Author Archives: katemello

“The Real Whaling City”

“The real Whaling City: New Bedford makes a great day trip into the maritime past – and present”

By Anne Wallace Allen   Originally published on 10/4/2009 at

Walk the cobblestone streets and imagine the days when the whale oil industry supported banks, mansions, and small businesses.For 35 years, between 1825 and 1860, New Bedford, Mass., a city of around 100,000 on Buzzards Bay, was the busiest whaling port in the world. And when the whaling industry declined, towns like New Bedford didn’t go away. They adapted to other uses of the sea. New Bedford became one of the busiest shipping ports in the country.

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“Whaling Museum Accepts Art Donation”

Originally published in SouthCoast Today

Last month, the American Society of Marine Artists held their annual meeting at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

One of the society’s members, Mattapoisett artist Mike Mazer, donated three of his paintings to the museum. The watercolors depict aspects of the Whaling Museum, which were done as part of a group of paintings representing New Bedford’s historic sites in the newly designated national park.

These pieces were part of a one-man show, “Mike Mazer Paints New Bedford and the SouthCoast,” that was shown at the New Bedford Art Museum.

Robert Semler James Russell, president of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, holds one of the paintings donated by artist Mike Mazer of Mattapoisett, left. Ian Marshall, president of the American Society of Marine Artists, stands at right.

Robert Semler James Russell, president of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, holds one of the paintings donated by artist Mike Mazer of Mattapoisett, left. Ian Marshall, president of the American Society of Marine Artists, stands at right.

Whaling Museum President James Russell said he was “delighted to have this prominent artist in their collection,” and gratified that he chose the Whaling Museum as the recipient of his gift.

This year, Mazer’s work has been shown internationally, at the Zeeland Maritime Museum in Vlissingen, Holland, as part of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s European founding of New York, at other museums nationally, and regionally, where he completed a solo show “Maritime Paintings of the SouthCoast,” at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

They will hang in the president’s office.

To read the article in its original context, visit

A Trip of a Lifetime: Whaling Museum employee goes to Alaska

This article was originally posted at as a Learning Center, an online space that you can use to explore cross-cultural learning with friends, family or students.

A Trip of a Lifetime

In this Learning Center, I want to share an incredible experience I had during the summer of 2009. I was invited to attend a ten-day course in Inupiaq land use and values, put on by the Inupiaq people and the North Slope Borough.  They ran the class in a way that no one will ever forget: they took us out on the tundra in the foothills of the Brooks Range to LIVE the experience. I hope you enjoy it!

Journey Introduction

I should first start out by mentioning that I learned that I would be participating in this course approximately nine days before my scheduled departure.  Therefore, when I say “I had no idea what to expect” I truly meant it. I was asked “do you want to go to Alaska?”, and I quickly replied “yes!”

I have grown up in New England, and have been working in Massachusetts for the past four years at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

I work directly with the photographic collections at the NBWM, which include a large Arctic Collection.  So, I can say that prior to this experience, I knew a small amount about the terrain and the culture.  Minimal at best.  But still, it is my belief that when someone asks you if you would like to partake in something outside of your comfort zone (no matter how vastly outside), you say “yes” and contemplate later.

Read more at my Learning Center at

To see all the photos from my trip, visit my Flickr site.

Lookout point for Caribou

Lookout point for Caribou

“The Many Mysteries of Manuel Enos” by Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D.

The Many Mysteries of Manuel Enos

by Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D., Senior Curator

This article is reprinted from the recently published Bulletin from Johnny Cake Hill, Fall 2009

In any genre of the arts there are always a few individuals whose work and reputations stand out as exceptional, setting a standard by which the achievements of others are measured.  There also tend to be a few whose work has been overlooked or underappreciated and may deserve wider recognition.  When it comes to scrimshaw, the incidence of such Unsung Miltons (to paraphrase the poet Thomas Gray) is disproportionately high, in part because the genre itself is so little known and in part because so much of it is anonymous.  Thus, in addition to such celebrated scrimshaw masters as Edward Burdett (1805-1833), Frederick Myrick (1808-1862), Henry Daggett (1811-1873), and N.S. Finney (1813-1879), we have whalemen-practitioners who are known only by their work and have been given epithetical monikers to distinguish them from the crowd – Albatross Artisan, Banknote Portraitist, Lambeth Busk Engraver, Naval Engagement Engraver, Pagoda Artisan, and so on.  Certainly, the Ship Java Artist – now known by name as Manuel Enos – deserves to be listed among the select few, as one of the outstanding scrimshaw makers and arguably the greatest Azorean whaleman-artist of all time.

