Matthew and Rachel Howland

UMASS Amherst Emily Esten has just completed another project in the Research Library. This time Emily worked on Manuscript Collection #135 (Mss 135) and produced a full finding aid in addition to her reflections below:

Matthew and Rachel Howland were the power couple of 19th century New Bedford: Matthew, co-owner of George Howland & Sons, worked diligently to make the family whaling business a success. While his brother, George, was the face of the business, Matthew monitored the fitting and repair of all the vessels, the sale of oil in foreign ports, the running of the candle-making factory and the hiring of captains and crews. His wife, Rachel, stood as “queen of New Bedford society,” serving as a minister in the Society of Friends for over 50 years and donating to the city of New Bedford through multiple acts of philanthropy. As an activist, Rachel founded multiple institutions for the betterment of society – the Ladies City Mission Society (1868), Association for the Relief of Aged Women (1866), Children’s Aid Society (1891) were just some of the contributions. She was an important individual in the abolitionist movement on a local, regional, and national scale.

Though the collection gives no information on how they met, it does contain the beginning of their relationship. From 1840 to 1842, Matthew sent multiple letters to Rachel, who lived in Burlington, New Jersey. The first letter, written November 20, 1840, appears to be in response to one of Rachel’s. Though not explicitly stated, one can infer that Matthew had proposed a courtship correspondence with her, which she turns down in favor of “at least another year must pass away without further communication.” Matthew, obviously hurt by this, professes his love and his promise to wait for her.

His regular correspondence, however, begins in 1841, waiting the appropriate amount of time before apologizing for the previous letter and asking Rachel to burn it. His letters then go onto detail his life as he takes on responsibility within George Howland and Sons, and the Society of Friends’ meetings he attends.

Several visits are made by Matthew to Rachel’s home of West Hill. It appears they refer to the manor house as “the asylum,” though no explanation is given as to why. Though the collection lacks Rachel’s side of the correspondence, we can infer that her feelings do change for Matthew, as he changes his salutation from “Esteemed Friend” to “My Dearest Chelly” in a letter dated October 1841. We also learn some of Rachel’s fears in marrying Matthew – primarily, the fear of leaving her entire life behind in New Jersey for the “strange land” of New Bedford. Matthew reassures her that he will do as much as possible to make her feel at home here once they are to be married.

Their engagement begins in January of 1842, though it is not official until Matthew’s uncle Isaac sends his approval for the marriage a month later. Very little is stated about the marriage itself, but primarily focuses on events near the chosen date – specifically, Matthew’s excitement of a trip to Niagara with friends Samuel and Sarah.

For an unknown reason, Rachel requested to delay their marriage until September. (One can assume that Michael’s responsibilities in New Bedford, which had significantly increased, were taking a significant amount of time.) Matthew agrees to this request somewhat reluctantly, as it means they cannot attend an event in Niagara. The date September 8th is mentioned as the future date for marriage. Though the letters end in August, records elsewhere indicate that the couple did indeed get married on that date. The final letter of correspondence from October 1847 refers to Rachel as his wife, mentions their daughter Susy [Susanna], and is signed “thy sincerely attached + loving husband.”

The Howlands were major players in New Bedford’s economic and social scene, and their story starts right here – in Mss 135. Matthew’s letters to his future wife preserve a story of friendship, of love, and most importantly, of ambition.

If you would like to take a more detailed glance at this manuscript collection, please call Mark Procknik at the Research Library, (508) 997-0046 ext. 134, to schedule a research appointment.

Walter Magnus Teller Collection

Emily Esten from UMASS Amherst is currently interning in the Museum’s Research Library. Her first project centered around Manuscript Collection #131 (Mss 131) with a complete finding aid serving as the finished product. Below are Emily’s reflections on her first completed project:

Essentially, Mss 131 is a collection called the Teller Papers, a gift from Dr. Walter Magnes Teller that consists of correspondence and research materials from his work on studying Joshua Slocum. The collection was assessed in 1989, but a proper finding aid didn’t exist. That was my assignment: create the finding aid.

