Wednesday, April 6, 2022

New Bedford Whaling Museum - Weathervane Wednesday

This weathervane was photographed over the dome at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.


This is a large two dimensional weathervane of a sperm whale, the most lucrative whale to catch for the whaling industry.   Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales on planet Earth, with males measuring about 52 feet in length (some more!).  Sperm whale oil was considered the finest oil for lamps and lubricating machinery.  Whaling became a major industry in the 1700s and 1800s, with sperm whales the number one target for fishermen. Today sperm whales are a protected species. In the book Moby Dick, it was a sperm whale that attacked and sank the whaleship, based on the true story of the sinking of the Essex in 1799.  

The New Bedford Whaling Museum was established in 1903 as the Old Dartmouth Historical Society to collect the history of the city and surrounding area.  Since that time it has expanded the collections to showcase New Bedford history, art, the history of whaling, and the preservation and conservation of the whales and the natural environment.  The museum moved to the current location in 2002.   It features several large buildings, lecture series, a theater, special exhibits (in person and online), and an archive.  There are five complete skeletons of whales hanging in the main hall, and a half scale model of the Lagoda whaling ship. 

The library and reading room are open by appointment only now during the pandemic.  The archives charge a flat fee of $10 for digital photography to be used for personal reference only.  Photocopies are $0.25 each sheet, limited to 20 sheets.  You can search the library catalog through the museum link below.  The collections include manuscripts, maps, charts, log books, and journals.  Many of these have been digitized and available online. If you have an ancestor who was a mariner or whaler, you might want to check out the collections here!  You can send queries to the archivist via the website below. 

For the truly curious:

The New Bedford Whaling museum website:   

18 Johnny Cake Hill

New Bedford, Massachusetts


The New Bedford Whaling Museum blog:  


To Cite/Link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "New Bedford Whaling Museum - Weathervane Wednesday", Nutfield Genealogy, posted April 6, 2022, ( accessed [access date]). 

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