What did I do on my summer vacation?
I threw a whaling harpoon.
“Excuse me, You did what?” you say.
Let me go back to the beginning.
Last week my family spent a day at Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea in Mystic, CT. This outing was my husband’s idea. I get motion-sick at the very thought of the ocean, so I figured it would be a day consisting of me holding the camera while my family scrambled over various boats, but this beauty immediately got my attention.
This is the Charles W. Morgan–the last wooden whaling ship in the world. That’s right. A whaling ship! The last one in the world! The Morgan is the flagship of Mystic Seaport. You can understand how memories of Moby-Dick came flooding back. I was so excited to see a real whaling ship that I didn’t even care we couldn’t board her. You see, the Morgan is not young, and she’s undergoing some serious repairs to be ready for her launch later this month. To learn about the restoration of the whaling vessel, click here.
After admiring the Morgan my enthusiasm for ships grew and I snatched the map from my hubby, insisting that we head over to a dock where a whale boat demonstration would be taking place, complete with sea chantey singing.
Each member of the demonstration team spoke about what his position entailed: from officer to harpooneer.
I even got a chance to take a turn in Queequeg’s spot.
As soon as the demonstration was over, I played tour guide in the Whaleboat Exhibit and showed my children some of the tools of the trade.
Have you ever seen the beef or pork diagrams near the meat counter of your grocery store? The ones that show the various cuts of meat? Here’s one for sperm whales.
The next part of my Moby-Dick immersion experience was in the cooper’s shop. A cooper is the shipyard’s barrel maker. You know from reading Melville that whale oil was stored in wooden barrels and that the cooper was one of the highest paid positions on the ship. Mystic Seaport’s cooper was hired to make all of the wooden containers to outfit the Morgan: everything from large barrels used to store whale oil to small ones used to scoop up gallons of spermaceti from the whale’s head. The carpenter excitedly shared that last week while he was recycling old barrel parts found in the attic of his shop, he had an experience with whale oil. Yep. One hundred year old whale oil came oozing out of the wood in the hot summer sun. Amazing.
We spent the rest of the day engrossed in the ship-building community, keeping a close eye on the time because at 4:30pm, I got to do this…
and then this
I speared that floating hula-hoop with all of my might and readied myself for a Nantucket sleigh ride.
And that’s how I got to throw a whaling harpoon on my summer vacation.