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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Drift Whaling or Strandings Brought an Occasional Bonus to Provincetown Shores.
The back of this card has a handwritten note reading "Finback Whale." The landline attached to the whale and the date of the print suggest that this may be a "drift whale," a dead whale that had drifted in to shore or was found drifting off the shoreline and was then towed to shore, pulled with a line from a small boat. This sort of landing of a whale was serendipitous for the finder, and in any village of that day, a multiple stranding could prove a boon to the entire community, bringing a good price for many barrels of oil extracted from a single whale. Sometimes villagers would use the oil to light their own lamps for a good period of time rather than selling off the oil when whales drifted in or stranded on the shoreline.
This whale may also have been caught at sea and brought to shore for flensing, or cutting up the blubber and other usable parts, but that doesn't seem as likely, even though these men are armed with long-handled flensing knives. There are no barrels ready to fill with whale oil, and there is no wagon ready to haul the blubber away to be melted down, so this looks more likely to have been a lucky find.