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Dolphin figurine scrimshandered from whale tooth

Date: late 20th century
Overall: 61 x 108 x 35 mm, 0.1 kg
Display Dimensions: 59 x 110 mm
Medium: Whale tooth
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transfer from Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service
Object Name: Scrimshaw
Object No: 00000907

User Terms

    This is a piece of three dimensional scrimshaw made out of a whales tooth into the shape of a dolphin. An interesting feature is that the base of the sculpture is fashioned from an oval cross section segment of whale's tooth.
    SignificanceThis carved dolphin is an example of modern scrimshandering using whale's teeth.
    HistoryThis piece of scrimshaw was confiscated by the Australian Customs Service under the Wildlife Protection Act, and passed to the ANPWS for appropriate disposal. It was being illegally brought into Australia.

    Traditional scrimshaw refers to the handiwork created by whalers made from the by-products of the whales caught. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales, and the tusks of walruses. It was a craft that developed from the unique conditions on board whaling ships in the early 19th century. No one knows for sure where the word originated, but it comes from the Dutch words 'scrim' meaning to etch and 'shorn' meaning to make. The earliest written reference is in an American ship's log dated 20 May 1826. There is also a reference to 'skrim shunder articles' in Herman Melville's Moby Dick in 1851.

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