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Swivel barb harpoon

Date: 19th century
Overall: 34 x 1924 x 104 mm, 2.4 kg
Medium: Hand forged steel, wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Harpoon
Object No: 00006564

User Terms

    This swivel barb harpoon was made of hand forged steel. It was a hand held harpoon which would have been used from an open whale boat.
    SignificanceThis swivel barb harpoon is an example of the types of handheld implements used in whaling during the 19th century.
    HistoryUntil the 1860s with the introduction of the harpoon gun, whaling was an extraordinarily dangerous occupation. Whales were hunted from small open boats by men often only armed with hand-held harpoons and killing lances. The hand-thrown harpoon (or iron) was used merely to attach the rope to the whale resulting in an angry, wounded whale. This would more often than not end with the whaleboat and its crew being towed by the whale in an effort to rid itself of the pain inflicted by the harpoon. This was referred to by American whalers at the 'Nantucket Sleighride'.

    For more than 200 years, whaling was a vital industry around the world. It was the source of many important products which could not be found or produced elsewhere at the time. It also provided tens of thousands of men and their families with a livelihood.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Killer-whale or black fish harpoon

    Web title: Swivel barb harpoon

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

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