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 wooden screw sloop of war USS Alaska was built in 1868 and spent much of her career in the southern Pacific and Far East representing the American nation in foreign ports. In June 1878, she cleared New York for San Francisco and stopped at several South American ports on the way.
- One of Alaska's port calls from 20-29 September 1878 was to Talcahuano, in the center of Chile's coast and that nation's main naval port. It also was one the principal stops for American whalers in the Pacific seeking fresh supplies and entertainment. This massive sperm whale's tooth was probably purchased there and engraved by one of Alaska's crew to commemorate his visit. While the carver of this tooth is unknown, it may have been one of the officers who kept the official ship's logbooks, because the calligraphy on the covers of the logs for this voyage is exceptionally elaborate and colorful.
- As this tooth indicates, the Talcahuano visit and liberty calls were memorable. Sent ashore on liberty, 54 of Alaska's crew went AWOL (Absent WithOut Leave), and three more were confined to double irons (feet and hand cuffs) for drunk and boisterous behavior or fighting.
- Date made
- USS Alaska port call to Chile, Talcahuano
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History