Monday, March 30, 2009

A Whale of a Time

Stephanie wrote:

A few days ago the kids and I took a trip to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  The museum is filled with information and artifacts from the days when New Bedford was a port for whaling boats. 

We learned that most whaling expeditions lasted 3 - 4 years.  We learned that whales are enormous and that a baby blue whale gains 200 pounds per day.  Right whales are the rarest of the whales with approximately 300 left in the Atlantic.  And did you know they used to make margarine with whale oil?

Baleen comes from a whale's jaw - it's used like a comb to filter the food.  After a whale was killed and processed, the baleen was used for all kinds of scrimshaw - elaborate, decorative carving and handiwork that the sailors did to while away the long hours at sea.

The museum is filled with many examples of scrimshaw - some plain and simple, others detailed and elaborate. The kids wandered ahead (I linger over museum displays) but soon raced back to get me. There was something I just had to see, something yarn related.

A beautiful swift.

Notice the pedestal and the little drawers.  

And there was another.

This one used yarn for demonstration purposes.  I imagine most museum visitors don't have the slightest idea what a swift is.

Right next to the swifts was this ornate sewing box - a work of art.

Note the spool holders on top.  And more little drawers - I love little drawers.  Pardon the reflection - all of these items are behind glass.

And last but not least, a work basket. 

The details on the needles - simple and elegant.

We had a great outing.  So much information, so much history, a way of life that's come and gone.  I'm sure we'll go back for another visit.


Taos Sunflower said...

Thanks for sharing those amazing pieces. Do you suppose the fishermen could work on some of those during their months out at sea?

Stephanie and Mona said...

Yes, they would make scrimshaw while at sea. I always have knitting with me for those times when I have to wait - I think this was their knitting.

The museum is full of scrimshaw - I just photographed the items that were most interesting to me.