March 7, 2011

Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum

On Sunday afternoon, I rode over to the town of Cold Spring Harbor to visit the Whaling Museum.

The museum tour starts in a room of old photographs and ships' logs (with penmanship that is astonishingly beautiful, I might add). Through these classic images and words, tales unfold of fierce whale battles, foreign ports, stormy seas, shipwrecks, thwarted mutinies, and all other forms of nautical adventure. At one point in my childhood, I had wanted to be a fisherman and I admit that seafaring stories still have the ability to captivate me.

The next room features a wooden, oar-powered whaleboat, its harpoons and tools well-worn and still propped for action, and a tripot. Diagrams explain how whale blubber was rendered in a brick furnace called the tryworks; these would hold up to three tripots and are said to have smelled awful.

Along the walls of this room are intricately-depicted models of whaling excursions, colorful wall paintings, and a glass showcase exhibiting an assortment of antique oil lamps.

"In the first half of the 19th Century, whale oil was the best source of artificial light in the world. Whale oil was cleaner and brighter than any other fuel, and was used to light elegant parlors, humble taverns, London streets, and American lighthouses."

The last room of the tour is dedicated to the basics of cetology. It houses several whale bones and skrimshaw pieces (scenes carved on a whales' teeth and emphasized with black pigment).

The Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum is a fascinating place, though I am very glad to know that the whaling industry is a thing of the past. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission adopted a moratorium on the practice of commercial whaling and, since then, many whale sanctuaries have been created.

Wishing you a whale of a day! :)

"Do your best to present yourself
to God as one approved, a workman
who does not need to be ashamed
and who correctly handles the word of truth."

~2 Timothy 2:15