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Hawaii Vacation: Whaler’s Village Museum

Excuses, excuses are all I have for why I’ve been away from blogging these past few months. I last left off toward the tail end of our Hawaii Vacation and have already ventured off on another vacation. It just further hits home the point that I’m behind and last in line for the Blogger of the Year Award.

In case you’re wondering, this recent vacation took us the Smoky Mountains and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But of course, all the details of that trip are coming. Hopefully it won’t take me six months to document it.

For now, it’s back to Hawaii.

Day 8: Whaler’s Village Museum

After having our fill of noodles and malasadas at Star Noodle, we retired back at the Aina Nalu condo and were up relatively early the next morning. Our flight back to Oahu was departing later in the afternoon, so we spent a good deal of time packing our bags and sorting through all the food in the kitchen before checking out.

To kill time before our flight, we decided to stop into the Whaler’s Village in Kaanapali to visit the Whaler’s Village Museum. Having beach bummed around for much of our trip, it was time for a history lesson.

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The Whaler’s Village Museum is small and quaint, which would’ve been a pain had it been crowded. Fortunately, there was only a small handful of visitors, including us. It’s located in the Whaler’s Village outdoor shopping area, tucked away in a high corner of the mall. There were plenty of signs to point us in the right direction.

Before I get into the thick of things, I should warn anyone who might be sensitive to issues such as whaling. The museum presents a true depiction of whaling life at the height of the trade in the mid-1800s. Some of my photos and descriptions may be tough for some to stomach, but it’s a part of history — an unfortunate one, yes — but the education piece of it was completely worth it for me. So if you’re still along for the ride, here goes…

This model of brains below greeted us on our way in. It shows how massive a whale brain is compared to a dolphin, human and chimpanzee brain. Just goes to show how incredible these whale creatures are. I’d imagine they have a whole lot of complex brain power that us measly little humans have yet to understand.

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A humpback whale replica with that infamous line, “thar she blows”.

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Whaling was a harsh and gruesome practice. Whales were in high demand for their blubber (pictured below). Whale oil was extracted from these pieces in order to fuel kerosene lamps in people’s homes. Sad, but true.

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A number of different tools were used to capture the whales and then cut into them. The idea of so many men taking over an animal so colossal seems impossible, but they were successful. The whaling trade eventually saw its last leg as result of so many whalers over-fishing them. The whale population dropped by a vast amount, which is why we’re struggling to sustain their populations today.

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The Whaler’s Village Museum also detailed ship life for the melting pot of cultures and ethnicities that made whaling their trade. It was a harsh one, to say the least. Ships were full of sickness and disease and little to no access to medical care. Food infestations, sea sickness and “surgeries” at sea were common, if not constant.

But whalemen did find ways to enjoy themselves too. Beverages of an alcoholic nature were one way, but there was also the art of scrimshaw. Whalemen would carve pictures into whale teeth and bones and flood the carvings with ink, so that the designs would show through. The museum had an impressive collection. Here’s an example of a whale tooth and a rather creepy looking whaleman caught in the act.

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This picture below represents the diverse backgrounds of so many of the whalemen. They came from all parts of the world, all walks of life. One of the displays showed a record book of names and also stated where each whaleman was from. I recall seeing places like Norway, Amsterdam and Ireland. Hawaiians were also recruited to work as whalemen. According to the photo caption, they had a reputation for being the most knowledgeable about the whales and also the most cooperative. I’m sure glad someone could serve that role. These ships remind me of a frat party at sea that’s gone terribly wrong.

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I also found the journaling of the whalemen kind of fascinating (as any writer would). The 1st mate was tasked with keeping the log book. He used the symbols below to report the day’s happenings. “Chased but not harpooned” is obviously my favorite. It means the whale outsmarted the humans. Suckers.

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While the museum is filled with a number of photographs and interesting artifacts, the experience felt pretty morbid. The act of whaling itself is horrific, but as I said before, it was a part of history. Hopefully, it will be a reminder to never back pedal to that place we were before.

However, the positive spin on this whole experience was the free talk we got to watch by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (otherwise known as a mouthful). A representative from the sanctuary presented a quick slideshow on the humpback whales’ history and characteristics and why Hawaii is so connected to them. Every year, approximately 12,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii to give birth, nurse their calves and mate. The whales have proven to be highly intelligent, curious and friendly animals that often swim right up to whale watching boats to get up close and personal with tourists. And now I want to go whale watching more than ever.

Once the talk was over, we finished the self-guided museum tour and then headed back into the heat and humidity to grab lunch at the Hula Grill.

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I always like to balance out our beach bum outings with something of real educational substance. So I’m glad we stopped into the Whaler’s Village Museum. With all of these documentaries, such as Blackfish and The Cove gaining popularity these days, this tour seems a bit more relevant today than it did when we actually visited the museum. It has similar parallels to the Wild Horse Tour we recently did on this recent vacation in North Carolina. More to come on that, and next up… the final episode to close out our Hawaii Vacation — Oahu’s North Shore and digging our toes in the sand with a few sea turtles.

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