Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Days 3, 4 and 5 – August 1st, 2nd and 3rd Nantucket, WHALING and our flight to Vegas

Days 3 and 4 on Nantucket were as fabulous as the previous two. We went to town shopping (we didn’t buy anything but DELICIOUS home made ice cream in a home made waffle-cone), we went to have drinks with my cousin Max and his wonderful girlfriend Audrey at the place where my other cousin Brooke works. 

We rode around the island, visited the whaling museum, learnt a lot of things and saw the city and the harbor from its roof. We also went to the beach (this time the one with waves).

The Whaling museum was extraordinary. Actually, the whaling itself was extraordinary. The Whalers used to leave the island for long periods of time (first a few months when there were enough whales near to the island, then for up to 4 years by the end of the era, when they had to go to the Pacific and Indian Oceans to find whales). They came back only once their big ship was full of whale and predominantly its fat.  Being a whaler consisted of two very different phases. The first one was very boring = looking for whales, and it could last for ages.  The second one, very dangerous, took place once the whale was found. Six men in a small boat (about 8 meters long, open and wooden) approached the whale (the biggest ones were up to 20 meters long). Their aim was to get as close to the animal as possible – “make the wood and the blackskin touch”. They then harpooned the animal with two harpoons that had ropes linked to them.
- If everything went ok, the officer then used a lance to kill the whale by piercing an organ containing oxygenated blood. This act killed the whale. They then dragged it to the main ship where it hung on the side of the ship and the whole crew worked for several days nonstop to cut it into pieces. They had to be quick because otherwise sharks would eat the whale in the meantime. 
- If the whale got angry and dived or sped forward, it would drag the boat along the waves at extremely high speed. The whale either tired and was killed by the lance or the ropes were not long enough and the whalers had to release their prey.
Once the whale killed and cut into pieces, they stocked its blubber in barrels. They wouldn’t come back to Nantucket until the whole ship was full of whale fat. Once back, they made several different things with this fat but mostly candles. The enormous quantities produced and the quality of the products made Nantucket a very rich place.
There is another quite interesting think linked to whaling: since men used to be away from the island for important periods of time, women had considerably more rights and power there than elsewhere in the Commonwealth/the United States.

We left Nantucket on Tuesday afternoon. We had wonderful time there! THANKS EVERYBODY!

Now the real adventure begins.  We will be in Las Vegas in a couple of hours and then off into the beauty of the National Parks of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. No Internet coverage there, I expect. We will keep you posted when we get to a place connected to the world.

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