Whaler's Fluke Lance

Whaler's Fluke Lance

Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description
The most dangerous act in the dangerous business of whaling was “spading flukes.” The whaleboat drew up close alongside a desperate, unpredictable whale on the water surface, and a crewman used a boat spade or fluke lance to sever the whale’s tail tendons. This effectively immobilized the prey, for the whale couldn’t swim without its tail.
According to James Temple Brown, who wrote the 1883 catalog of the Smithsonian’s whaling collection, the fluke lance was exceedingly rare and was regarded as “a monstrosity by all the fraternity”. This rare inscribed example was used aboard the starboard whaleboat of the bark Sea Fox.
Object Name
lance
Fluke Lance
Other Terms
lance; Fluke Lance; Maritime
Date made
ca 1880-1889
authored whaling reference material
Brown, James Temple
maker
Driggs, James D.
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, New Bedford
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 3 1/2 in x 59 3/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 8.89 cm x 151.765 cm x 3.81 cm
ID Number
TR.056358
catalog number
056358
accession number
012298
Credit Line
U.S. Fish Commission through James D. Driggs
subject
Whaling
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
Cultures & Communities
Work
Industry & Manufacturing
Natural Resources
Transportation
On the Water exhibit
Exhibition
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Note: Comment submission is temporarily unavailable while we make improvements to the site. We apologize for the interruption. If you have a question relating to the museum's collections, please first check our Collections FAQ. If you require a personal response, please use our Contact page.