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Harpoon

From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria

Description
Hand forged double fluke steel whaling harpoon with an arrowhead tip atop a square shank that tapers to a narrow round shaft with a split metal cone to accommodate a wooden harpoon pole.
Size
L 70 cm X W 8 cm
Links
Object Registration
3794
Keywords
harpoon, whaling, whaling harpoon, fishing industry, whales, flukes, lewis temple, marine technology
Historical information
A harpoon is a long spear-like instrument used in fishing, whaling, sealing and other marine hunting to catch large fish or marine mammals such as whales. It accomplishes this task by impaling the target animal and securing it with barb or toggling claws, allowing the fishermen to use a rope or chain attached to the projectile to catch the animal. The earliest known harpoons, have been recorded as having been made and used 90,000 years ago. In the early whaling industry the two flue harpoon was the primary weapon used around the world.
This two fluke harpoon tended to penetrate no deeper than the soft outer layer of a whales blubber. Thus it was often possible for the whale to escape by struggling or swimming away forcefully enough to pull the shallowly embedded barbs out backwards. This flaw was corrected in the early nineteenth century with the creation of the one fluke harpoon. By removing one of the flukes, the head of the harpoon was narrowed, making it easier for it to penetrate deep enough to hold fast. In the Arctic, the indigenous people used the more advanced toggling harpoon design and by the mid-19th century, the toggling harpoon was adapted by Lewis Temple, using iron. The Temple toggle was widely used, and quickly came to dominate the whaling industry around the world.
When Made
Early to mid 19th Century
Significance
A hand forged harpoon demonstrating the blacksmiths art for fashioning an item used during the early 19th century in the significant industry of whaling. Used during a time when the world depended on the natural resources derived from whales, oil for lighting, lubrication, margarine, candles, soaps and cosmetics as well as the use of the whales bones for various other items such as corsets, umbrellas,fertiliser and animal feed. The item is significant as it was probably made between 1820-1850 after which a single fluke and toggle harpoon began to be use extensively in the whaling industry. Also coming in to general use was a black powder gun to fire the harpoon rather than the early type that had to be manually thrown by a mariner from a row boat of which the subject item is an example.
Inscriptions & Markings
None
Last updated
11 Dec 2019 at 1:46PM