SEA Currents: SEASCape
A Day in New Bedford
Today we visited the old whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. During the nineteenth century, New Bedford was the richest town in the world because of its central importance to the whaling industry.
After an approximately 50 minute drive we arrived in New Bedford. We first looked around the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park visitor center and saw a short film about nineteenth century sailors who traveled from New Bedford around Cape Horn to the Pacific Ocean in search of sperm, right, and bowhead whales. They often traveled for three or four years at a time. Next, we visited the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center. There we saw an informative presentation by Laura Orleans about the creation and role of the Center, and the modern fishing industry of New Bedford. She provided many interested facts about the history of the fishing industry in New Bedford. She also taught us many interesting things about the present fishing industry and it’s future. Fun fact: did you know that safety training for fishermen has only become common in the US in the past few decades?
After the presentation, nine brave volunteers stepped up to try and put on neoprene survival suits, which fishermen wear in maritime emergencies. Their goal was to put on the suits in under 60 seconds, with varying degrees of success.
Later, after a slightly damp lunch outside on the wharf we walked around the Seamen’s Bethel, and took a tour of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. There, we heard a talk from Michael Dyer, a senior maritime historian at the museum and got a fascinating look at actual logbooks and journals written by the captains, masters, mates, and crew members of whaling ships. Every whaling ship had a detailed logbook that recorded information about the weather, location, time, and number of whales caught and seen every day. We also explored a half-size model of the whaling ship Lagoda, and then had time to explore the museum by ourselves as well as walk around the historic town itself.
Finally, we returned to the SEA campus and watched Into The Gyre, a documentary about the amount of plastic pollution and its consequences for marine life in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Samuel and Olivia