Joshua Slocum is an interesting character – born Canadian in a small town of Nova Scotia, later became an American citizen, and managed to make many impressive sea voyages, the most notable being his solo voyage around the world. The sloop he used for that particular voyage, the Spray, was given to him during his stay in Fairhaven, Mass. Slocum mysteriously disappeared while on his way to the West Indies. Teller wrote two books on Slocum: The Search for Joshua Slocum in 1959, and The Voyages of Joshua Slocum in 1971.

The collection includes a wide array of documents – over one-third of the collection is correspondence, but it also includes photos, a draft of a script for a movie of Slocum’s life, and photostats of original Slocum letters. It’s divided up into three separate sections: Correspondence, Research Materials, and Additional Teller Publications and Materials.

I found lots of interesting items in this collection – here were some of my favorites:

  • A handwriting analysis report of one of Slocum’s letters, 1954 (I don’t remember the results of this report, but it reminded me of the fact that a biographer needs to go through literally EVERYTHING in order to get a good idea of who the individual was.)
  • A draft of the speech Teller gave at the Fairhaven plaque dedication ceremony, April 1959
  • Joshua Slocum stamps from Christmas Island, 1977 (You know you’ve made it when you’re on a stamp.)
  • Slocum’s marriage license to Virginia. (I’ve never seen a marriage license before, but the language used in it was a little frightening, to say the least.)
  • A copy of Canadian Geographic, 1980. (I didn’t realize the entire magazine would be in the folder – it had to be at least an inch thick!)
  • A letter from Teddy Roosevelt to Joshua Slocum (the two met on at least one occasion.)

The really interesting finds were in the newspapers. I spent several hours standing by the photocopier in order to make copies of newspaper clippings, since clippings are printed on paper that will quickly fade and fall apart. Clippings are difficult to decipher – sometimes, the particular article or picture was difficult to find, and so I had to scan the page and figure out its relevance to the topic at hand.

I also loved reading all the letters reading through the correspondence – some of it wasn’t so interesting (mostly the receipts), but a lot of them explained little details of Teller’s and Slocum’s life that couldn’t be expressed through basic records. Also, letters are rare gems in today’s technological environment (at least for me,) so being able to see the beautiful (and ugly) handwriting was very neat. By the end, I could recognize the author of some letters by their handwriting!

One of the last steps of the process was using the Library of Congress’s authority listing. Authority listings are similar to tagging things on Tumblr – it’s a way of organizing relevant topics of the finding aid. For example, in this finding aid, listings like “sailing,” “Spray (Sloop),” and “Smithsonian Archives,” are included.

Once I finished adding that into the XML coding, my supervisor posted it directly into the site so we could see if there were any issues. I’m not perfect – there were a few mistakes, as well as one really noticeable one, which had random commas in front a list of entries. Fortunately, this was a quick fix, and all that was left to do was add a link to the finding aid on the main page.

After all the computer stuff was all set, I put official labels on the boxes and placed the nine boxes back on the shelf, ready to move onto the next project.

Working with this collection was definitely a challenge – I had the inventory list to give me an idea of what should be found in these folders, but little guidance as to what to do with it. But as I’m starting to learn, that’s an archivist’s job – what to do with all this information.

Journal Kept Onboard the Whaleship Manhattan

Donated to the Research Library in 1983 by Mercator Cooper Kendrick, the journal kept on board the ship Manhattan’s 1843-1846 whaling voyage offers valuable first-hand documentation into an important and little-known chapter on American-Japanese relations. Captained by Mercator Cooper, the ship Manhattan shipped on only one whaling voyage out of Sag Harbor, New York, before joining the merchant service. At first glance, this journal contains the standard entries one expects from a typical whaling account, including weather descriptions, vessels spoken, and descriptions of whales seen and taken. However, the events of this voyage bear significance for not only scholars of American whaling and maritime history, but for a host of other researchers engaged in a wide variety of disciplines.

