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.
Whaler's Hand Lance
- After harpoons fastened the whale and whaleboat together, a whale was given plenty of time and rope to dive, try to swim away, and otherwise wear itself out. Once the exhausted animal returned to the surface to breathe, the whaleboat approached it, and a hand lance, also known as a killing iron, was used to actually dispatch the animal.
- Hand lances had long shafts, to allow the point to penetrate deep into the whale’s body in search of the thick neck arteries. The tips of the killing irons were leaf or oval shaped and extremely sharp, so that they cut on the way in and on the way out, and were easier to remove and stab repeatedly. Cutting the neck arteries prevented the animal from deep diving and hastened its bleeding to death.
- This nickel-plated example was manufactured and donated by Luther Cole of Fairhaven, Mass.
- Date made
- Cole, Luther
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
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