Hand Lance or Killing Iron

Description
A hand lance with a long iron shaft and a small oval or leaf-shaped tip was also known as a killing iron. It was designed to dispatch a whale quickly and efficiently, once the mammal came to the water surface for the last time.
The hand lance was stabbed repeatedly into a whale’s thick neck arteries. The sharp leaf-shaped tip allowed easy removal for another thrust. Cutting these arteries prevented the whale from deep dives and hastened its bleeding to death.
Normally, multiple hand lances were carried aboard a whaleboat, so that if one was lost it could be easily replaced without returning to the mother ship for a spare one. By the late 19th century, guns had replaced most hand-thrown harpoons and lances. They were more efficient, more accurate, and safer, for a whaler could shoot a dart at a greater distance from the dangerous whale than a harpoon could be thrown.
Object Name
lance, hand
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
Measurements
pole: 66 3/4 in; 169.545 cm
lance: 63 in; 160.02 cm
ID Number
AG*072825B
catalog number
072825B
accession number
10616
subject
Whaling
Fishing
related event
Expansion and Reform
Civil War and Reconstruction
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Fisheries
Industry & Manufacturing
Work
Transportation
Exhibition
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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