Effect: Environment

Type: Whaleboat

Place: North America

Size: 29' 3" x 6' 4"

Date: 1933

Builder/Location: Beetle Boat Building Co.

Museum Location: 2

This whaleboat was built expressly for The Mariners’ Museum’s small craft collection.

Whaleboat, 1933
Beetle Boat Building Co.,
New Bedford, Massachusetts

The whaleboat was a highly developed hunting tool, but it offered little comfort or shelter to its crew of six. When a whale was sighted from the ship, the boats were put over the side to give chase by oar and sail.

The crew was at the mercy of the harpooned whale. Their sturdy boats were tied to the dying whale by the line, and the crew had to be wary of the powerful tail flukes. Another danger was the “Nantucket sleigh ride,” which could occur when the injured whale dove and swam at high speed, dragging the whaleboat after it.

This whaleboat was built expressly for The Mariners’ Museum’s small craft collection. Although never used at sea to hunt whales, it represents the pinnacle of whaleboat development.

Captain Charles Beetle describes a Nantucket sleigh ride:

Boy what a ride them whales could give! Me and the gang was in a boat just like this here one. After we struck and made the line fast to the whale, that critter took off at top speed draggin’ us behind.

That line was like a fiddle-string and we payed out as fast as we could. The old loggerhead . . . was so hot with the line runnin’ out it was smoking. We kept dousin’ it with water.

We thought the monster was almost dead many times, but he kept goin’ lickety-split. The spray was flyin’! White as snow. And cold! God! What a sleigh ride that was! That beast towed us for miles from our vessel before he gave out. Our ship finally sighted us and picked us up hours later.

In Museum Pieces, Nora Hill

Origin: Massachusetts, USA