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Sailors with a Sweet Tooth


Whaling was a profitable industry throughout the second half of the 19th century. One sperm whale could net a ship up to three tons of spermaceti, or whale oil, which was used for lamp oil and in many other products. The sperm whale has the largest teeth of any animal; one tooth can weigh seven pounds! While at sea, sailors would pass the time by etching artworks into the teeth, originating an art form called scrimshaw. The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine has a collection of whale tooth scrimshaw, several examples of which you can see at Curious Expeditions. Link

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Neato! I got to see a lot of scrimshaw at the Whaling Museum on Nantucket this spring.My favorite were the yarn swifts made from whale bone. So intricate!
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