Beginning in 1633 under the Tokugawa Shogunate, a series of edicts and policies resulted in Japan adopting a firm isolationist stance in foreign affairs and strictly prohibited any foreigner entrance into the country. This Sakoku, or “chained-country” period, lasted until 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry forcibly opened Japan to western trade. The events of the Manhattan’s travels occurred within this historical context, beginning with a seemingly uneventful encounter in the Pacific Ocean sixteen months into her voyage.

On March 15, 1845, the Manhattan encountered eleven Japanese men marooned on a small island surviving only on rice and small amounts of water pilfered from the crevasses of several rocks along the shoreline. Captain Cooper decided to rescue these men before resuming his whaling voyage, an action that served as a harbinger to one of Sakoku Japan’s most significant American interactions.

One month after rescuing the stranded men, the Manhattan sailed into Edo, the modern-day city of Tokyo and Japan’s political center in 1845. The entry for April 18, 1845, describes 300 Japanese boats towing the Manhattan to a small bay south of Edo before encircling the whaleship. With the American vessel closely guarded, several Japanese boarded the ship and removed all firearms before members of the nobility performed personal inspections of the interior. The Manhattan left Japan four days later, but prior to her departure, the Japanese presented Captain Cooper and his crew with an array of gifts in the form of rice, wheat, flour, wood, sweet potatoes, radishes, chickens, and tea. The Emperor, via his Imperial delegates, conveyed his compliments to the captain for rescuing the stranded Japanese. However, after extending their sincere gratitude, Japanese isolationism prevailed, and the Emperor’s representatives instructed Captain Cooper to leave and never return.

One cannot overstate the importance of the Japanese-American interaction documented within the pages of this journal, but similar to other whaling accounts, observations of natural phenomena also litter the pages and offer valuable contributions to several different scholarly fields. While cruising through the Pacific, the Manhattan passed many instances of volcanic activity. Not only does this journal properly document each observation with the correct date and appropriate geographic coordinates, but the keeper even includes hand-drawn sketches of the eruptions, providing a valuable resource to the study of volcanology. This journal, complete with its rich multidisciplinary content, best exemplifies how each piece in the Library can appeal to a wide range of audiences.

The Research Library proudly boasts the largest collection of whaling logbooks and journals in the world, and the Manhattan journal represents only one example of the thousands of unique and interesting stories stored in the Library’s vaults. If you would like to take a more detailed glance at this whaling journal, Mercator Cooper’s manuscripts, or any other piece of the Library’s collection, please contact Mark Procknik in the Research Library, (508) 997-0046 ext. 134, to schedule a research appointment.

Cetaceans’ Salty Taste Buds

According to recent articles published by ScienceNOW and Smithsonian, researchers have discovered that the taste buds of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) only sense salty flavors. The other receptors have been shut off or have mutated. Thus, they are likely not able to taste unnatural flavors in the water, such as toxins, which are often bitter.  As the ScienceNOW article points out, and we emphasize here when discussing how cetaceans eat, these animals swallow their food whole, thus eliminating much of the need to taste the food.

The two articles referenced above are based on research published in Genome Biology and Evolution. Zoologist Huabin Zhao of Wuhan University in China led the study.

Illustration of Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus), including detail of tongue and baleen. Ca. 1830, from NBWM Kendall collection.

Illustration of Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus), including detail of tongue and baleen. Ca. 1830, from NBWM Kendall collection.

“Water Works Crapo” 150 years ago

William Wallace Crapo, a.k.a. "Water Works Crapo"

William Wallace Crapo, aka “Water Works Crapo”

One Hundred and fifty years ago today work on the City of New Bedford’s remarkable Water Works was begun with a referendum of the citizenry voting in favor of constructing a public water supply for the city.

