This is not a large museum, but the information from the self-guided audio phones, which are available in four languages, and the extensive collection of photos and descriptive placards reveal a compelling picture of the whaling trade. Here visitors learn about the men from all walks of life, young and old, experienced and "green," who signed on the for the extensive and exhaustive journeys that promised perils from every direction. From the risk of scurvy, to unending bouts of seasickness, from the challenge of sharing the cramped, foul quarters with thirty disparate men onboard the vessel, to braving wicked seas and fighting the interminable boredom between kills, the journey itself was treacherous. But that was just the beginning. As the crew went about the business of capturing whales, unimaginable hazards abounded.
Beware the graphic black and white photos depicting the preparation of the whale for market. Although the little boys with me were rapt, especially awed by the authentic tools of the trade on display, I felt my stomach go into knots and searched for more pleasant information. An enchanting looping video spotlighting sea turtles and restoration of the Henry Morgan settled me immediately. Focusing on other whaling paraphernalia, a full-scale recreation of the sailor’s berths, and smaller scale model of a typical whaling ship, provided welcome and fascinating relief from the more gruesome aspects of the business.
The museum also offers a thorough explanation for why men undertook such perilous journeys in order to hunt whales. Before the discovery of petroleum, whale oil was the primary source for oil in lamps and candles. Additionally, the baleen was used in high-demand products from umbrellas to corsets.
With the discovery of alternative fuel, depletion of the whale population and destruction of whaling ships during the American Civil War, the whaling industry was essentially brought to a halt. The Whaler’s Museum neither condemns nor condones the past; it doesn’t preach or glorify. Rather, it presents an authentic and respectful account of an era and way of life in an entertaining and educational forum that both young and old can appreciate.
Amid the glittering jewelers, upscale shops and restaurants at beachside Whaler‘s Village, it is easy to overlook the real gem of the mall. Take the stairs or the elevator, located in the middle of the center, up to the third floor. Admission is free, but you will likely find a video or souvenir, including unique scrimshaw pieces, in the gift shop at the entrance to the museum. Proceeds from sales help to support one of America’s finest historical references to the Great Age of Whaling (1825 - 1860).
by smmmarti guide
July 13, 2003
From journal Maui with Keiki