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Nautilus shell depicting SS GREAT BRITAIN

Date: 1843
Overall: 148 x 185 x 92 mm, 0.25 kg
Medium: Nautilus shell
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Scrimshaw shell
Object No: 00006807
Place Manufactured:England

User Terms

    This nautilus shell features a carving of the ship SS GREAT BRITAIN and an inscription outlining its cost, construction and launch in Bristol, England. Traditionally scrimshaw was carved on whale bone or teeth and produced onboard 19th century whaling vessels. However, this piece was designed in the style of whalers' scrimshaw as a presentation souvenir. Similar engravings on shells are known to have been sold by the artist in New York.
    SignificanceThis shell demonstrates the skill of scrimshanders and in particular the ornate work of English artist C H Wood. It also reminds us of the significance of the SS GREAT BRITAIN in the role as an immigrant ship to Australia from England.
    HistoryScrimshaw is a maritime folk art tradition that developed onboard whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the term originated, but it comes from the Dutch words 'scrim' meaning to etch and 'shorn' meaning to make. Scrimshaw is produced by engraving, carving, inlaying or assembling bone from marine mammals, including whale bone, teeth and baleen, walrus tusks and shell. Using jackknives, saws, homemade files and sharp sail needles, sailors etched images of women, whaling scenes or other memories of home to pass their time onboard.

    The scrimshaw engraver C H Wood is known for his depictions of the ship SS GREAT BRITAIN. In 1843, GREAT BRITAIN was first launched as a world class vessel that revolutionised passenger travel by using new technology, including an iron hull, screw propeller and a massive steam engine. Scrimshaw art depicting GREAT BRITAIN were popular items of souvenirs at the time, especially with onboard passengers.

    Wood's shell features a lengthy inscription in the centre, detailing information on the ship. It reads 'Description of the GREAT BRITAIN. This splendid vessel was launched at Bristol on the 19th day of July, 1848 and christened the GREAT BRITAIN, by his R.H. Prince Albert. She is one hundred feet longer than our largest line of battleship. Her length from figurehead to taffrail is 322 feet. Her extreme width is 50 feet 6 inches. She is near 4000 tons. Her four engines has the power of a 1000 horses. Her three boilers contain two hundred tons of water. Her pumps are capable of throwing 7000 gallons per minute. She has 24 fires rising from 70 to eighty tons of coal daily. Her cost of building & fitting up is estimated at from 90,000 to 100,000l. Drawn & engraved by C.H. Wood, with a pen knife, 1843'.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Nautilus shell depicting SS GREAT BRITAIN

    Assigned title: Nautilus-Muschel mit Darstellung von SS Great Britain

    Assigned title: Nautilus schelp met beeltenis van SS Great Britain

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