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Baleen from a humpback whale beached at Twofold Bay, Eden

Date: 1995
Overall: 480 x 140 x 50 mm, 0.06 kg
Medium: Baleen
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Rene Davidson
Object Name: Baleen
Object No: 00040042
Place Manufactured:Eden

User Terms

    Triangular dark brown piece of baleen taken from a humpback whale that beached itself on the shores of Twofold Bay, Eden in 1995. Eden is an important feeding ground for whales, with mothers and calves stopping there from September to late November on their return migration south to the cool waters of Antarctica.
    SignificanceThis piece of baleen provides a contemporary link for Twofold Bay with its whaling industry past. The bay is particularly known for its history of whaling and the working relationship that developed between the whalers and a pod of killer whales.
    HistoryBaleen comprises plates of keratin (material that makes up hair, horn and fingernails) that line the mouths of the toothless 'mysticete' family of whales. This black/brown material hangs from the upper portion of the mammal's mouth and acts as a strainer for fish and plankton that are swallowed with the water then expelled by the tongue. Baleen is similar in texture to hoofs and horns of cattle and has a lengthwise grain. Upon removal from a whale, baleen pieces (which can range from 30cm to 4.5m) were historically scraped, steamed, cut and split into usable sizes.

    Also known as whalebone, baleen was utilised in the 19th century production of corsets, whips, fishing rods and other items that need stiffening yet also needed to bend. By the close of the 1800s, baleen had become a more valuable commodity than whale oil. The invention of spring steel at the beginning of the 20th century, however, saw baleen become outmoded, contributing to the collapse of the whaling industry in the early 1900s.

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