If history, tradition, and whales are your thing, New Bedford is an ultimate travel destination. This town was the East Coasts’s principal whaling harbor from the 1800‘s until the very end of the industrial whaling industry in America, and remains one of the primary fishing towns in the U.S.
Located in this historical town is one of the best whaling museums available in New England, the New Bedford Whaling Museum (http://www.whalingmuseum.org/). This museum contains some of the most interesting exhibits around, sporting multiple model ships, ship logs, whale skeletons, and fascinating relics of the whaling age. It is situated conveniently near Cape Cod, which makes it a great day trip destination for Cape Cod vacationers wishing to learn more about the whaling industry that was long practiced along the East Coast.
As you enter the doors, the first sight to greet your eyes are two massive whale skeletons, one the world renown blue whale, the other an impressive humpback whale, as well as a smaller blue whale calf, hanging from the ceiling. One of these, the largest, is still dripping with the valuable oil that they used to be hunted for. This oil is obtained from the blubber of the whale. Back in the day it was used in many products, such as lamp oil, paint, and margarine. It is estimated that the skeleton will continue to leak until 2060 before the oil has been entirely extracted! This is but one of many incredible whale skeletons in the museum.
At the moment, there is a great Moby Dick collection, featuring works of art from local artists. Part of the story takes place in New Bedford, and the writer, Herman Melville, was a participant of the whaling industry during its peak; therefore his reckoning of the business is fairly accurate. He tells the story of a whaler and the ship he signed onto, along with his aboriginal friend, and their fanatical search for the great white whale, Moby Dick. How does it end? You’ll have to read it to find out!
The museum also exhibits an extensive collection of whaling relics from the whalers heyday. Among these are many fierce harpoons, scores of harpoon heads, worn oil barrels, the sea chests of some of the sailors, and more. One room even exhibits the last dingy ever to set sail in a whaling expedition! I find this boat to be one of the more interesting exhibits in the museum, as it allows you to see the perilous condition sailors faced the open seas and angry whales with. A guide will also show you how the steersman ropes off the whale using a technique called “snubbing”, and how the harpooner was able to keep his balance in the tossing seas.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is perfect for travelers interested in the amazing whaling history of New England and how the industry has impacted the area to this day. However, it is not keyed towards small children, as many of the exhibits require competent reading skills, and there are few hands on activities. If you do bring kids, be sure to see the largest ship model in the world. This half sized model can be touched, clambered on, and played in! Even adults will find it interesting.
The museum operates daily, from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and until 8 P.M. every second Thursday of the month. Admission is reasonable, at $14 dollars for adults, and $6 dollars for children. Students are only $9, and Seniors are $12. Become a member, and you’ll have free future access for the whole family, as well as a friend or two!
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is a fun and informative destination for adult and teen globetrotters. With all the whale skeletons, artistic illustrations, and expert models, it’s easy to become absorbed in the wonders unfolded there. Travelers would enjoy taking a day to immerse themselves in some of New Bedford’s history, while enjoying some of the most beautiful and captivating paintings and artifacts of the bygone days of the whaling industry.