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Nomi Dayan

When Jeff Kappel’s father Lester passed away this May just a few months shy of his 100th birthday, Jeff was faced with the decision of rehoming his father’s extensive collection of ships in a bottle. Ultimately he chose 19 items to donate to The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor. 

“I want it seen. My father collected for years and loved sharing his collection with people, and I want to continue that,” he said.

The art of ship in a bottle is a finely crafted and challenging folk art. The earliest surviving models date to the late 1700’s. Popularized by both American and European mariners who needed to pass long hours at sea, the creator would use a discarded bottle, bits of wood and other materials to create a tiny yet accurate model of a sailing ship. 

With great patience for handiwork, the model was created with complete but collapsible rigging, which was inserted folded into the neck of a bottle, set into a painted diorama, and had the sails raised. Each ship in a bottle is unique, and was often created as a gift or souvenir. Retired seamen also maintained their skills by engaging in the hobby.

Lester Kappel spent a lifetime collecting ships in a bottle, some of which were loaned years ago to the Whaling Museum for a special exhibition about the craft.

Born in Brooklyn in 1923, Lester spent childhood summers in Long Beach. In 1939, his family moved to the area on Belmont Avenue. He attended Long Beach High School and studied aircraft mechanics at Roosevelt Aviation School in 1941 (where Roosevelt Field Mall is located today). He began working for Pan American Airlines, and served in the Navy for 18 months before transferring to the Army, where he worked on aircraft. After the war, he continued to work as an aircraft mechanic, as well as in his family’s printing business in Manhattan.

For 65 years, Lester was a member of the Point Lookout/Lido Fire Department, serving as Captain of the Lido company and fire commissioner for over five decades. He also joined the staff of the Long Beach Public Library in 1983.

The largest ship in a bottle in the collection “was found in Queens for $24. Whenever my father traveled, he would look for ships in a bottle to collect — and yet here in Queens was this find!”

Lester Kappel was not only a collector of ships in a bottle. He and his wife filled their home with antique firefighting equipment, wooden duck decoys, artwork, glass bottles, and household objects such as glove stretchers. The walls of his kitchen are lined with antique and vintage kitchen tools. 

“We are very thankful to Jeff and the Kappel family for gifting these remarkable items to The Whaling Museum’s collection,” says Nomi Dayan, Executive Director. “This is a significant moment in helping us preserve and promote a unique part of our maritime heritage.”

A selection of ships in a bottle from this collection will be exhibited in the Museum’s craft workshop by September of this year and will be on display thereafter. 

The Whaling Museum, 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor is open in the summer from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning Sept. 3rd, the museum will be open from Thursday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more informtion, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.

A vendor from last year's Sea Glass Festival. Photo from Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum

By Daniel Dunaief

One person’s old discarded glass bottle is another person’s artwork, raw material for a necklace, or artifact with a compelling historical back story.

After a well-attended debut last year, the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor is hosting its second annual Sea Glass festival on July 23rd from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event, which attracted over 600 people in 2022, will run two hours longer than last year and will include hourly flameworking demonstrations on the lawn of the museum’s Wright House.

Last year, “we thought we’d get 30 weirdos like me who maybe like beach trash,” said Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of The Whaling Museum. “We had this huge outpouring of interest. We weren’t expecting this many people, which was the most we’ve ever had [at an event].”

Brenna McCormick-Thompson will lead a jewelry workshop at the event.

Dayan is hoping to accommodate and appeal to even more visitors at the family-friendly event with the additional two hours, numerous local exhibitors, and sea glass competitions for best in show, most unusual and best historical piece.

General admission for the festival is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Attendees can also register in advance for a Sea Glass and Wire Wrapping Workshop, which costs $25 in advance and, if there’s room, $30 at the door. Participants 12 and over will learn how to secure sea glass and design their own necklace. Materials, including sea glass, copper and silver wire and leather lanyard, are included.

Brenna McCormick-Thompson, Curator of Education at the museum, will help lead the workshop. People will “leave will new skills and completed pieces of jewelry,” McCormick-Thompson said. “It’s nice when you have an audience that’s just as excited to learn new things as you are.” 

