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Crude sperm whale oil used for tempering steel

Date: 20th century
Overall: 178 x 56 x 56 mm, 0.45 kg
Display Dimensions: 183 mm
Medium: Sperm whale Oil. Glass bottle.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Whale oil
Object No: 00006553

User Terms

    Bottle of oil from sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) blubber. Enormously popular in the 19th century it was favoured for its lubricating qualities in extreme temperatures making it ideal for light, rapid machinery. Another feature was its high quality of illumination as it burnt very clearly and brightly without smoke or door. Great quantities of sperm oil went into public and private lighting as well as lighthouses. Another by-product of the sperm oil refining process was high quality soap.
    SignificanceThe extraction and export of whale oil was an essential and profitable industry throughout America and Australia in the late C18 and early C19. It served an important economic role in the colonies and maritime industries at the time.
    HistoryThe Sperm whale gets its name from the spermaceti organ which fills most of its huge head. In the 18th and 19th centuries, whalers sought out the Sperm whale for the valuable spermaceti oil (extracted from the head), which made an excellent lubricant as it maintained its properties at a greater temperature range and under greater pressure than any mineral oil. It tended not to become rancid, dry out, or corrode metals and was popular in wealthier houses as the preferred oil for lamps as it burnt cleaner and brighter than other oils.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Crude sperm whale oil used for tempering steel

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

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