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.

Rare 18th Century Dutch Clock Rings Again

Gerrit Knip Tall Clock, ca. 1760-80.

Gerrit Knip Tall Clock, ca. 1760-80.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has restored to working order one of the largest and oldest clocks in its collection.  The massive clock, which stands nine feet tall and was once part of the Kendall Whaling Museum before it came to New Bedford, has a deep connection to the city, which dates to the eighteenth century. Owned by Samuel Rodman (1753-1835) and his wife Elizabeth Barney Rotch Rodman (daughter of William Rotch), the clock may have been specially made for William Rotch as early as 1754 and may have been a wedding gift to his daughter and son-in-law in 1780.

Built by Gerrit Knip, considered “the most fashionable clockmaker and watchmaker in Amsterdam”, the clock was part of the Samuel Rodman household when it moved in the 1790s from Nantucket to New Bedford. It was inherited by Samuel Rodman, Jr. and wife Hanna Prior Rodman, and descended thereafter in the Rodman and Rotch families. Knip was at the height of his career in the 1780s, renowned for his intricate cases and mechanisms.

The elaborate clockworks circa 1760-80 include a mechanically animated whaling fleet bounding through an Artic seascape. The highly decorated long-case of burled walnut, silvered brass mounts, blind fretwork, and brass column capitals is done in the Amsterdam style and features oil-on-metal painted decoration of Arctic whaling and polar bear hunting scenes.

Knip_Tall_Clock_face_detailThe figure of Atlas at the center apex may possibly have been inspired by the monumental sculpture by Arthus Quellinus for what is currently the Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam, and flanked by archangel finials. The eight-day pendulum movement is weight-driven and strikes the hour, quarter-hour and half-hour. It also shows the days, date, phases of the moon and the zodiac in Dutch. The decorations include a spouting whale, and mythological scenes of Helios pulling the sun across the sky in his chariot which rose and fell in the ocean stream Okeanus, overseen by Oceanus, who is pictured on the left.

The Museum contracted with Pen & Pendulum in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, to undertake the repairs, which included father and son clock-makers, Arthur and Warren Hovasse fully disassembling , cleaning, fabricating new parts, and reinstalling the clock in the Braitmayer Family Gallery.

Supported in part by the Rose Lamb Gifford Fund, the repairs are the most comprehensive to date on the clock, which have included conservation of the case over several years. The clock had not been keeping time since the mid-1990s. “This is the first of several tall case clocks the museum hopes to bring back to life as part of a five year conservation plan,” said Christina Connett, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions.

A Visit from a Marine Science ‘Ambassador’

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Among the many international guests and patrons that visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum, there have been few as unique as Abby. Abby is visiting us from South Africa and will be leaving shortly to visit the New Bedford Ocean Explorium. Abby is the creation of Heidi de Maine, an aquarist and author from Cape Town, in South Africa. After publishing her children’s book, Abby’s Aquarium Adventures (in 2011), which gives an overview of the life of an aquarist, she wanted to do a bit more to show young people in South Africa about the breadth of careers in field of marine sciences. To quote Heidi, “Through the series of books, marine-related craft kits, Facebook, articles in magazines, talks that I give and her blog (www.abby.co.za), I hope to make Abby a well-known marine ambassador.”  So, she created a doll to look like the main character in her book. The hope was that this doll could travel the world, be hosted by facilities that are marine science and education focused, be photographed in those locations, and have her visit and those professions explained by facility staff.

To that end, Heidi posted a note in September 2011, via the marine educators’ listserve, Scuttlebutt, explaining her project and asking for volunteers to host Abby and then send her along to the next location on the list. I think that the response surprised her.  Facilities in 16 U.S. states and in 16 countries have all said that they would host Abby and use this as an opportunity to promote marine careers. Her visit to New Bedford comes after visiting Alaska, Oregon, California, Mexico, Florida and Georgia. After leaving the City, she will be sent to Gloucester.

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If there’s anything marine educators have learned in their careers, it’s that the general public typically thinks that being a marine biologist means working with dolphins. Any opportunity to expand the public’s understanding of the variety of careers that are connected to the ocean is welcomed.  Maritime history, maritime commerce, whaling history, cetacean biology, artifact conservation in a museum like ours, preservation of nautical charts, exhibit design and skeletal articulation all require an understanding of the marine environment.  We use our skeletons and whale related facts and artifacts to teach food webs, biology, classification, geography and mathematics to both students and teachers.

Thus, we photographed Abby with fourth graders from Rochester Memorial School and in various locations around the Museum. We hope that by featuring some of our artifacts, including the world’s largest ship model and largest exhibition of scrimshaw, we might spark an interest in a museum career in some of the students who read Heidi and Abby’s blog. More importantly we hope that their visits to this blog site as Abby travels from place to place will foster a better understanding of our global ocean and will encourage them to be stewards of this resource.

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Sailors’ Series spotlights America’s Cup

ORACLE TEAM USA during their dramatic 2013 America's Cup win. © DanielForster,com

ORACLE TEAM USA during their dramatic 2013 America’s Cup win. © DanielForster.com

Starting February 27, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 24th annual Sailors’ Series will spotlight America’s Cup, one of the most challenging and prestigious sailing races in the world. The 4-part illustrated lecture series presents a wide variety of experiences and adventures by individuals with lifelong commitments to sailing, boats, and the sea.

The 2014 series will begin with award winning photographer Daniel Forster, on Thursday, February 27. Forster will present “36 Years of 12 America’s Cups, 1977-2013.” He has covered twelve America’s Cup races and ten Olympic Games during his 40 year career. His photographs have appeared in every major nautical magazine in America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as on the cover of Time Magazine. He will discuss his extraordinary career and the inside stories behind his iconic images of the modern America’s Cup competition.