Gina Van Bell, Assistant Director at the Museum, suggested the festival was a “family event” and said she hoped adults brought their children to learn about the history of sea glass. The museum is featuring presentations, a glass-themed scavenger hunt and crafts throughout the day which are included with admission.

Sea glass color and aging

Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy, Executive Director of the Beachcombing Center who has been beach combing for 20 years, will help people identify sea glass by color during talks at noon and 2 p.m. People can “date glass based on a certain shade” of blue, for example, said McCarthy, who is based in Maryland and has over 30,000 Instagram followers interested in her insights, pictures and finds.

In a photo she shared of colored glass, McCarthy said the oldest color is a dark, olive green that is nearly black, which is referred to as “black glass” and is nicknamed “pirate glass.” Those finds were produced before or near the turn of the 18th century.

Combing beaches and finding unexpected artifacts left from earlier generations offers its own rewards. “People find mental health or inner peace in the search,” McCarthy said. “Searching a coastline is a sacred process. People can find things that are meaningful to them personally, but also historically.”

She has seen pieces of glass made in occupied Japan, from the Prohibition era, and from other time periods. On a recent kayaking trip to a coastal landfill near a major city on the east coast, she found an Abraham Lincoln paperweight. For McCarthy, the discovery is among her top five favorite finds.

When she’s not presenting, McCarthy, who will serve as a judge on the Sea Glass of the Year contest, will also help people identify their own sea glass discoveries.

She isn’t surprised by the enthusiastic response to the Whaling Museum’s festival. “I’ve attended festivals with over 10,000 people, where people wait in line for an hour to have sea glass identified,” she said.

George William Fisher

Meanwhile, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., George William Fisher, author and local expert on antique bottles, will present the Origins of Sea Glass: Beverage Bottles and Medicine Bottles, including milk and condiment bottles.

This year, Fisher will focus on beverages through the ages, going back to the early 1840s. He will explore the evolution of design, including a look at bottles from the 1920’s.

One of his favorite bottles is an Emerson Bromo-Seltzer bottle, which counteracted the effect of digestive problems caused by a lack of refrigeration.

Attendees at his talks can handle objects, although guests can look at some of the more expensive findings without touching them.

While wending their way around local sea glass vendors, visitors can explore the museum and can listen to a live musical performance by The Royal Yard, as Stuart Markus and Robin Grenstine showcase sea shanties by the sea shore.

The Big Black Food Truck will also serve food in front of the museum. Last year, the truck offered a peanut butter and chicken sandwich, which Van Bell described as “surprisingly delicious.”

Visitors can also partake in candy made to look like sea glass.

Festival origins

The sea glass festival started when Dayan surveyed some of the 6,000 items in the museum’s collection. Some of her favorites include 19th century glass bottles. The museum had hosted glass workshops at the end of December.

Even though sea glass doesn’t have a link to whaling, Dayan was pleased to see the historic connection visitors made to their findings and to the glass that the ocean reshapes and polishes. The museum is “about illuminating a rich connection to the ocean that surrounds us,” she said. Sea glass provides an “artistic way to do that.”

The Whaling Museum is located at 301 Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor. To purchase tickets to the Sea Glass Festival  or to reserve a spot for the workshop, visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org. For more information, call 631-367-3418.

Photo from Whaling Museum

The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor will host its annual craft brew tasting event, Whales, Ales and Salty Tales on June 3 from 2 to 5 p.m. with a special VIP hour from 1 to 2 p.m.

The Whaling Museum invites adults age 21+ to join them for craft beer tastings provided by Long Island breweries including Blind Bat Brewery (Centerport), Destination Unknown Beer Company (Bayshore),Ghost Brewing Company (Bayshore), Great South Bay Brewery (Bayshore), Jones Beach Brewing Company (Long Island Location TBD), Long Beach Brewing Company (Oceanside), Secatogue Brewing Company (West Islip), and Take Two Brewery (Bayshore), with more to come.

“Whales & Ales is one of our signature events. We are delighted to get very positive feedback from the community every year. The historic spin on enjoying local brews makes our program unique from other similar events, ” said Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of The Whaling Museum & Education Center.

