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Blubber spade

Date: 19th century
Overall: 1987 mm, 5.4 kg
Medium: Steel, wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Blubber spade
Object No: 00006585
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    Spades were used for cutting up or 'cutting in' the whale. Several different types of spades were used for the separate parts of the whole carcass. Cutting spades were used to cut free the flesh adhering to the oil-producing blubber and were often pinned through the socket to prevent loss.

    Oil was the primary reason for whale hunting and was an important fuel for lighting during the 18th and 19th centuries. Oil was also used in the manufacture of hundreds of products including soap and margarine.
    SignificanceThis blubber spade is an excellent example of an important and common tool used in the whaling industry.
    HistoryAfter killing the whale the first processing task was to strip off the valuable oil-producing blubber which lay beneath the skin (flensing). Early deep sea whalers towed the whale to the side of the ship and stripped the blubber with large flensing knives. It was then hauled on board for processing and the carcass thrown overboard. Early bay whalers used a similar process, towing the whales to shore stations where they were flensed in the shallow waters prior to being processed on land.

    No part of the whale was wasted in the modern whaling process. The dead whale was hauled up tail first onto the flensing deck by a massive cable. Teams of flensers started from the head and stripped the blubber and then hacked it into manageable blocks. Pressurised steam digesters separated the oil from the liquid product which was dried, ground into powder and sold as whale meal for animal feed.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Blubber spade

    Assigned title: Head spade

    Collection title: Tilbrook collection

    Related People
    Maker: Scorrar

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