O’er the Wide and Tractless Sea: Original Art of the Yankee Whale Hunt

An exhibition accompanying Michael Dyer’s new book O’er the Wide and Tractless Sea.

Exhibition Dates: July 21, 2017 May 14, 2019

Buried deep within the logbooks, journals, and manuscripts of America’s whaling heritage are paintings, drawings, and representations of the whale hunt rarely, if ever, seen by the public. From the 1750s through the first years of the 20th century, American whaling voyages ranged farther off shore, and ultimately around the world, in a pursuit that produced oil and baleen for the growing population and industrialization of the US. The dangerous pursuit of whales has been justly studied and chronicled, but many writers have overlooked a significant cultural aspect of multiyear voyages wherein day-to-day events were pictorially recorded.

This exhibition highlighted artworks that capture the essence of whaling, its culture, vessels, the geographical locales where it took place, and the animals commonly pursued. Scrimshaw whaling scenes have seldom been compared with whalemen’s paintings and drawings, although the comparisons are obvious. The me­diums have been treated separately, yet each came into creation at the same place and time and under the same conditions.


Art of Yankee Whalehunt book cover

About the Publication

O’er the Wide and Tractless Sea by Michael Dyer features more than 327 illustrations of whaling scenes, scrimshaw, prints, and paintings. It is unique in its structure, detailed in its study, and enlightening in its discoveries. The publication is available in the Museum gift shop The White Whale or online.






Captions: (BELOW LEFT) Whaleman artist John F. Martin of Wilmington, Delaware kept a journal while on board the ship Lucy Ann. This magnificent ink and watercolor illustration shows a stern view of the ship under a pyramid of full sail. (BELOW RIGHT) First mate William Wells Eldridge kept this superb illustrated journal aboard the bark Canton of New Bedford, Peter Sherman, master, 1874-1878, while on a sperm whaling voyage to the Indian Ocean. 

two images for Art of Yankee Whalehunt exhibit