In Search of Baleen

As sperm whales became scarcer in the mid 1800s, whale ships traveled further north into the Pacific. In 1848, the whale ship Superior from Sag Harbor NY ventured into the Behring Sea discovering a large population of bowhead whales, Balaena mysticetus. This discovery by Captain Welcome Roys and the crew of the Superior, launched the era of Arctic whaling. Practiced during the spring and summer months, it was balanced by the cruising in the South Pacific during the colder months.

Unlike the toothed sperm whale, the bowhead was a source of baleen. Found in the mouths of whales, baleen is strips of keratin that filter out the whale's food. Baleen had a wide variety of uses ranging from corset stays to fishing rods and frames for bags, hats and umbrellas. Both fashion and function were satisfied with this pliable materials from harvested bowhead whales

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