The term "whalecraft" refers to the various tools and instruments used during the nineteenth century for hunting whales and processing blubber into whale oil. These tools were primarily used by hand on wooden, sail-powered whaling ships that roamed the seas globally. The final whaling expedition in the United States was undertaken by the whaling schooner John R. Manta in 1925, marking the end of the era of hand-harpoon whaling and traditional whalecraft as detailed here.

Basic harpoons

Basic Harpoon designs; two-flue, single-flue, Temple iron and toggle iron.

Author's collection

Collection and Evolution of Whalecraft

This website features an extensive collection of whalecraft, detailing the evolution of harpoons and other whaling tools. It provides information about the craftsmen who designed and made these tools and the whalers who used them. To give a comprehensive view, the site includes illustrations and descriptions of the various whalecraft items and the methods used in the whaling industry. Whaling Museum Logo

This is an independent website and not officially associated with the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Several years ago, I authored the book "Harpoons and Other Whalecraft," which was published by the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 1984 and reprinted in 2005. The museum has kindly allowed me to use material from that book on this website. Visitors are encouraged to explore the New Bedford Whaling Museum's official site at http://www.whalingmuseum.org or by clicking on the museum's logo on the right. Unless stated otherwise, all photos of whalecraft on this site are courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, has also permitted the use of information and illustrations they provided for the book. Illustrations credited to the History of Technology Division, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution are used here with their permission.

Links to Other Resources

The Links page offers connections to other whaling and maritime museums worldwide. Your suggestions to expand this list are welcome.

Purpose and Contributions

The primary aim of this website is to compile a comprehensive collection of whalecraft and related information for research and educational purposes. Additionally, it seeks to capture and preserve this knowledge before it fades from memory. To achieve this, contributions of relevant information and illustrations from museums, collectors, researchers, students, and historians worldwide are encouraged. The result will be a continually growing collection of whalecraft and related data available for everyone. Whaling was an international endeavor; whaleships frequently met on the high seas, sharing ideas, information, whalecraft designs, and the implements themselves. Thus, the study of whalecraft is incomplete without examples and information from whaling nations worldwide. Please submit any relevant information and illustrations you may have, and appropriate credit will be given.

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info (at) whalecraft (dot) net


Please be aware that this website is entirely non-commercial. I do not accept advertisements, nor do I charge any fees. Additionally, the values and prices of any whalecraft items will not be discussed or presented here.

To explore, click on a whale stamp for a general topic or choose a specific topic:

Capturing and processing whales indicating whalecraft used

Basic timeline for major whaling events.

HarpoonsTwo flue --- Single flue --- Toggle --- Explosive --- Poison

Click on the whale stamp image labeled "HARPOONS" for general information, or select a specific topic for detailed information on that harpoon type, including two-flue, single-flue, toggle, explosive, or poison harpoons.

LancesNon-explosive, Explosive, Poison

SpadesBoat spades, Cutting-in, Sliver, Throat, Head, Gouge

KnivesBoarding knives, Mincing knives, Leaning knives

Greener Guns, Harpoons and Bomb Lance

Shoulder Guns and Bomb Lances

Gun HarpoonsShoulder Gun Harpoons

MarkingsMarkings found on whalecraft

Whalecraft Patent RecordsU.S. Patents for Whalecraft: 1790 - 1925

BibliographyBooks on Whaling

Links to MuseumsWhaling and Maritime Museums Internationally

Reproductions and Non-whalecraftWhat Whalecraft Is and Is Not. (Includes farm tools, fakes, reproductions, and how to identify them)

Your input is valuable. Please send your comments and suggestions via email. If you have material to contribute, please let me know.

Full credit will be given for any contributed material, unless you prefer otherwise.

© Website originally created by Thomas G. Lytle