Scrimshaw (1841-1870)

KINCM:2005.2374, Hull Maritime Museum, Hull

This plaque made from whale jawbone features various carved elements encircled with a decorative border of tendrils that snake around the outside. The central and largest image depicts a fully-rigged whaling ship. Smaller boats in the foreground are hunting sperm whales, each boat apparently successful in their hunt, as the captured whales are in various stages of distress. The picture in the top right depicts four men in the royal marines patriotically holding the flag of St. George and the Union Jack. In the top left corner can be found the HMS Acorn chasing a Spanish slave ship, the Gabriel. The inscription reads “HM Sloop Acorn capturing the Spanish slaver Gabriel July 6th 1841”. In 1807, Britain officially stopped its own role in the slave trade. She then used her own powerful navy to stop others from trading in slaves as well. Between 1807 and 1866 the Royal Navy captured more than 500 slave ships. The close connection between whalers and anti-slavery might be suggested in the formal relationship between Turner’s Whalers and his The Slave Ship, originally known as Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On (1840), now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a picture shown alongside whaling work by Ward at the Royal Academy that year.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum