In the mid-18th century Nantucket emerged as the world’s most vigorous whaling port in the colonies, with a substantial fleet dedicated exclusively to pelagic sperm and right whaling on distant grounds. The whaling industry had a major effect upon Hawaiian commerce and trade. As the Northwest fur trade decreased and sandalwood supplies and values dropped, the whaling industry began to fill the economic void. The first New England Whalers came in 1819.
Thousands of Hawaiians shipped out as seamen aboard the whaling ships, so many that the crews were often half Hawaiian. As ‘black men,’ Pacific Islanders ashore on Nantucket lived in ‘New Guinea,’ a segregated section of Nantucket where blacks lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. (The label “New Guinea” was used in numerous cities and towns to designate the section in which people of color resided.) At least six sailor boarding houses operated during the 1820 to 1860 period when Native Hawaiian seamen frequented Nantucket. Together William and Maria ran a boarding house for Pacific Islanders on-shore from Nantucket whaling vessels.