Sea shanties have gone viral on TikTok, and it they may not be the weirdest thing to become a hit on the social media site, it came totally unexpected. Google Trends revealed on Tuesday that "sea shanties" had been searched more than any other time in the platform's history, as people are seeking answers to the latest internet trend.

Sea shanties are work songs that were once commonly sung aboard ships or large merchant sailing vessels that needed dozens of sailors to function. The songs were sung by all crew members in chorus to build community and to keep rhythm during work.

One such song which talks about the slaughter of a whale and running out of rum while out at sea has gone viral on TikTok. It all started in the last days of 2020 when Nathan Evans, a TikToker based in Scotland, posted a video of himself singing the sea shanty "Wellerman."

It's a New Zealand folksong from the mid-19th century about a Sydney whaling company called "The Weller Bros," whose employees and ships were called "Wellermen." The lyrics talk about a supply ship bringing "sugar and tea and rum" to a whaling crew off the shore of New Zealand.

Some catchy lyrics of the song are: "Soon may the Wellerman come, to bring us sugar and tea and rum. Someday when the tonguin' is done, we'll take our leave and go." According to popular vlogger Hank Green, the lyric "when the tonguing is done" means butchering the whale for meat.

Evans, who is a postman by profession, is also amazed at how quickly the song went viral after he posted it on December 27. His followers on the social media site have also increased from 45,000 to 347,000.

"It went wild. I don't really know what happened," the 26-year-old told CNET.

While it can't be said what factor in the rhythmic song made it go viral, for Evans it has been "therapeutic." He said: "For me, it's quite therapeutic because it's just vocals and a bass drum, and people harmonizing. It's quite a lot of people together."

The popular video-sharing app TikTok Photo: AFP / Lionel BONAVENTURE