On March 27, ORACLE TEAM USA’s Dirk Kramers and Scott Ferguson will present “Innovations in 21st Century America’s Cup Design.” Chief Engineer Dirk Kramers and Wing Designer Scott Ferguson will discuss their experiences on the 2013 America’s Cup winning team and how recent design innovations have affected their work and the competition. A thirty-seven year veteran of the America’s Cup community and proponent of multihulls, Kramers has been part of five winning teams. Ferguson, a Naval Architect and a specialist in the design of carbon fiber grand prix racing spars, has participated in two winning America’s Cup teams.

On April 24, Natasha Khandekar, Director and Curator of the William I. Koch Collection, will present a comprehensive overview of the unpar­alleled collection of maritime paintings of American businessman and 1992 America’s Cup Winner William I. Koch. Before joining Mr. Koch’s team, Khandekar worked with the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Art Interactive in Cambridge, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

On Thursday, May 8, Jerry and Rome Kirby present “A Shared Passion: Father and Son America’s Cup Winners.” Father and son both hold the distinction of winning the America’s Cup. Jerry is a veteran of six America’s Cup campaigns and won the Cup in 1992 on AMERICA. Rome was the only American and the youngest member of ORACLE TEAM USA, which staged a dramatic comeback to win the America’s Cup in 2013. Both have also successfully raced in the Volvo Ocean Race. They will talk about their “family business” of competitive sailing, sharing their challenges, successes, and hopes for the future.

All Sailors’ Series lectures occur at the New BedfordWhalingMuseum on Thursday evenings, starting at 7:00 p.m. with a pre-lecture reception at 6:00 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery. Tweet the Sailors’ Series with hashtag #SailorsSeries24 .

Admission for individual lectures: Members: $15 / Non-Members: $20. For the four-lecture series: Members: $60 / Non-Members $80. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (508) 997-0046 ext. 100 or visit http://www.whalingmuseum.org/programs/sailors-series. The Sailors’ Series is sponsored in part by C.E. Beckman and Luso Auto Center.

Schedule at a glance

February 27: Daniel Forster:  “36 Years of 12 America’s Cups, 1977-2013”

On March 27: Dirk Kramers & Scott Ferguson: “21st Century America’s Cup Design”

April 24: Natasha Khandekar:  “The William I. Koch Collection”

May 8: Jerry & Rome Kirby: “A Shared Passion: Father & Son America’s Cup Winners”

Presidents’ Day, Vacation Week events, Feb. 17-21

Presidents_Day_art_smThree great American Presidents – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt – will visit with children at the annual Presidents’ Day Birthday Bash Monday, February 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the  New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Come explore how the Founding Fathers influenced New Bedford history, participate in a scavenger hunt, create your own soap scrimshaw, and more. Children will have the opportunity to dress as their favorite president and have their photograph taken beside the famous Resolute Desk, created from the same ship’s timbers as the one used in the Oval Office.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Presidents’ Day events in the Jacobs Family Gallery and Wattles Family Gallery are free. Regular admission rates apply to all other museum galleries. Continue reading

Colonial Chocolate Night is Feb. 13

Layout 1Colonial Chocolate Night, will be held on AHA, Thursday, February 13 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The event features authentic colonial chocolate beverage recipes, products and free samplings. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

The program is sponsored by American Heritage Chocolate® – part of the historic division of Mars, Incorporated – which manufactures chocolate products using authentic colonial recipes made only from ingredients available during the 18th century, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, chili pepper, orange and vanilla. Products will be available for sale.

Chocolate became a highly regarded addition to ship’s fare on whaling and merchant vessels according to “Chocolate: History Culture and Heritage,” a definitive 1000-page reference on chocolate’s development as a global trade. The book is available for sale.

River & Rail Symposium, Feb. 15-16

Wamsutta_Mills_c1900Noted historian, Kingston Heath will lead a weekend symposium on enterprise and industry in New Bedford titled The River and the Rail, February 15-16 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

The Port of New Bedford’s historical evolution as a manufacturing and commercial center provides valuable perspective on the growth challenges it faces today – managing ocean resources, cleaning up a century of pollution, and mapping a path forward for other maritime related industries while preserving its fishing industry. Join Kingston Heath and thirteen other speakers exploring and discussing the city’s principal natural resource and its role in the growth and renewal of a great American seaport.

The keynote speaker is noted historian and New Bedford native Kingston W. Heath, Ph.D., author of “The Patina of Place” – a study of the New Bedford architectural house style commonly called the “triple-decker” – how and why this iconic New England structure came to be, its links to immigration, industry, and urban landscapes. Continue reading

Correspondence of Captain Burr Sistare to his Wife, Abby

Included among several items donated to the Research Library in 2009 by Deborah, Hannah, and Christine Sistare are five letters written by a nineteenth century whaling captain to his wife back home. Captain Burr Sistare of New London, Connecticut, penned these letters from several different ports of call, including Faial, Cape Verde, and Talcahuano from the years 1845 to 1847. His rich correspondence reveals a deeply religious and devoted husband in command of a whaling voyage marred by an unfortunate twist of fate.

Consisting of five letters written to his wife, Abby, while in command of the ship General Scott’s 1845 voyage out of New London, Connecticut, Captain Sistare describes the typical events a captain expects to encounter while on board a whaling voyage, including desertions, illness, and theft. Sistare even describes the difficulties of catching whales during a particularly unprosperous season, describing his voyage as “broken” and states that “I have done all that land in my power to fill the ship.” Continue reading