The Water Works remains an engineering marvel and reveals the extraordinary foresight and determination on part of city leaders – the New Bedford’s single largest and most expensive public works project of the 19th century. It is still one of finest public water supplies in the Northeast – sourced from the largest natural complex of fresh-water ponds in the state – the Water Works, is a direct legacy of the city’s whaling wealth.

When Mayor Isaac C. Taber delivered his mayoral address to the Joint Special Committee of the City Council on the Introduction of Fresh Water on December 21, 1860, the country was on the verge of war and the whaling industry was in a severe slump. Whale oil markets were plunging due in part to petroleum coursing from Pennsylvania oil wells. The Mayor crystallized the city’s challenge: “We have a beautiful city, handsomely located, a splendid harbor, good water communication and ample railroad facilities… Water! Water!! Is our great desideratum, an ample supply we must have or cease to prosper…” His impassioned plea heralded the beginnings of a 40-year construction project to bring fresh water into the city on a massive scale.

William Wallace Crapo, a prominent attorney and community leader, was a vocal proponent of a public water supply. Called the “First Citizen” of New Bedford, W. W. Crapo’s influence can be seen on nearly every major municipal initiative during the second half of the 19th century. His law practice served some of the most influential and wealthiest clients, including Hetty Green, Henry Huttleston Rogers, and Emily Bourne. He was also first president of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, governing body of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Improving public health was a rallying cry but fire was the bigger concern as the town had suffered several devastating blazes, the worse of which occurred in 1859. The Great Water Street Fire destroyed 20 buildings; fueled by 8,000 barrels of whale oil. Losses exceeded a quarter-million dollars. But even that catastrophe didn’t convince everyone. Despite the late Mayor Taber’s call, the next Mayor, George Howland, Jr. argued it was not yet time to outlay so much money, and besides, he argued, his personal well, like those of many of his comfortable neighbors, provided more than an adequate water supply. Crapo, then City Solicitor, decided to persuaded him to allow Professor George I. Chase of Brown University to analyze his well water. It proved quite contaminated “with coliform of a very suspicious nature.” The Mayor promptly changed his mind on the Water Works. Sylvia Ann Howland, Aunt of Hetty Green, was a spinster who spent many years in ill health, and due to her family’s whaling pursuits, was worth more than two million dollars. A client of Crapo, she bequeathed $100,000 toward a public water supply.

On Thursday, April 14, 1864, funding the construction of the Water Works was put to a vote of the taxpayers of the town. The town’s Quaker fiscal conservatism showed again; it was not a landslide: Yeas 781, nays 594, or 56.8 percent of the vote.

W. W. Crapo, Warren Ladd, and David B. Kempton, were appointed as the first Water Commissioners in 1865. The commission traveled to several cities around the country to learn firsthand the engineering challenges of various water works. For this, the commission was criticized by some who complained the trips were unnecessary and sarcastically suggesting the initials in W.W. Crapo’s name stood for “Water Works.” But “Water Works Crapo” persevered; construction was nonstop for four years, until finally, water flowed into the city in November 1869. They celebrated by opening the hydrants at the newly built Purchase Street Pumping Station and filled the streets with water. Purchase_St_Pumping_Sta_1889

The Water came for the upper reaches of the Acushnet, where they had constructed a dam across the Acushnet River Valley. A brick oval-shaped conduit was constructed for the 8-mile journey into the city. Its diameter measured three feet by four feet and its path from the holding reservoir on the Ansel White Pond to the receiving reservoir at Purchase Street, had a grade of six inches to the mile. It was the single largest public infrastructure project ever undertaken by the city. Gravity fed, the Water Works distribution system was an ingenious feat of engineering, exploiting every inch of the land elevations from Freetown to New Bedford.

