The general history of California shore whaling, and many of the photographs that survive, have become fairly familiar over the past few years as historians have excavated some of the evidence with newfound enthusiasm. However, many compelling highlights and intriguing sidelights have been overlooked, including the origins and deep water backgrounds of some of the principals, the concentration of crew men from the Azores, Martha’s Vineyard, and Japan, their migrations and transfers among the whaling stations. Some hidden aspects of the methods and technology utilized in the hunt, as well as the unique scrimshaw and decorative arts produced by whale men in Monterey and Carmel, will be explained. The plan is to outline the history of California shore-whaling from beginning to end, and to provide some hints about further research, punctuated by attention to the participants, their methods, and the small but compelling legacy of artworks they left behind.
Dr. Stuart M. Frank is a senior curator emeritus at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, executive director emeritus of the Kendall Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, a collections consultant at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, an elected Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association, and the author of Herman Melville’s Picture Gallery; Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum; Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum; Scrimshaw on Nantucket: The Collection of the Nantucket Historical Association; “Jolly Sailors Bold”: Ballads and Songs of the American Sailor; Classic Whaling Prints; Dutch and Flemish Old Master Painting in the New Bedford Whaling Museum; The New Book of Pirate Songs; three biographical dictionaries of scrimshaw artists; and more than 75 monographs and articles on maritime history, art, and traditional music, in popular magazines and scholarly journals.