The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
- The steam whaler Orca was built at San Francisco in 1882 specifically for the Pacific and Arctic whale fisheries. By the late 19th century, the Atlantic whale was too scarce due to overhunting, and whaling had moved almost completely to distant western waters to exploit the remaining whales.
- Measuring 177 feet in length and 628 tons, Orca had a 280-HP steam engine for propulsion. It also had a full suit of auxiliary sails for backup and fuel conservation. When built, Orca was the largest auxiliary steam whaler in the United States.
- The bark-rigged vessel was heavily built and braced, with a strongly raked bow to work in the Arctic ice pack. The heavy timbers and bow shape allowed it to be driven up onto the ice, where its weight helped to break through. Orca’s propeller had two blades so it could be aligned vertically with the stern timbers when not in use in order to protect it from the ice.
- Information collected by Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Conn. indicates that Orca, along with many other Pacific whalers, resorted to shanghaiing, or acquiring crewmen from agents ashore who forced potential crewmen onto their ships in various ways. With around two dozen whaleships clearing San Francisco each year for the Pacific whaling grounds, the need for crewmen was great.
- Date made
- reference material
- Mystic Seaport Museum
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
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