Nantucket (day 2), August 19, 2012

  Tuesday, August 21, 2012 / Stephanie / Uncategorized  

Rode Trip's crew enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning. It was the beginning of a beautiful day, sun shining and a warm breeze blowing. After breakfast we suited up to wait for the launch boat to bring us to shore. Yes, this included all necessary sun protection; head, eyes, lips, extremities, and of course the native giraffe headdress so that we would really blend with the locals. Good thing Annika was ready...we adults had not packed our pink shorts or patterned dresses.

The launch, by the way, took about 45 minutes to retrieve us from the outskirts of the mooring field. Incidentally we had the same captain from the previous night and he was quick to recall, "you guys again!" that we were as far from town as possible. It was a busy day on the harbor, the last day of Race Week. From the cockpit we were able to see the Rainbow Fleet Parade and view the racers for the day heading out of the harbor. The Rainbow Fleet was comprised of Beetle Cats (small sailboats) with colorful sails. The Pride of Baltimore and sister-ship, Lynx, also set sail and mid-way out of the harbor displayed a mock battle wherein they fired cannons at one another! The harbor was lined with sail and powerboats observing the festivities and the beach was thick with people. Once in town Brian, Darren, Katie, Annika, and I went to the Whaling Museum (a sight not to be missed while on Nantucket). We learned about Nantucket's history. After farming produce and manufacturing wool failed to provide any income via sale to the outside world, the islanders turned to the seas for profitable ideas. The native people of the island demonstrated to the newly arrived Quakers how to utilize materials from whales. These whales, right whales, would get themselves beached ashore if they were sick. Right whales were literally the "right" whales because they were slow, swam near the surface of the water, and floated when killed. One day a whaling ship on the pursuit of right whales was caught in a gale and blown far offshore. The ship encountered a sperm whale. A young, Nantucket entrepreneur aboard the ship decided to chase down the sperm whale, killed it, and drug it back to shore. The sperm whales were significantly larger than right whales and had a treasure trove inside their heads - oil! The purest oil any Nantucketer had ever seen. Thus whaling for sperm whales became Nantucket's ticket to getting themselves on the map and living profitable lifestyles. Below is the skeleton of a sperm whale.

Whaling was NOT easy and NOT pleasurable. Men aboard whaling ships would be out to sea for 3-5 years. Killing whales was a dangerous game. Once a whale was spotted "thar she blows," the ship would change direction to trail the whale and men would set out on dinghies to chase the whale. Imagine paddling (12-lb paddles) out into the open ocean toward a 40-60 foot long creature who is mad that you are chasing him. Then, the dinghy would harpoon the whale and actually become attached to the whale with a rope leading to the harpoon. That angry whale took the men on a wild ride! Sperm whales can travel nearly 20 knots! The men held on for dear life on a "Nantucket sleigh ride" until the whale grew tired. Then the men would very quietly paddle closer to the whale to kill it with a spear. And "fire in the chimney" when blood came from the blow hole the men knew the whale was mortally injured. The whales where then drug alongside the ships while the blubber was cut away and boiled down right on deck. This could take as long as a week and the smell from the burning blubber and deteriorating whale would be horrendous! And that very pure oil is located in the whale's head; so a man would be stripped naked and dropped into the oil cavity to pass buckets of oil up to the ship. Emptying the oil cavity was a 10-12 hour job! Too bad for the greenie aboard being stuck inside a whale head! Between killing whales and manning the floating "factory" ships, men maintained the ship and busied themselves carving their adventures into sperm whale's teeth. This art is known as skrimshaw. They had seen many things traveling as far as the Pacific Ocean. There was a beautiful display of skrimshaw at the Whaling Museum along with other things that were fashioned out of whale teeth and baleen. Below is a photo of some knitting supplies: needles and a contraption used to wind yarn into spools.

When the whaling boats returned to the port of sale, the blubber and oil would be processed and used for candle making, lighting oil lamps, fine perfumes, and medicine. Below is the only existing beam press that was used to refine sperm whale oil after it had been boiled down and solidified from the blubber. We learned that the light produced from sperm whale oil gave a quality of light that has never been duplicated by any other means.

Here is a clock that was once...well I didn't get the details on this clock because I was all filled up with whaling knowledge. It was displayed in the stairway to the roof deck of the museum and reminded me of the movie, Hugo

SO much learning! We needed some sunshine to refresh our brains, so we walked through town and headed back to Jetties Beach to see if the Sand Castle/Sculpture event was taking place as it was the rain date. We stopped at Children's Beach for lunch and several rounds of Ring Around the Rosy. We visited the Brant Point lighthouse.

There wasn't much time for exploring Jetties Beach before the late afternoon ferry departed. It was a lovely walk along shore though.

Brian and I walked back to the ferry docks with Darren, Katie, and Annika to bid them farewell. They almost had an extended vacation since we were just in time the loading ramp had already been removed and they had to run to ferry! They were able board on the vehicle loading dock. PHEW! Brian and I retrieved our kayaks from the town dock and kayaked through the harbor around to Jetties Beach. The Sand Castle/Sculpture event had taken place. It was not exactly what I expected, but we did enjoy the creativity of local kids' creations.


  1. From Ann Landau on Aug 22, 2012
    I love the sand sculptures! Thanks for taking so many photos of them! Re whaling....there is as you may know the Whaling Museum also in Mystic, Conn. I want to go there sometime to see if I can find my father's relative on his mother's side, who was a whaler. I have a photo of him in his whaling costume on my site. He was up in the Arctic and his ship was frozen there for many months according to the family lore....last name was Coons. You and Brian write and so well, I feel like I am having this trip too! The photos are tops. That whale skeleton is a site to behold! Be well, both of you and keep posting! Ann

  2. From Aunt Margaret on Aug 21, 2012
    Dear Brian and Stephanie, I am so glad that you got to the Whaling Museum. I have great memories of this museum with Maggie and Katie (and Barry). It was one of our favorite places. Your pictures are great. Love, Aunt Margaret