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Boat Fastened to Whale by Harpoon and Line, Killing the Whale with Bomb Lance

Date: 1887
Dimensions:
Overall: 289 x 232 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00008035

User Terms

    Description
    This engraving after the painting by J S Ryder depcits a boat on the crest of a wave fastened to whale by harpoon and line. The harpooner is shooting a bomb lance from the bow of the boat. A whaling ship can be seen in the distance.

    This engraving is taken from George Brown Goode's 'Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States, Volume II' published in 1887.
    SignificanceThis engraving shows the use of the 'bomb lance' or exploding harpoon by American whalers in the mid 1800s. Development of exploding harpoons - combined with the steam ship - transformed whaling into the modern industry we know today.
    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 1800s, even after the invention of the bomb lance (an explosive harpoon fired from a gun) in the middle of the century. Whales were still hunted from small open boats which were often towed by the whale in an effort to rid itself of the pain inflicted by the harpoon, and were occasionally capsized or destroyed.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Boat Fastened to Whale by Harpoon and Line, Killing the Whale with Bomb Lance

    Primary title: THE WHALE FISHERY, BOAT FASTENED TO WHALE BY HARPOON AND LINE, KILLING THE WHALE WITH BOMB LANCE

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