The Purchase Street Pumping Station dedication tablet of the New Bedford Water Works, preserved on the grounds of the Hayden-MacFadden School (photo: Arthur Motta)

The Purchase Street Pumping Station dedication tablet of the New Bedford Water Works, preserved on the grounds of the Hayden-MacFadden School (photo: Arthur Motta)

By 1886, the city had built new conduits directly to Little Quittacas Pond, and the Purchase Street Station was retained as a backup. When construction of Interstate 195 began in the late 1960s, a portion of the Mt. Pleasant reservoir property was taken for the highway corridor. Its pumping house at the bottom of the hill was no longer needed and was finally demolished to make way for the Hayden-McFadden School on the site. All that remains of the Pumping Station is the dedication tablet, now mounted on the lawn of the school.

In response to more stringent water quality regulations, a secondary treatment plant was completed at Quittacas in 1977. This facility includes sedimentation tanks and the chemical treatment processes used to increase water quality to its highest level since the original plant went online. This facility monitors every aspect of water quality, chlorination, and hydrology. The city’s Water Division works with many agencies to preserve and protect the watershed. Recently, another 1,000 acres was added. New Bedford currently holds a permit to withdraw 19.2 MGD (million gallons per day), with an additional 2.7 MGD if needed. Currently its daily average usage is: 11-12 MGD. Thus, its capacity is capable of supporting far more economic development than it did at the height of Textile Era. The Water Works now serves a half million people regionally. It has 24,000 metered customers; approximately 2,000 are outside the city.

Little Quittacas Reservoir

Little Quittacas Reservoir (photo: Arthur Motta)

Today, New Bedford’s water is its wealth; a critical resource for future growth and well-being.

NEW BEDFORD WATER WORKS CHRONOLOGY
1803 First Aqueduct Association formed
1804 First Aqueduct Association complains of “water thieves”
1811 First Aqueduct Association more payment problems
1820 Sept. destroyed 10 commercial bldgs.
1822 First Aqueduct Association goes out of business
1830 July: Second Great Fire
1840 15 public reservoirs, mostly for the fire dept.
1850 Late 1850s agitate for public water; coming war & fires part of it
1857 NB pop. Over 20K & lacked major source of fresh water.
1859 Aug. 24: Water Street Fire. 20 bldgs. destroyed; 8K barrels;$250K
1860 Mar. 8: Frederick S. Allen: Measure to consider public water plan
1860 July 26: Com. to investigate Public supply: City engineer Geo. A. Briggs, Wm. F. Durfee; and Capt. Charles H. Bigalow of Clark Point Fort
1861 Dec 21:Survey Committee recommends Acushnet River Valley as source
1864 City Electorate votes to establish a Water Works on April 14. The vote: 781 to 594
1865 Dec. 13: 1st Water Board: WW Crapo; Warren Ladd; DB Kempton; J.B. Congdon
1869 Nov. 25. City celebrates WW; opens hydrants into Purchase St
1879 Purchase St has 3 pumps: 2 Worthingtons (duplex & high duty);McAlpine Eng
1881 Robt. C.P. Coggeshall becomes Water Works Superintendent
1882 First water meters installed in city
1886 Connection to Little Quittacas made to augment the Acushnet supply
1899 Little Quittacas becomes source of entire water supply
1899 High Hill Reservoir goes online
1899 Quittacas Pumping Station is completed at Little Quittacas Pond; online July 10
1900 Water Board contracts with Pocahontas Coal for 1200 gross tons @ $4.95/ton
1900 Mt. Pleasant Distribution Reservoir Elevation: 158.8 feet above grade
1900 High Hill Reservoir Elevation: 196′
1900 Quittacas installs 2 Leavitt compound, beam & flywheel engs.; Dickson Mfg. PA
1900 Quittacas consumes 2,8834,404 lbs of coal or 814 gals of water pumped per lb.
1900 Max daily water consumption reached 9,995,422 gals. On Sept. 7.
1900 2.3 billion gallons consumed
1900 1,429 water meters installed; of 9,290 taps being served
1910 6,106 water meters installed
1920 15,316 water meters installed
1924 MA Legislation enables city to also draw from Assawompset, Pocksha & Long Ponds
1928 18,086 water meters installed
1949 Electric motors replace the original steam pumps at Little Quittacas
1949 Steam pumps at Quittacas replaced with diesel powered engines.
1957 Severe drought plagues New England; prompts calls for new sources of supply
1966 Drought conditions spur Mayor Harrington to call for Water District of 14 towns
1970 City hires Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) to study additional water sources
1971 CDM reports out on sources and Water Works urgent maintenance needs
1972 Electorate votes in favor of fluoridation; the decision remains contentious
1977 New water treatment plant built at Quittacas addresses water quality improvements

