Right Whales Historically Regarded

This is one of the pieces in the Verdant Works Exhibition ‘The Arctic Whaling Year’, Autumn 2018.  The Arctic whalers main target were the right whales, Eubalaena glacialis.  These were the ‘right’ whales to hunt because they had thick oil-rich blubber and had long baleen.  The long baleen plates sieved out small shrimp  and other food from huge mouthfuls of seawater.   Baleen was used in such things as whalebone corsets and umbrellas.  It was mouldable and therefore a very useful material in a time before plastics.  Right whales had another advantage – when they were killed they floated rather than sinking making them easier to tow back to the ship and process.

The Right Whale Historically Regarded

The Right Whale Historically Regarded

Northern Right whales were very nearly hunted to extinction, but they ceased to be hunted in the middle of the last century.  However they are once again on the verge of extinction because of ship strikes and ghost netting, which entangles them.

The skeleton is from a mother and foetus on display at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  The harpoons are examples from the large selection of harpoons and harpoon guns I’ve seen in museums in Greenland, Norway, UK, Canada, Iceland, and the US.