Thar be Whales.

Because I am not a native New England-er, New England-y things excite me. A lot.

I could do without the grey days but cobble stones, Federalist architecture, and narrow streets make my heart sing and my hand start reaching for my camera. Things like clamming? Sure! The beach? Yes!  And eating oysters from the same beach I swim at in the summer? Second helpings,please! A vague saltiness to the air? I love it. Wearing loafers without socks as soon as the thermometer hits 45F like an asshole? Already on it.

So when my pal Chelsea invited me on a trip to the historic port town New Bedford, MA to check out the Whaling Museum, I was packed and waiting in the car before she could finish raising her voice in questioning.

Chelsea, Cirilia and I were so hepped up on nerdiness and excitement that we all wore nautically-themed outfits (without consulting each other!) Click on the .GIF to spend hours watching us hop up and down in anticipation of learning more about whaling culture!)

The museum was far more extensive than I had imagined and contained at least 4 whole whale skeletons, including one that was still dripping oil.

Naturally, there was a large collection sea faring items and it was difficult not to take pictures of everything with a compass rose on it. I think that I withheld well.

There were also exhibits showing many of the items containing whale oil. Some were what you would expect, Victorian apothecary-style glass bottles. But I was really surprised to see more modern looking items like the ones above. Brake fluid? Colored pencils?! Say wha?

I spent a really embarrassingly long time oogling the whale bone items. The swifts, used for yarn, were so entrancing and slightly luminous- that great intersection of delicate and strong. The bows holding the joints together were a great contrast to the texture of the bone. Simply dreamy! And you would not believe how many times we yelled “scrimshaw”! And, of course, there was at least one whale bone corset, although it is worth noting (if you are a stickler for such things) that the “bone” being referred to is actually baleen. Baleen is rigid but springy so when someone opines about those poor Victorian women in their corsets made from BONE! take heed that sweet, old great-great-grandma might not have been tortured for fashion as much as we would like to think.

I also spent a really long time taking pictures of this peep hole diorama. I’ll spare you the full version.

There’s even a half-sized model of an actual New Bedford whaling boat in a building. It’s in a beautiful 1900s building that was built specifically to house that half-size model of a whaling boat. Yes!

And, a full sized shot from the museum’s web page:

After leaving, I had so many whales on the mind that I decided to work on my homework for a wax casting class that I am currently taking. I exorcised my deep sea demons by carving out a little sperm whale. I named him Norman Whaler. More photos to come once he is cast.

The only really disappointing part of the trip was that the museum gift shop was kind of…. crap. More scrimshaw and tote bags, please.

However, I was going through a bag of charms the other day when I noticed that there were some uninvited stowaways:

Bottled whales!

2 thoughts on “Thar be Whales.

  1. ian c. says:

    that’s a very manly harpoon thrower you are standing in front of there in the top picture, my friend… 🙂

    hey did I ever tell you my dad volunteers on an historic wooden portuguese cod fishing ship that sails out of philadelphia? I know cod are not as cool or big as whales, but the ship also had/has dories and lots of sails, and is made of wood, and is highly beautiful. !!!

  2. […] •Normal Whaler, Finished! […]

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