A remarkable pair of sperm whale teeth scrimshawed aboard the bark Java of New Bedford in 1862 came into the Kendall Collection many years ago but, despite the elaborate inscriptions on the backs, the artist had not been identified.  They are gloriously engraved.  On the fronts are brilliantly colored female figures.  One is Rebecca at the Well, an Old Testament matriarch in full flower of youth, dressed in sumptuous Middle Eastern garb [Fig. 1]; the other is a patriotic image of Columbia, a classic nude majestically and demurely draped in an American flag [Fig. 2]. The inscriptions specify the whens and wherefores of the voyage and the whale but fail to name the artist: “Captured / Bark Java / of / New Bedford / Capt. E.B. Phinney” and “Jan. 25th / 1862 / Off King Geo[rge] Sound / Western Coast / of / Australia” [Fig. 3].  Only after close scrutiny of the crew lists and comparison with examples of scrimshaw in other collections did it become evident that the perpetrator was Manuel Enos, one of the most colorful, one of the best known, and at the same time one of the most mysterious celebrities in the whaling annals. [1]]

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“When Whales Made Kings” from

newbedford__1246027626_8408 June 28, 2009, and the Boston Globe, by Christopher Klein

NEW BEDFORD – Two days after the dawn of the new year in 1841, the whaler Acushnet tiptoed into frigid New Bedford Harbor, the first small steps on a lengthy voyage to the hunting grounds of the South Pacific. As the crew hoisted the newly christened vessel’s sails into the chill winter wind, they probably dreamed not only of warmer climes, but also of the great wealth that surrounded them in New Bedford, the whaling capital of the world. The city was among the richest in America, a commercial behemoth as massive as the leviathans its mariners harvested from the sea.

Among the names inscribed on the Acushnet’s crew list was that of a 21-year-old young man thirsty for adventure: Herman Melville. His voyage on the Acushnet served as inspiration for “Moby-Dick,’’ and the epic novel not only tells the salty tale of the elusive white whale, but also chronicles the prosperity of New Bedford at a time when whale oil and spermaceti candles powered the world.

“The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live in, in all New England,’’ Melville wrote in “Moby-Dick.’’ “Nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford.’’ While not on par with the lavish palaces built by today’s Russian oil barons and Middle Eastern sheiks, New Bed ford’s Yankee whalers constructed stately homes with their wealth and the Greek Revival mansion built by William Rotch Jr. was probably among those Melville recalled in that passage.

Rotch’s 28-room manse, now the Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum, is the best-preserved example of New Bedford’s “brave houses and flowery gardens’’ that Melville described in “Moby-Dick.’’ The house, built in 1834 and part of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, is named for the three families who lived under its roof over a span of 150 years.

Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum, 396 County St., New Bedford, 508-997-1401

Close Encounters of the Giant Kind

Hear what photographer Brian Skerry has to say about his close encounter with a 45-foot-long right whale in this video on youtube. This photograph is also featured in our new exhibit, From Pursuit to Preservation: The Human Interaction with Whales.


New Exhibit: From Pursuit to Preservation

The New Bedford Whaling Museum announces the opening of an exciting new permanent exhibition, From Pursuit to Preservation: The History of Human Interaction with Whales, which explains and explores the human fascination with whales and the history of whaling in New Bedford in a global context.

A humpback whale caught at Icy Cape in August 1912 with the crew who made the strike.

A humpback whale caught at Icy Cape in August 1912 with the crew who made the strike.

This comprehensive multimedia presentation, developed with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, ECHO (Education Through Cultural and Historical Organizations) funding, and the generous contributions of Museum supporters, forms a new focal point for visitors experiencing the Whaling Museum. From Pursuit to Preservation guides visitors through the story of humankind’s evolving relationship with whales, from the whale as a source of survival and symbolic power, through to its exploitation for commercial wealth, to the first gropings toward scientific inquiry and contemporary methods of observation and study.