In addition to tastings from new brewers, this indoor/outdoor event will include a brand-new activity for attendees to partake in. Each ticket includes the chance to try your hand at the signature craft of whalers, scrimshaw. With the help of museum educators, attendees can design their own scrimshaw-style keychain to take home after viewing some of the museum’s impressive scrimshaw collection throughout the museum.

“We are excited to welcome back breweries that attended last year and to announce some new breweries participating for the very first time! We are honored to have them showcase their finest brews with us. New this year we are offering our scrimshaw craft for attendees to design and take home their own scrimshaw-style keychain. We hope it will be a special memento for supporting a good cause while having a great time with friends and enjoying brews!” said Gina Van Bell, Assistant Director, The Whaling Museum & Education Center.

Attendees will be immersed in the who, what, and why of whaling in the 19th century during our Whaleboat Chats presented by museum educators twice throughout the event. These talks will take place around our 19th century whaleboat, the star of the museum’s permanent collection and the only fully equipped whaleboat in New York State with all its original gear.

Brewers will host chats in our workshop twice throughout the event during “Ale Tales”. This gives attendees an opportunity to hear about the brewing process firsthand.

Also included in the day’s activities are live acoustic music with The Other Two, Acoustic Duoperforming classics from the 60s, 70s, and 80s sponsored by Evolution Piping, Steamfitters of NY and the option to stop by our food truck for the day, All American Wontons, offering delicious handheld wontons in a variety of flavors.

Advanced registrants will receive a commemorative tasting cup sponsored by Mercedes of Huntington. Tickets purchased at the door will also receive a cup while supplies last.

General admission tickets are $40, museum members pay $30 and designated drivers can purchase tickets for $15. VIP admission tickets are $70 and include 1pm entry time and a 2023 event t-shirt. Museum members can purchase VIP tickets for $60. Advance tickets are limited, and tickets purchased at the door are $5 more per ticket. The 2023 event t-shirts are sponsored by H&M Powles Marina. Purchase tickets here.

This event supports the museum’s community education programming and helps the museum raise important funds to continue offering innovative and creative programming throughout the year.

This is a 21 and over event, photo ID will be checked at the door. There are still more opportunities for local businesses to get involved. Interested companies can contact Gina Van Bell at 631-367-3418 ext. 12 or [email protected].

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About The Whaling Museum & Education Center

The Whaling Museum & Education Center is the only museum in the world open year-round which explores the whaling history of the Long Island region. The Museum engages the community in exploring the diversity of our whaling heritage and its impacts to enrich and inform our lives. The museum is located at 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724. Visit cshwhalingmuseum.org and follow The Whaling Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter@cshwhalingmuseum

The Whaling Museum &  Education Center will host its 2nd annual Golf Outing  fundraising event on Monday May 15 at The  Woodside Club in Syosset. New York Community Bank (NYCB) is the main event sponsor. This event is in support of the museum’s community education  programming.

“New York Community Bank, a division of Flagstar Bank, N.A., is proud to once again sponsor this year’s golf outing to raise funds for The Whaling Museum.  As a long-time member of the Board of Trustees, I feel that I am personally making a difference toward the future of the organization.  By supporting this event, you can also make a difference to ensure that The Whaling Museum can continue to serve the Long Island community and provide a critical link to its history,” said Thomas Cangemi, President, Chief Executive Officer, and a Director of New York Community Bancorp, Inc. and Flagstar Bank, N.A.

“So many Long Islanders have fond memories of visiting our museum. We want to keep our museum going strong for the current and next generation, and our Golf Outing is a crucial fundraiser toward the museum’s operations. We are deeply grateful to New York Community Bank and our many other generous supporters who show their  ongoing support of The Whaling Museum,”  said Nomi Dayan, Executive Director, The Whaling  Museum & Education Center. “This event supports the museum’s commitment to provide exhibitions inspired by Long Island’s extraordinary history and fulfill our role as a hub for community programs which foster creativity and critical  thinking.” 

The outing begins at 9 a.m. with 11 a.m. as the “Shotgun Start.” Throughout the day golfers can expect ongoing buffets, on-course contests, hole-in one prizes and gin tastings from Championz Gin. There will be a cocktail reception followed by a  dinner buffet for guests to enjoy. The museum has planned a variety of on course activities for golfers to enjoy throughout the day. 

