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Deck view of a whale boat ready for the chase

Date: 1887
Overall: 397 x 290 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00008033

User Terms

    This engraving depicts a deck view of a whale boat at a scale of 3/8 inch to a foot. The image gives a good indication of the size of the open boat, which features six long oars, six paddles and two tubs.

    This engraving is taken from George Brown Goode's 'Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States, Volume II' published in 1887.
    SignificanceThis engraving illustrates the boats used by the American whaling industry, which by the mid 19th century had been refined into highly specialised craft.
    HistoryDuring the 1800s whaling was a large scale commercial enterprise that was conducted across the globe. The main industry centred on the American north-east coastal town of New Bedford which saw hundreds of ships heading out to the Pacific Ocean on a weekly basis. 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.

    In the 19th century American whalers sailed south to the rich Pacific whaling grounds in search of sperm whales. During the 1840s several hundred ships pursued whales off the coast of Australia. Many called into Australian ports for repairs or supplies after a voyage half-way around the world. Meeting a whaler was the first contact many colonists had with an American.

    Whaling was an extraordinarily dangerous occupation in the 19th century. Whales were hunted from small open boats by men armed with hand-held harpoons and killing lances. The hand-thrown harpoon (or iron) was used to attach the rope to the whale, more often than not resulting in the whaleboat and its crew being towed. The whale was killed by a hand held lance, requiring the whalers to get dangerously close to the wounded and angry animal.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Deck view of a whale boat ready for the chase


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