Dick Watching: Of Whales…in Teeth

Posted by Juliet Linderman

Greetings and salutations Dicksters, and welcome to this week’s watery wonderland of whale-related mimsy and lore. Let’s begin! 

You guys: we’re not alone. Doesn’t it seem like everyone and his or her pet whale is dying to write about Moby Dick, Herman Melville, whales or whaling–and not only because we’ve set up google alerts for all of the above key terms and surf the net like veritable sea captains for pictures of whales in costumes or hilarious situations? Well, it’s true. Case in point: Carolyn Classen of the Tuscon Citizen is so desperate to write about our flippered friends that she’s published a review of In the Heart of the Sea, a book about the tragic tale of the Essex, a doomed whaling vessel…that was published in 2000. But, in her defense, the story of the Essex is..,well. It’s a whale of a tale.

D’oh! A poor and out-of-place little beaked whale died after beaching itself…for a second time in a week. Poor fella.

Whales in Wales! According to this BBC article there are, in fact, whales and dolphins in Wales, and one in particular—that locals have named John Coe, for some reason—comes back and visits often. He’s become something of a celebrity.

Hey, what are you up to this weekend? Not much? Cool, well then you should probably get on a bus bound for New Bedford immediately and hurry to the whaling museum because they’re having—yes, you heard me—a scrimshaw seminar on Saturday.

A brief aside dear to my heart: At the 2010 Moby Dick: The Marathon I scored chapter 57 entitled, ‘Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars,’ in which Herm waxes poetic about scrimshaw and scrimshanders (yes, scrimshander is a real word). An excerpt, for your pleasure:

“Throughout the Pacific, and also in Nantucket, and New Bedford, and Sag Harbor, you will come across lively sketches of whales and whaling-scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale-teeth, or ladies’ busks wrought out of the Right Whale-bone, and other like skrimshander articles, as the whalemen call the numerous little ingenious contrivances they elaborately carve out of the rough material, in their hours of ocean leisure. Some of them have little boxes of dentistical-looking implements, specially intended for the skrimshandering business. But, in general, they toil with their jack-knives alone; and, with that almost omnipotent tool of the sailor, they will turn you out anything you please, in the way of a mariner’s fancy.”