 

The Museum’s Other Blog Site

We appreciate all of you who take the time to read the NBWM main blog page. It is a quick and informative method of staying apprised of the countless activities taking place here.

However, we have another blog page, populated with posts created by our High School Apprentices. This is the Greenhands blog. After an exceptionally full first semester, we have provided them with time in this semester’s schedule to share their insights into the Museum and into their jobs as apprentices. For most, this is their first experience with blogging, so they are gaining another social media skill.  They have gotten the hang of it quite quickly.

We hope that you will honor their efforts as apprentices and as productive high school students by having a read through some, or all, of their recent posts. We are proud of their work here.

2013-2014 Apprentices. Standing: Trina, Tatiana, Chelsea, Daizha, Paula, Fabio, Josie, Cassie. Seated: Genesis, Reymond, Brandon, Samantha

2013-2014 Apprentices. Standing: Trina, Tatiana, Chelsea, Daizha, Paula, Fabio, Josie, Cassie. Seated: Genesis, Reymond, Brandon, Samantha

Right Whale Day Starts April Vacay!

Illustration: Dave Blanchette

Illustration: Dave Blanchette

The New Bedford Whaling Museum will kick off April vacation week kicks off with the annual Right Whale Day celebration on Monday, April 21. Every year, the Museum celebrates the highly endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and raises awareness of a species whose survival depends upon humans wisely using ocean resources. This family friendly event provides many fun learning activities for kids and adults, with a focus on fostering greater awareness and appreciation.

Guests are invited to walk inside a life-sized inflatable right whale and stand next to a life-sized inflatable right whale calf for a photo. Take the coastal obstacle course challenge where participants attempt to survive the dangers right whales face in their migrations. Test your observation skills by identifying individual whales based on their markings. Learn to draw a right whale with author/artist, Peter Stone. End the day with a slice of “right whale cake”. The fun starts at 10:00 a.m. under the massive right whale skeleton on permanent exhibit in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

Right Whale Day schedule:

10:00 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. – Right Whale Obstacle Course (presented by the Museum’s high school apprentices)

10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. –  Go Inside the Inflatable Whale (presented by Whale and Dolphin Conservation)

10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. –  Make Right Whale Magnets & Whale Origami (presented by the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance)

10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. -  Right Whale Crafts & Learning Activities (presented by Museum docents & high school apprentices)

10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. –  Inflatable Right Whale Calf, Right Whale Information  & Photo-Op with the Right Whale Calf (presented by the NOAA Office of Education)

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. -  Right Whale Identification Activities (presented by Museum volunteers)

11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. –  “Waltzes with Giants” readings with author/artist Peter Stone

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Learn to draw right whales with Peter Stone

1:35 p.m. –  Celebrate the now-permanent ‘Ship Strike Rule’ with some Right Whale cake

Vacation Week Activities –  Join the Museum throughout April vacation week for crafts, hands-on activities and lots of family fun. Participate in a highlights tour, go below deck on the world’s largest model whaleship, learn to throw a harpoon, create your own scrimshaw (with soap and shoe polish), and more.

