Whales in the Heart of the Sea: Our Heritage, Culture, and Changing Values Over Time

Free Lecture Series

November 3, 10 & 17
6:00 p.m. Reception  |  6:30 p.m. Lecture

Live Online Broadcasts: All three lectures were broadcast live online via livestream.

In advance of the exclusive New Bedford premiere (December 2015) of In the Heart of the Sea, the long-awaited film by Ron Howard depicting the sinking of the whaleship Essex, the Museum presented this three-part lecture series to explore the culture and challenges present during the age of commercial whaling in New England.

Attendees learned about the connection between the whaling industry of the past and the modern-day understanding and conservation of whales. Experts in whaling history, whale biology, the whaleship Essex, and whale conservation lead each lecture.

One copy of Nat Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea was raffled off each evening.

Whales in the Heart of the Sea lecture series POSTER (pdf)


artwork of the ship ESSEX and whale smashing the ship

“Essex struck by a whale” published in “The Mariner’s Chronicle,” 1834. (photo:  New Bedford Whaling Museum #G525.M338.1834)


November 3 |  6:00 p.m.

“Whales: An Economic, Cultural and Environmental Icon”
Delve into why and how whales were hunted, how our attitudes toward them have changed, and how we still continue to impact their lives.

Panel: Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Whale and Dolphin Conservation; Scott Landry, Center for Coastal Studies; Dr. Michael Moore, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Robert Rocha, Director of K-12 and Science Programs.

November 10  |  6:00 p.m.

“The Culture of Whales”
Whales learn much of their behavior from one another. These shared, learned behaviors are culture. It is becoming clear that for whales, like humans, culture is vital. It shapes their societies, their ecologies, their evolution, and how they interact with us. Hal Whitehead will talk about whale culture, concentrating particularly on sperm whales. Book signing by the author will take place both before and following the lecture (books may be purchased at the time of lecture).

Hal Whitehead, Dalhousie University, Author of Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the Ocean.

November 17  |  6:00 p.m.

“The Survivors: Life Before and After the Essex.”
The tragedy of the whaleship Essex is a Nantucket story, told and retold on the island for nearly 200 years. Join the chief curator of the Nantucket Whaling Museum, the home of the only surviving artifacts from the disaster, for a look at the island as it was in 1819, new details about the ship’s crew, and stories about the survivors’ adventurous later lives.

Michael Harrison, Robyn & John Davis Chief Curator, Nantucket Historical Association.


Attendees were asked to stay tuned for details about the premiere of the long-awaited movie In the Heart of the Sea.

Movie poster for "In the Heart of the Sea"


This lecture series was supported by a grant from the NOAA Preserving America Initiative.



Last modified: August 26, 2016

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