With breakfast, golfers may partake in drinks served by Murph’s Famous Bloody Mary Bar. Prior  to hitting the course, golfers are invited to meet with Stretch Zone for professional stretching that  will get them safely ready for a round. Next, golfers can stop by the Golfer Giveaway Table for a  shopping spree where every golfer gets to choose their own giveaway. Throughout the day, the  museum will be showcasing an exclusive Raffle Table with excellent prizes donated by local  businesses and generous corporations. The purchase of raffle tickets directly supports the museum’s public programming.

Golfers of all player levels are invited to join the Museum for this exciting opportunity to support a unique cultural gem on Long Island. This event is a significant fundraiser for their  education and cultural events serving children’s programs and a variety of adult programs that explore the history of whaling and Long Island’s crucial relationship with the ocean environment. All funds raised will support community education programming for the museum.  

The cost to play as an individual golfer is $525 which includes meals throughout the day as well  as the cocktail reception and dinner. The cost for cocktail and dinner reception only is $195. There are many levels of sponsorship available as well as a “Big Whale Foursome” which includes a Tee Sign with company logo for $2,000.

Registration and sponsorships are available on the website at cshwhalingmuseum.org/golf or by  contacting Gina Van Bell, 631-367-3418 ext. 12 or at [email protected]


Artist Hulbert Waldroup with his painting, The Life and Legend of Pyrrhus Concer, at the Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor

By Tara Mae

Serving in one of the 19th century’s most profitable and perilous industries, Black mariners risked their lives, livelihoods, and liberty in the pursuit of a meager but available wage. The Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor’s new two year special exhibition, From Sea to Shining Sea: Whalers of the African Diaspora, examines the too-frequently ignored Black heritage and contributions to the whaling industry.  

Guest curated by Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, Executive Director of Eastville Community Historical Society in Southampton, the exhibit opened on Feb. 15 and will run through 2024.

“This exhibit is focused on expanding and expounding on stories of Black mariners in maritime history and sharing the untold/under-told stories of whalers of African descent and whalers of color in our whaling history,” said Gina Van Bell, Assistant Director of the Whaling Museum.

From Sea to Shining Sea exhibit at the Whaling Museum

The exhibit casts the African American whalers for what they were: main characters in their own lives, who took up whaling as a means of survival and, in many cases, transformed it into a stepping stone for other successes.

“We want people to understand the vastness of their lives, which is sometimes missed,” Dr. Grier-Key said. “We really wanted to focus on that, just going a little bit deeper and not stopping at the surface of BIPOC whalers and their lives, probing what they were able to do and what it meant in the context of the times. We want to offer more of a world view, a holistic look at whalers and their lives.”

Like a ship’s crew comprised of many individual roles, this exhibit consists of items from the museum’s own archives as well as items on loan from 10 different historical organizations. It honors the artistic pull the sea has had on creators throughout the centuries by incorporating art inspired by the water and maritime culture.

Awash with primary source documents, artifacts, and artwork, the interactive display explores what life was like at sea and ashore for non-white mariners while contextualizing the greater experience of people of color who in lived in coastal areas during the 1800s. 

The story of one such Black man, Pyrrhus Concer, inspired local artist and Southampton gallery owner Hulbert Waldroup, whose oil on canvas painting The Life and Legend of Pyrrhus Concer (2022), is included in the show. This circular painting, reminiscent of the shape of a porthole, depicts in vibrant colors the nautical scope of Concer’s life, framed in repurposed boat wood rescued from a salvage yard. 

A formerly enslaved Southampton man of African descent, Concer became a sailor after he was freed in 1832 (slavery in New York formerly ended in 1827.) He sailed aboard the whaling ship Manhattan, the first American ship to visit Tokyo, Japan, where he was greeted with wonder, being the first Black man many of the Japanese had ever seen.

“It was painted purely out of love and respect for Concer,” Waldroup said. Drawn to the stories of Black cowboys and whalers, who have traditionally been erased from popular lore, Waldroup was intrigued by Concer, whose career as a whaler enabled him to establish himself as a businessman and philanthropist on the shore. 

Whaling and other maritime endeavors were often precursors for the precarious promise of more stable lives away from the water, but such pursuits were fraught. 