The following April vacation week activities will take place from Tuesday, April 22 through Friday, April 25:

10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Free crafts and family activities. Create your own scrimshaw (using soap and shoe polish), throw a harpoon with our family-friendly harpoons and target rings, and more.

11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. –  Participate in a 45-minute highlights tour with a Museum Docent. Tours leave from the front desk. (Regular admission rates apply)

10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. –  Free film “Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship” in Cook Memorial Theater. “Ocean Frontiers” is an engaging, inspirational film that features four very different, but equally important success stories of ocean stewardship, including one that is taking place in Massachusetts Bay.

11:00 a.m. to Noon Go below deck on the Lagoda! (Regular admission rates apply)

Friday, April 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. –  All aboard the Lagoda! Join the crew of Captain C. Weade on board the Lagoda for an adventure on the high seas! Travel the world, interact with new cultures, learn the ropes of a whaleship, and go a-whaling. (Regular admission rates apply).

Right Whale Day activities and April Vacation Week activities that take place in Jacobs Family Gallery, Cook Memorial Theater or on the Museum Plaza are FREE. Regular admission to all other galleries applies. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 508-997-0064 or visit http://www.whalingmuseum.org/programs/april-vacation-week-2014.

 

Whaling Museum Summer Internships

The New Bedford Whaling Museum receives dozens of inquiries annually from high school, undergraduate and graduate students regarding our internship opportunities. Interns work directly with Museum staff to maintain and manage collections, produce programs events and exhibitions, and on research projects. They provide much needed assistance to the Museum while they learn new skills and often solidify their decisions to work in the museum field.

We are currently accepting applications and résumés through Friday, April 25, for summer 2014 internships. Interested students can visit our website and follow the links to apply. Descriptions of our departments and the possible projects are listed on the page. We plan on making final decisions in the first week of May.

For those of you who have already applied, thank you. We appreciate your interest in our Museum and internship program.

Several of the 2013 summer interns, with Science Director, Robert Rocha.

Several of the 2013 summer interns, with Science Director, Robert Rocha.

Locking Tusks Over Narwhals

This great piece by Carl Zimmer of National Geographic delves into the question “What is the purpose of a narwhal’s tusk?” This has been debated for centuries. The newest hypothesis comes from Martin Nweeia, a Connecticut dentist and a clinical instructor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He believes it is a sensory organ, since it has nerves running throughout its length. This tusk could conceivably assist the animal in making sense of its surroundings.  His findings are published in The Anatomical Record.

Kristin Laidre, from University of Washington, who has done her own fair share of narwhal research, believes that the tusk has more of a macho function. Male deer and elk have antlers, male rhinos have horns, male narwhals have tusks.

This is a good debate. Perhaps they’re both correct. We shall see.

"Ceratodon monoceros, Brifs / Der Narwal / CL.XI.MAMM / 335 / ORD. I. CETACEA" , artist unknown, 1825-1850. Note the original genus name, which has since been changed to Monodon. From NBWM Kendall Collection.

“Ceratodon monoceros, Brifs / Der Narwal / CL.XI.MAMM / 335 / ORD. I. CETACEA” , artist unknown, 1825-1850. Note the original genus name, which has since been changed to Monodon. From NBWM Kendall Collection.

Will San Diego’s Captive Orcas Be Released?

A lawmaker from San Diego, California has proposed eliminating all shows at Sea World that involve captive orcas (Orcinus orca), often called killer whales.  This measure would also do away with any and all captivity of this species, including any captive breeding programs. His concern is with the size of the enclosures, the change in behavior seen in captive orcas and the complete disassociation of these animals from their natural behaviors and natural habitat. Other lawmakers in SoCal are chiming in as well, as seen and heard here.  It is quite clear why and how the battle lines are being drawn. 

Orca poster, published in Germany by Conrad Kayser. From NBWM Kendall collection.

Orca poster, published in Germany by Conrad Kayser. From NBWM Kendall collection.