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Hawk's nest half block model of an American whaling brig

Date: 19th century
Overall: Height: 338 mm, width: 1385 mm, depth: 265 mm
Medium: Wood : Mahogany, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Half block model
Object No: 00037216
Place Manufactured:United States

User Terms

    A large hawk's nest half model of a 19th century American whaling brig. The open model is mounted on a mahogany backboard and depicts the starboard side of the vessel.
    SignificanceBefore a ship was built a half model such as this was created to plan a vessel's design and to display the hull to the ship builders and clients. These skilfully crafted models are replicas of their full scale counterparts and provide details of the design and build of individual vessels. Hawk's nest models were used less often than regular half block models, and this particular one is an excellent representation of an American whaling vessel in the 19th century.
    HistoryHawk's nest models are built up with a number of hull sections representing the shape of the vessel's frames at that particular location. In this model there are 29 frame sections. The shape of the hull is then represented by a number of battens or stringers. In this model there are four, representing the sheer of the hull, deck level and two diagonals. Diagonals are specific lines on the half-breadth plan of a set of ship's lines drawings. These lines delineate a 'fair curve' from bow to stern.

    Whaling played an essential part in 19th century life. Industry and households depended on whale products for which there was no substitute. Whale oil was used for lighting and lubrication until 1860 when kerosene and petroleum started to gain popularity. The pure clean oil from sperm whales was a superior source of lighting and the finest candles were made from the whale's wax-like spermaceti. Light and flexible, baleen - the bristle-fringed plates found in the jaws of baleen whales - had many uses in objects which today would be made out of plastic.

    American whaling centred on the north-east coastal town of New Bedford, a booming industry in the 19th century with hundreds of ships regularly heading out to the Pacific Ocean. Australian whaling stations included the settlement at Twofold Bay, NSW which was established by entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd in 1844. In this region and in parts of North America whalers noted that pods of Killer whales regularly helped them in their hunts by herding migrating whales into bays and keeping the animals on the surface, making it easier for the hunters to kill the trapped whales. The Killer whales were often awarded the prize of the killed whales tongue and lips.

    Whaling was a dangerous activity and many boats were known to have been destroyed during hunts. In 1820, the ship ESSEX was lost after it was rammed by a whale in the Pacific Ocean. Only eight of its' twenty crew survived. Large whaling ships and small boats were vulnerable to defensive whales lashing their tails or pushing their bodies into the vessels.

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