Part of the Sea to Shining Sea: Whalers of the African Diaspora exhibit at the Museum.

“The first Black Americans who were treated as ‘citizens,’ in a way, were sailors. During the nineteenth century, working as a merchant seaman or whaler was one of the few occupations which offered free Black people a relative level of independence and self-sufficiency, along with the opportunity to travel the world with a Seaman’s Protection Certificate,” said Executive Director of the Whaling Museum Nomi Dayan.

From circa 1796-1940, American mariners carried this document as proof as citizenship. It was particularly vital to Black sailors, as they were not defined as citizens under the law until the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868. 

African Americans took very big risks for mitigated reward when they sailed with whaling ships. When docking in harbors of the South, for example, they were subject to being jailed or captured and sold into slavery. 

From Sea to Shining Sea features receipts for the imprisonment and release of Alfred Gall, an African American crew member on the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Company’s Tuscarora, whose captain had to bail him out of jail. His crime? Being a free Black man in a Southern port.

Yet despite the marine and manmade dangers, whaling was considered to be a viable, even comparably steady trade. The sea offered a sort of freedom to men who might not find it on land as long as the voyage did not kill them.

“Whaling employed the most diversified workforce among all other occupations at the time. Many whalers of color who endured hard work, poor pay, awful living conditions, and serious danger, chose to work at sea because work options on land were limited,” Dayan said. “African American whalers who faced work discrimination on land were more likely than other racial groups to continue whaling.”

Whaling records indicate that rank prevailed over the color of one’s skin. Recruiters did not record race, just complexion, which was a subjective categorization. Herman Melville, the white author of Moby Dick was even listed as “dark.” 

Light-skinned African American sailors had more opportunity for advancement. And while Black whalers did encounter barriers to advancing their ranks and were relegated to service-based positions, they usually earned the same rate of pay as other men of the same rank.

“On these voyages, your life and your counterpart’s life depended on how well you did you job. So in that way, you were equal in the sense of doing the work … tough, backbreaking work that was dangerous — you could lose your life but could achieve financial success,” Dr. Grier-Key said.  

This made whaling unique to other industries. Whaling could provide a sort of networking opportunity for the African Americans and other people of color. Ancillary jobs associated with the sea were also available to them, such as being caulkers and coopers. Wives of BIPOC whalers might be seamstresses for the captains’ wives. 

Such a utilization of community building is a trait understood by the team behind this exhibit, for whom From Sea to Shining Sea is a labor of love and longevity, part of the Whaling Museum’s ongoing efforts to share the whaling tales generally omitted from the history books.  

Dr. Grier-Key and Dayan served together on the board for the Museum Association of New York, and Dr. Grier-Key knew of Waldroup through her work in the Southampton community. Together with Van Bell, they coordinated an exhibit that the stories of BIPOC whalers are no longer submerged in the murky annals of time.


Black History: Whaleboat Chat

Join the special edition of a Whaleboat Chat highlighting the Whalers of the African Diaspora exhibition on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at noon. Gather around the star of the museum’s collection, the whaleboat, and listen as a staff member shares the tale of the dangerous Nantucket Sleighride and the brave whalers. Free with admission. No reservations necessary.

Black History: Build-A-Boat Workshop

Drop by the Museum any time on Feb. 21 and Feb. 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. to learn about African American whalers who designed, built and worked on whaling ships in the 19th century and then imagine, design and create unique wooden vessel models out of a variety of materials in this open-ended workshop. ​Entry: Admission + $10 participant.

Beyond the Book

Join the Whaling Museum’s new book club! Read Whaling Captains of Color by Skip Finley at home and  go on new adventures through history. Then meet at the museum on Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. to dive deeper into the story through connections with the Museum’s collection. Adults only. $15 per participant. Registration required.

The Whaling Museum, 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor is open Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the winter months, and Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors; $6 for children ages 4-17; free for children three years old and younger; and free for members. For more information, visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org or call 631-367-3418.

Floating humpback whale offshore of Delaware. Photo courtesy the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute

This year has been tough for the population of humpback whales, as eight of them from Maine to Florida have had so-called unusual mortality events as at Feb. 7.

Indeed, a 41-foot humpback whale was discovered washed up Jan. 30 at Lido Beach on the South Shore. The whale likely died after a vessel strike, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Officials said.

