Don’t call me Ishmael

I have never read Herman Melville’s classic fictional work ‘Moby Dick’. That is, if you don’t count the numerous extracts from it that we had to read for English comprehension tests at school. I always marvelled that so much could be written on the subject of a whaling expedition – the Penguin Classics edition fills 720 pages.

On a recent trip to Cape Cod I spent a day with my friend Marion who lives on the other side of Buzzards Bay. She knew just what I would be interested to see  – A Chart of the Whale Coast of New England.  M had chanced upon a newspaper report telling about a mural that had lately been removed from a seaside (bayside) home, had been carefully renovated and was now hanging proudly in the local museum. After lunch we drove to the Mattapoisett Historical Museum housed in a former Baptist church.

The icing on the cake for us was that we were welcomed to the Museum and shown in detail the Ashley Mural (as it is called) by Mr Seth Mendell himself, President of the Historical Society and a primer mover in the preservation of this wonderful piece of local whaling history for the community.

Mr Mendell explained all the intricacies involved in the creation, removal, renovation and final re-hanging of the Mural via the photo proofs for his book which is due to be published this autumn.

In addition to the Mural we were introduced to various forms of whaling harpoon.

And we were delighted to inspect some very fine examples of Whaling Journals. After pages and pages of seemingly undecipherable handwriting there suddenly appear ink stamp prints of whale tails (indicating sightings/attempted harpoonings) and full whales (indicating capture). One of the museum copies was also decorated with beautiful drawings of full-masted ships.

Later we went off to find the house where the Mural had hung for 90 years. It was discovered hanging at an angle from the ceiling in the conservatory at the front of the house (20, Water Street, Mattapoisett) overlooking the bay.

Yet, even after all this new-found whaling knowledge I was still not tempted to take a Whale Watch Cruise out into the Atlantic Ocean! And will I read the book? ….. probably not.


15 comments on “Don’t call me Ishmael

  1. sherry says:

    a lovely day, wasn’t it?

  2. sherry says:

    Mr Mendell added a lot to an already wonderful experience, and day out. I will let you know when I hear about the forthcoming book.

  3. Marie-Noëlle says:

    “Moby Dick” …
    Have I read it ? Or … have I heard so much about it that I’m feeling I’ve read it ???
    Can’t tell, really, but I won’t read it now …

  4. You have just the same feeling as me, Marie-Noelle! Barbara

  5. sherry says:

    I thought you might like to see another whaling journal; this one is in our upcoming auction:

  6. Oh wow! That is amazing. Just like the one at the Museum. I’ll be interested to know how much it goes for and whether any museums are interested.

    • sherry says:

      The Whaling Museum in New Bedford is interested, for one. They sent a representative to come see it in person. There have been quite a few inquiries already.

  7. I look forward to hearing the result! Must get to that Museum one day!

  8. Seth Mendell says:

    Hi–I am Seth Mendell of the Mattapoisett Museum and your website was recently brought to my attention. I remember your visit and am pleased to see you did such a nice presentation of our museum and the Ashley Mural. Our sixty page view book has been published. The book sells for $25.00 plus $5.00 for shipping and handling. Please call me at 508-758-4458 or email me.


  9. Thank you for your visit, Mr Mendell and I’m glad you approve of my little presentation. Thank you also for bringing the finished book to my attention and I hope to be in touch with you about it when the holidays are over.

  10. […] written about whaling here before. My friend’s flat on the Keizersgracht is situated on the ground floor of a 17th […]

  11. […] ‘Don’t Call Me Ishmael‘ was the title of a post here a year ago in which I wrote about a visit with a friend to the Mattapoisett Historical Museum to inspect the Ashley Whaling Mural a map of the south coast of New England from the mouth of the Connecticut River to Cape Cod. We also looked at Whaling Journals. […]

  12. […] of our Cape Cod Comfort Zone and that is to visit my online book group friend sherry who lives in Marion, Massachusetts on the other side of Buzzards Bay. This time our excursion included a new […]

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