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Nantucket Whaling Museum gears up for Hollywood thriller

July 15, 2015
Huge sperm whale skeleton that dominates the main hall in the museum
Huge sperm whale skeleton that dominates the main hall in the museum

Huge sperm whale skeleton that dominates the main hall of the Nantucket Whaling Museum

Exhibit at the Nantucket Whaling Museum chronicles the story of the whale that fought back.

A new Ron Howard movie, In the Heart of the Sea, starring heartthrob Chris Hemsworth (People Magazine’s 2014 Sexiest Man Alive) is scheduled for release on December 11, 2015. The thriller is based on the true story of the sinking of the Nantucket-based whaleship Essex, which inspired Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.

Tied to the film’s release, the Nantucket Whaling Museum has created Stove by a Whale: 20 Men, 3 Boats, 96 Days, an impressive installation recounting the tragic stories of the men who survived and those who lost their lives when the ship was attacked by a sperm whale in 1820.

Exterior of Nantucket Whaling Museum

Exterior of Nantucket Whaling Museum

The high-tech, interactive exhibit features murals, paintings, electronic displays, and historic artifacts (such as logbooks) that allow visitors to follow the destinies of the sailors aboard the whaler as they sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific with limited food and water. The family-friendly displays include a recreated life-size whaleboat that visitors can sit in, as well as props and costumes from the film set on loan from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Operating under the auspices of the Nantucket Historic Association (NHA) and housed in a building that was once a candle factory, the small museum pays homage to the island’s economic and cultural ties to the whaling industry. A huge sperm whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling dominates Gosnell Hall, the contemporary atrium of the multi-level building. Here visitors can view a 50-minute film by Ric Burns showcasing the transformation of the island from the whaling capital of the world to a summer resort and art colony.

Visitors listen to a lecture in Gosnell Hall with the sperm whale skeleton overhead

Visitors listen to a lecture in Gosnell Hall with the sperm whale skeleton overhead

The museum also displays crafts associated with the lives of whalers including intricate scrimshaw carvings and woven lightship baskets. Winding stairs lead to a widow’s walk on the rooftop offering panoramic views of Nantucket Harbor and the quaint town’s cobblestone streets.

To alleviate boredom, whaleship crew often made intricate Scrimshaw engravings on whale bones or teeth

To alleviate boredom, whaleship crew often made intricate Scrimshaw engravings on whale bones or teeth

Different shapes of lightship baskets and purses crafted by lightship keepers that have now become collectibles.

Different shapes of lightship baskets and purses crafted by lightship keepers that have now become collectibles

“Nantucket is the ‘home’ of the story and the home of Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the best-selling non-fiction book In the Heart of the Sea, upon which the movie is based,” says Bill Tramposch, Executive Director of the NHA.


IF YOU GO

Whaling Museum, 13 Broad Street, Nantucket 508 228-1894

Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day (call for hours)

Stove by a Whale: 20 Men, 3 Boats, 96 Days will remain open until December 2016.

[A version of this article by Irene S. Levine appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Hartford CourantOrlando Sentinel and Miami Sun-Sentinel on July 14, 2015.]


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  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    July 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I love to visit destinations with a Hollywood tie-in. With Ron Howard directing “Heart of the Sea” and Chris Hemsworth starring in the film, I am sure the movie will be fantastic!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 15, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      Yes, it’s always fun for travelers to follow movie trails~

  • Reply
    Laura
    July 15, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Irene, you have a knack for discovering the unique! Looks like a place I would like to visit as I love museums.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      I can be very resourceful on a rainy day…but this was a real find!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    July 18, 2015 at 12:01 am

    As a child spending my summer vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, I used to love learning about the islands’ whaling history, and imagining what it was like to be someone’s wife watching the sea from a widow’s walk, or to spend so many months on a whaling ship. It’s a fascinating history!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 18, 2015 at 9:26 am

      How lucky you were to spend summers in such a beautiful part of the country. We visited the Vineyard last year and loved it, too.

  • Reply
    Josie
    July 18, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Hi Irene,
    Impressive museum. Conrad and I both grew up in the east and miss it all the time. We dream up reasons for a road trip all the time, so thanks for one more spectacular item to add to that list. Really must go!
    Regards,
    Josie

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    July 18, 2015 at 8:15 am

    This was our first time in Nantucket and we loved the quaint historic area around the museum.

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    July 19, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    This sounds like quite the interesting new exhibit – sure to be a hit for the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Now we want to know more about the story of the sinking of the Essex and how the survivors fared. (And did the whale die?) We’ll keep an eye out for the movie for sure :-). Oh, and aren’t those scrimshaw carvings lovely?

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