Threats to whales in the area include getting hit by boats, becoming entangled in fishing lines and ocean noise.

The last of these potential dangers to humpbacks has received considerable attention from some members of the popular press, who have suggested that the process of installing wind farms along the coastline has or may create the kind of noises that can cause trauma to whale ears and that might throw a whale off course in its search for food.

To provide a broader context, unusual mortality events have been occurring for humpback whales since 2016, as 180 have been stranded along East Coast states since that time, according to NOAA data.

Scientists were able to study about half of the total humpback whale strandings from 2016 and attributed about 40% to ship strike or entanglements. The rest either died from starvation, parasites, inconclusive causes, or were in places where it would have been difficult to study and analyze them. 

The combination of whales distracted by feeding and boat traffic has led to some of the deaths.

“Our waterways are one of the busiest on Earth,” said Nomi Dayan, executive director of The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor. “During busy eating months, when they are gorging, it’s harder to pay attention” to what’s around them.

Many of these humpback whale deaths occurred during periods when wind farm activity was low along the Eastern Seaboard.

“What we’re seeing right now [in terms of whale strandings] is something that has been going on for years,” said Lesley Thorne, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. 

In a press conference last month, officials suggested that the wind farms, which are designed to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, cut down on carbon emissions and slow global warming, are not likely to make what is already a challenging period for humpbacks even worse.

“At this point, based on the information that we do have, we do not believe the evidence supports that those planned construction activities would exacerbate or compound these ongoing unusual mortality events,” Ben Laws, biologist with NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, said during a Jan. 18 conference call with reporters.

‘What we’re seeing right now [in terms of whale strandings] is something that has been going on for years.’

— Lesley Thorne

As part of the investigation process, NOAA has brought together an independent team of scientists to coordinate with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events to review data, sample stranded whales and determine the next steps for this investigation.

The scientists include marine mammal stranding network members, academics and veterinarians with local state and federal biologists.

At this point, most of the surveys off the coasts of New York and New Jersey are “characterizing the seafloor and the sub-bottom for engineering purposes for the foundation of offshore wind facilities as well as looking at cable burial risks along that route,” Brian Hooker, marine biologist in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said on the press call.

Slower boat speeds

Reducing boat speeds in areas where whales are likely hunting for food or migrating can reduce the likelihood of vessel strikes and, in the event of contact, can improve the outcome for whales.

“What’s been demonstrated in the past is that, with faster vessels, collisions are more likely to occur and it’s more likely for that collision to be fatal,” Thorne said. The specific speeds or thresholds that are more likely to cause fatal collisions vary depending on the whale species.

The whales around Long Island include sei whales, North Atlantic right whales, finback whales, minke whales and, rarely, blue whales, according to Dayan.

Some management strategies for a host of whales such as the North Atlantic right whale include seasonal management areas, in which boats around a particular area during a specific season are required to travel more slowly.

Photo from Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor

The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor has announced it will host a new book club beginning in February. Titled Beyond the Book, the book club will  dive deeper into stories through connections with the museum’s historic collections.

The Whaling Museum invites adults to read at home and then join us at the Museum for book club discussions and educator-led talks that use the museum’s collection to make meaningful connections to the texts. In addition, registrants will receive a brief video at the start of the month presenting a  discussion question and a highlight from the museum’s collection in relation to it. 

“History offers readers the opportunity to relive so many adventures, stories, and experiences. Our museum ‘s 6,000-item collection can help bring a deeper level of understanding and relatability about the past. We are excited to expand our ongoing partnerships with nearby libraries to increase adult programming for locals,” said Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of The Whaling Museum.

The debut session will take place on Thursday, Feb. 23 and features the book Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy by Skip Finley. In perfect timing with Black History Month and African American Read-In Month, this book provides a fascinating look into the lesser-known lives of African American whaling captains and is the perfect segue to the museum’s new special exhibit, From Sea to Shining Sea: Whalers of the African Diaspora. 

During the book club meeting a museum educator will guide the discussion and share special components of this exhibit relating to and expanding on the text from the book. 

On Thursday, March 23, Beyond the Book will feature In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. This book details the loss of the whaleship Essex in 1820, the event which inspired the quintessential book Moby Dick. 

