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Harpoon rifle

Date: c 1850
Overall: 54 x 953 x 212 mm, 9.6 kg
Medium: Cast iron (?), brass, leather, hemp rope
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Harpoon rifle
Object No: 00003703

User Terms

    The rifle is a very solid cast rifle with brass pin foresight, 'v' notch back sight, and percussion mechanism. Hemp rope is attached.
    SignificanceThis is an example of a harpoon rifle used for hunting large marine animals, and is representative of the whaling industry.
    HistoryWhaling has been an important industry for many cultures for centuries. Whaling provided the first fishing industry and the first exports for the colony of NSW in 1791. During the 1800s a variety of whale species were a valuable resource with their oil used in lamp fuel, lubricants and candles, their baleen in corsets and buggy whips and their ambergris in perfumes and soaps. Whaling became more industrialised as technology advanced, with the consequence of smaller whale populations each year. During the twentieth century, the industry became more controversial and controlled with quotas set for countries and cultures. Nations are generally divided into pro- and anti-whaling factions, with whale populations closely monitored by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). By 1978, whale products were no longer needed and Australia banned whaling and the import of whale products. It now supports the goal of a global ban on whaling.

    The hand-held shoulder gun was used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The projectile was a bomb lance or whaling bomb, which exploded when it hit the whale.

    Hemp rope, which was covered in tar, was used in the whaling industry up until the mid nineteenth century when it was superseded by manila rope. Hemp was durable, whereas manila was stronger.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Harpoon rifle

    (not entered): Shoulder harpoon launcher

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