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 first step in catching a whale was throwing at least two sharp harpoons into its back, to ensure that the whaleboat was securely fastened to its prey. Harpoon shafts were made of soft wrought iron, so that they would bend and not break off when twisted, which risked losing the wounded whale.
- A line at the bottom of the harpoon’s wooden handle attached it to the whaleboat. Once in the whale’s flesh, the sharp toggle tip swiveled sideways, making it harder for the tip of the weapon to pull out. Whales normally dove deep after the first prick, to try and escape the sharp jab from the surface of the ocean. This harpoon shaft was twisted by a descending whale.
- date made
- D. & D.
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- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
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