Thursday, August 07, 2008
Back to the point of the trip, or one of the points anyway: the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It was so great! The blue whale (above) is one of three skeletons on display. The newest is a sperm whale from the last few years. Perhaps you knew this: Whales are big. The sperm whale room included a display on whale displays from the 19th century and earlier - they used to soak 'em in formaldehyde and carry them around on trains so the common folk could pay a quarter to see a whale. The funniest was a woodblock print from Japan that included a lot of people holding their noses.
Whaling ship models were everywhere - most were the tabletop size you'd expect for a ship model, but there was one half-size model (above). It's pretty big, then you have to mentally double everything. The craziest: the iron hoops near the tops of the masts where crew would stand and watch for whales. The top of the mast is really far away from the deck of the ship. Ok, so first you mentally double that distance. Then you consider that the ship was on the ocean. And that sometimes the ocean is kinda bumpy. Yikes.
There were lots of artistic depictions of whaling scenes. My favorite was a set of dinner plates from Holland that showed an Arctic whaling trip. It included a scene with a walrus and one with a polar bear. Being killed, of course. (Which, if I met a polar bear up close, I'd probably want to do, too. I have a new obsession with this school, where you have to learn how to shoot polar bears before you can venture out of town.)
Perhaps the coolest thing was footage from a 1922 silent film on a whaling ship. So you could actually see them putting out the boats, harpooning the whale, cutting off the blubber, spearing sharks that came up to munch on the whale, and bailing the spermaceti out of the whale's head (ew).
So, whaling museum: two flippers up. Definitely worth a visit.