Wish You Were Here: The Whaling Museum of Nantucket
Scrimshaw from the "Susan" on a whale tooth
What a lunch break! Today, while the sun burned away the grey clouds that had been hovering over Nantucket, we headed into the Whaling Museum to learn exactly why the word "sperm" plays such a huge rule in the history of this tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts.
The answer? Sperm whales and their spermaceti oil, which was used in lighting and candle-making, literally fueled both the development and industrial boom of Nantucket, setting the maritime foundations for history tourism. Have you read Herman Melville's Moby Dick? If so, then you're already well aware of one of the biggest events to feature in Nantucket's timeline: the sinking of the Essex, a Nantucket whaleship rammed by a nearly 90-foot sperm whale in the South Seas. The real-life tragedy of the Essex inspired Melville's fictional Pequod and her captain, Ahab.
Amazingly, the epic story is only a tiny piece of the Whaling Museum's collection, which includes everything from the art of Scrimshaw to the development of the idea of a "souvenir." As you can probably guess, our geekiness for all things travel was put into overdrive. Wish you were here!
A bonus bit of trivia: Nantucket is a name derived from the Algonquin Indian word "Natockete," meaning "faraway place." These days it's not really so far at all, being only a 40-minute direct JetBlue flight from New York-JFK on an Embraer 190 and 35 minutes from Boston-Logan on a Cape Air Cessna 402C.
A beam press for extracting spermaceti oil