Whalebone processing in the yard of Pacific Steam Whaling Company

Whalebone processing in the yard of Pacific Steam Whaling Company

From ancient times, people have used the meat, oil, and bone of whales as important resources for their communities. The whale’s importance to humans’ physical well-being often fostered a symbolic cultural connection, a relationship that took many forms throughout the centuries and continues to evolve in contemporary art, literature, and popular culture. In From Pursuit to Preservation, the Whaling Museum takes visitors on a journey across time and around the world, using many items from its vast collection including unique maritime artifacts and art, photographs and whale skeletons as well as a listening station, digital picture frames, and thought-provoking interpretive signs to involve visitors in the discovery of the symbolic, spiritual, and cultural connections we share with these majestic and increasingly endangered animals.


Floating-Factory Ship THORSHAMMER with whales along side, circa 1928

Humans’ complex relationship with whales is told from the early harvesting of beached whales to the development of watercraft and weapons specifically to pursue the animals at sea. Once demand grew, an industry was born to hunt and process whales for the oil that would light the world for three centuries and the baleen that was the plastic of that age. While the Dutch and English led the way in the creation of this industry, by the early 19th century, the United States, led by New Bedford, had the most productive whaling industry in the world. As the success of the industry began to threaten the survival of whales, new technologies made their oil less vital. And while whaling left New Bedford, the pursuit of whales continued in Europe and Asia at new levels of efficient slaughter hunting that enabled the harvest in one year to outstrip that of the previous decade in total. The move toward preserving whales came as humans hunters become so good at killing that international regulation was needed to keep whales from extermination.


National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration off the South Carolina coast working to free a young endangered right whale entangled in ropes and buoys

Visitors to the New Bedford Whaling Museum experience come away with a new concept of the power of the whale in the human imagination — representing nature’s power, the lure of the unknown, a monstrous foe, and a once abundant resource. And the Whaling Museum exhibition also creates a bridge of understanding about how the whale has come now to symbolize our emerging understanding of our place in the natural world and how profound our impact upon it can be. Our hunt now is for knowledge: the better to apply the lessons of the past to the challenges of the future.

The exhibition was designed by The PRD Group, Ltd. of Chantilly, Virginia, and fabricated by Color-Ad, of Manassas, Virginia. The Museum is grateful for their enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication to the quality of the finished product.

Member’s Preview and Curator’s Tour:
Thursday July 2, 2009 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Open to NBWM Members only
RSVP to 508-997-0046 ext. 188

To view photos of the installation visit our Flickr site.

Iñupiaq Whale Hunt

This video, adapted from material provided by the ECHO (Education through Cultural & Historical Organizations) partners, provides great insight into the lives of contemporary subsistence whalers.  Check it out.

whale hunt

In Search of the Mysterious Narwhal

Great article, In Search of the Mysterious Narwhal, by Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian magazine, May 2009:

“Ballerina turned biologist Kristin Laidre gives her all to study the elusive, deep-diving, ice-loving whale known as the ‘unicorn of the sea’.”


Flip Nicklin / Minden Pictures

And then come see a Narwhal Tusk on display in New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Classic Whaling Prints exhibit.

The Narwhal or Sea Unicorn

This engraving from the collection of the New Bedford WhalingMuseum:

Number: 1958.1.21.S
Geo/Culture: Europe –British
Object: print
Title: The Narwhal or Sea Unicorn / F. Cuvier – Plate 11
Artist/Maker: Stewart, James –Lizars, William Home
Date: 1837
Material: engraving, paper
Dimensions: [H]4 1/4″ [W]6 9/16″
Description: A partially colored engraving paper, engraved by William Home Lizars (1788-1859), showing two narwhal on shore, cliffs and birds to right, two birds to left, rocky cliffs in background.

Scrimshaw Weekend, a great success!

MAY 15, 16, 17 2009

scrimshaw tooth

The Annual Scrimshaw Weekend, founded in 1989 and held at the Whaling Museum each June, is the world’s only regular forum in which collectors, curators, antiques dealers, history buffs, and enthusiasts from all over the country gather to confer about the whalers’ distinctive and evocative .

For more information visit