Scrimshaw Sperm Whale Tooth, 20th Century

The scene on the obverse of this tooth might serve as a primer for sticking a whale. In the front center is a whaleboat with sail rigged up and four rowers with shipped oars. In the stern the boat steerer sits, and in the bow the harpooner stands with his arms in the air, ready to hurl his iron into the flesh of a whale. The detail in the freehand carving is so fine that the nails in the individual outer hull planks are visible, along with the sail's reefing points and sewn seams. To the left in the background, the mother ship is seen in the distance; the scene is bordered along the bottom edge by a laurel leaf vine.
The reverse is etched with a large, anatomically correct sperm whale; below it is a waving pennant inscribed "PAUL GANDON". There is no one named Gandon in the New Bedford Whaling Museum Whaling Crew List Database.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scrimshaw tooth, whale
date made
20th century
Physical Description
tooth (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 3 in x 2 in; 17.78 cm x 7.62 cm x 5.08 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur J. Gould
Additional Media

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