Readers are invited to get up close with the heart of this story by exploring the museum’s historic whaleboat — the only fully equipped whaling vessel with its original gear on display in New York — which truly brings the book’s theme to light. An educator-led talk and discussion will leave readers with a clear understanding of what it means to live on a whaleboat for weeks, even months at time.

On Thursday, April 27, the book club will feature Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly. This book explores the golden age of piracy and the truth behind many pirate legends. The educator-led talk and discussion will highlight the life of Huntingtonian Enoch Conklin (1763-ca.1815) a privateer during the War of 1812 as well as a ship builder, sailor and captain. Artifacts relating to Conklin’s life will be showcased for participants to see and explore.

Each book club meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. and is approximately 1 hour long. Coffee, tea and cookies will be served.

Beyond the Book club sessions are free for museum members and patrons of the museum’s partner libraries. All others may attend for $15 per session. Register at www.cshwhalingmuseum.org/bookclub. For more information, call 631-367-3418.

This article originally appeared in TBR News Media’s Prime Times supplement on Jan. 26.

Photo from Whaling Museum

The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor has announced it will host new “Holiday Walking Tours” this December.

These educator-led tours through historic Cold Spring Harbor village will explore Victorian seasonal traditions in the 19th century. Participants will learn about how local homes and businesses celebrated holidays in December.

Photo from Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum

Hot chocolate will be served inside the museum’s workshop at the start of the tour while participants arrive. The tour starts on the pavement outside of the museum.

“The Whaling Museum’s themed walking tours have become quite a hit. Our Harbor Haunts tours, offered in October, sell out every year. With the introduction of new tours each season, we aim to engage our community and our visitors in history through fun and familiar frameworks. Our education team is excited about the new stories we get to share with this new holiday tour. We look forward to offering a space to gather and spend time outside this December,” said Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of The Whaling Museum.

Tours are approximately 45-60 minutes and end at the harbor. All ages are welcome to attend.

Spaces are limited and registration takes place online at cshwhalingmuseum.org/walking-tours. The “Holiday Walking Tours” are $15 per participant / $10 for members. Dates: Dec. 10 & 11, 17 & 18 | 3 & 5pm and Dec. 30 at 4:30 pm. For more information, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.

The Whaling Museum and Education Center is announcing a first-time end of year fundraising event celebrating the rowdy history of Cold Spring Harbor’s Main Street through food, drink, and other activities in the lively event, Bedlam Street Bash. 

Calling back to the 1850s when Main Street (Route 25a) was nicknamed “Bedlam Street,” this event will take place on Thursday, December 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Museum at 301 Main Street and is for adults age 21+. Inspired by the rambunctious spirit of the village during its whaling heyday, guests will travel through the museum to enjoy delicious bites from local restaurants, rum tastings, historic then & now presentations, craft-making, and live music. 

 “A whaleship arriving home to our coastal village could generate a commotion, and was cause for a community celebration,” says Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of the museum. “The blast of a cannon would first alert locals, who would watch Main Street fill with whalers who had not been home for 2-4 years. Local merchants would prepare to serve men who dreamed of a good meal. Cold Spring Harbor was, for a time, a rowdy place! We invite locals today to fall into this story and enjoy the evening with us in support of our museum.”

The museum is collaborating with Cold Spring Harbor Village eateries to offer guests delicious tastings throughout the evening. Participating eateries include Sandbar, Harbor Mist, Sweetie Pies on Main, Cold Spring Harbor Plaza Deli and Grasso’s Restaurant. In addition, guests will enjoy live music, activities, a folk-art craft, raffles, and special “Then & Now” presentations.  

Special guest and Town Historian, Robert Hughes, will transport visitors back to the waterside village in the 1800’s with his “Then & Now” presentations of Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor. He will focus on the history of the locations for the five eateries that are offering tasting for this event; Sandbar, Harbor Mist, Sweetie Pies on Main, Cold Spring Harbor Plaza Deli and Grasso’s Restaurant.

Special guest Dr. Jennifer Anderson will present a session about the history of rum during her informational and fascinating chat, “Get Your Grog On.” Tastings of different island-style rums, the “true sailor’s drink,” will also be served courtesy of Bottles and Cases in Huntington. 

