Friday, May 2, 2014

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Winter seems to be intent on lasting a record time this year. All the New England-y summer tourist things are waiting for us, but everyone's still inside waiting to see sunlight and temperatures above 45. 

However if we all waiting for the weather to cooperate, New England would still be huddled in the first huts the early colonialists built. So onward and upward or perhaps, seaward for fun.

New Bedford Massachusetts has a long (read: as long as America's been a country) history of shipbuilding, sailing, fishing, and whaling. Whaling as since been replaced by whale conservation, but the history if this integral part of early New England industry and livelihood is a tale of riches, dangers, and of course, the world's largest creatures.

To try and imagine the true size of a whale is daunting for me; I can look a at  school bus and know there are animals that size in the ocean, but it's still a bit fuzzy. Conveniently the New Bedford Whaling Museum has solved my spatial thinking problems with a real life blue whale skeleton. It's almost 14 years old, but it is still dripping oil, as seen by the Plexiglas plate in it's jaw.

The Whaling Museum explores what whaling was like for the men who did it and what it meant to their home communities. Far flung sea journeys expanded the ideas humans had of the size and scope of the world.

As dangerous as whaling and arctic exploration was, there were always those who could see the beauty in unforgiving ice and cold.

Explorers and whalers met people living in isolated, brutal locations like Greenland only to discover they thrived, created, and dreamed like they themselves.

A solitary snowflake revealed an intricate design of nature's own plan.

But back to whales, I required my fellow museum goers to play along. A sperm whale jaw bone comparison:

Then I had to join the congressional delegation:

Moving on to the arts side of things, we took in an extraordinary collection of crafts made from whale bone and baleen.

Other sailor crafts like carved abalone shells,

And shaped, decorated thin strips of whale bones made into corset inserts, or busks.

Sailors made these whilst on long journeys for sweethearts back at home. An intimate accessory as they were tucked inside a lady's undergarments, a man had better been set on marriage bringing home such a token.

The amount of time and careful work these busks  required seems unbelievable but with an average whaling tour lasting upwards of two years, I guess you needed a project.

Lastly, we checked out the 50 percent scale whaler from the ground...

and the viewing gallery.

And took in the view of old New Bedford from the roof.

And of course stopped to chat with our new friends.

Mr. Emperor of the Antarctic...

and Sir Walrus de LongTooth.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740. 

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