, and during the war, the glycerine by-product became the main product of British soap factories.
  • Vitamin Source: Whale liver oil was a significant source of vitamin D, which was important for maintaining the health of the population during the war when other sources of vitamins might have been scarce.
These uses highlight the strategic importance of whale oil during World War II, as it played a role in both military applications and civilian life, contributing to the war effort and the well-being of those on the home front.
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