Bone Whale Stamp

Original content by: Dr. Paul Goodwin

zoomable artifact image here

About This Artifact

Whale stamps recorded a whale capture or encounter and were entered in a ship’s logbook by the captain, first mate or second mate.  Often there was a cut out section in the body of the whale to record the number of barrels of oil obtained.  Some whale stamps showed only the flukes of the whale, which indicated whales seen or pursued but not taken.

Whale stamps were made from various woods or bone.  While most were rather plain, such as this artifact, others were quite ornate. The sperm whale was most commonly featured although right whales or bowheads are also shown on whale stamps.

Questions for Further Thought

  1. Why did most whale stamps show sperm whales?
  2. Why are some stamps so elaborate?
  3. Why do you think a fluke was used to represent a whale that was spotted but got away?