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 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.
- Date made
- ca 1880-1889
- authored whaling reference material
- Brown, James Temple
- Driggs, James D.
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History