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Harpoon gun

Date: 19th century
Dimensions:
Overall: 70 x 900 x 211 mm, 5.8 kg
Medium: Steel, wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Gun
Object No: 00006579

User Terms

    Description
    This mid-19th century harpoon gun was made by Blakemore and Son. The black powder muzzle-loaded gun was discharged by a percussion cap. Shoulder guns allowed gunners to compensate for the motion of the whaleboat and to aim accurately. The projectile was a bomb lance or whaling bomb, which exploded when it hit the whale.
    SignificanceThis harpoon gun is typical of the weapons used in 19th century whaling in the southern oceans.
    HistoryEarly killing methods were as dangerous to the crews as they were deadly to the whale. Hand-thrown harpoons merely attached a rope to the whale to stop it from escaping. Actual killing of the wounded and thrashing mammal was done at close range. A long lance pierced the lungs or heart for a slow death.

    The gun-fired bomb lance, harpoon and shoulder guns were originally invented by Oliver Allen of New London, Connectictut and were introduced in 1846. The gun, made out of cast iron, weighed 23 pounds and was muzzle-loaded. A percussion cap was used to ignite the powder charge. The gun became widespread from the 1850s onwards and became standard in the whaling industry.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: harpoon percussion gun with walnut stock and fore end

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

    Web title: Harpoon gun

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