Participants can gather details about historic Main Street in a special scavenger hunt, which culminates in cracking a code to receive a prize from our treasure chest. 

Guests will get creative when trying their hands at the signature craft of whalers, scrimshaw, also known as one of America’s first folk art crafts.  Guests will sketch and carve their designs into scrimshaw-style keepsake boxes.

Throughout the night, guests will hear live sea shanties, high-spirited and bawdy work-songs of sailors performed by Scuttlebutt Stu. Guests can join in these repetitious renditions.

The Whaling Museum & Education Center is selling advance tickets to the event at cshwhalingmuseum.org/bedlamstreetbash. Advance tickets are $40 per person, $20 for museum members. A limited number of advance tickets will be offered. At the door tickets will be $50 per person, $25 for museum members. Tickets are offered first come, first served. All evening activities are included in admission.    

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About The Whaling Museum & Education Center

The Whaling Museum & Education Center is the only museum in the world open year-round which explores the whaling history of the Long Island region. The Museum engages the community in exploring the diversity of our whaling heritage and its impacts to enrich and inform our lives. The museum is located at 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724. Visit cshwhalingmuseum.org and follow The Whaling Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @cshwhalingmuseum

This 19th century whaleboat is the star of the The Whaling Museum's permanent collection.
An insight into Long Island’s nautical past

By Tara Mae

It’s a whale of a tale! Beginning in November, The Whaling Museum and Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor will host new monthly Whale Boat Chats chronicling the history of whaling on Long Island.

Generally 20 to 30 minutes long, the interactive discussions are metaphorically and physically centered around a historic 19th century whale boat. Led by Admissions Associate Gerard Crosson, the talks are guided by question and answer segments and incorporate whaling artifacts for the public to see and touch such as a 19th century iron harpoon, scrimshaw, and blubber encased in a jar. 

“We are excited to offer this new opportunity to engage with the museum’s exhibits! Visitors will learn the significance of this whaleboat and how it is tied to our local maritime history. We invite the community to come, stand around the boat and imagine what it was like to be out at sea chasing a creature larger than the boat you’re chasing it in,” said Assistant Director of The Whaling Museum Gina Van Bell.

The program was formed around the whaleboat, the foundational item of the museum’s permanent collection. It belonged to the 19th century New Bedford whaling ship Daisy, which during its long career sailed from many ports and harbors, including that of Setauket in 1872. 

Like many whaling ships, Daisy’s use was multi-faceted: after many Yankee whaling trips and at least one international journey, it was repurposed as a cargo ship during World War I and sank circa 1914. 

American use of whaling ships during warfare dates back to at least the Revolutionary War, when they surreptitiously sailed between Patriot controlled Connecticut and British-occupied Long Island, delivering messages, etc. 

“They were used in guerrilla warfare. Fierce hand to hand combat happened in whaling ships. They were very useful, very seaworthy,” said Nomi Dayan. Executive Director of The Whaling Museum.

For decades, the Daisy whaleboat proved to be profitably versatile. During her most famous excursion, Long Island ornithologist Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy used the whaleboat on an exploratory voyage to Antarctica in 1912, commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History to study birds and bring back specimens. 

A dedicated diarist, Murphy, who was fascinated by all he witnessed on the voyage and intrigued by Yankee whaling, kept a detailed record of the journey. He later published Logbook for Grace: Whaling brig Daisy, 1912-1913 about the sojourn. Murphy’s photos from the trip are part of the Whaling Museum’s collection. 

“He was one of the best scientists to come out of Long Island…Murphy ended up documenting whales and whaling in a way that no one had before,” Dayan said. 

So enamored was he with the experience, that Murphy purchased the whaleboat for the Brooklyn Museum in the 1910s. After the museum rejected his gift, he offered it to the American Museum of Natural History, which also declined to accept it. The whaleboat then hibernated under a tarp on a friend’s front lawn until Murphy and his friends generated enough support and funds to build it a home of its own: The Whaling Museum of Cold Spring Harbor. 

“The community came together to build the museum around the whaleboat. It is a key part of maritime heritage,” Dayan added. 

Established in 1936, the museum opened its doors in 1942. The museum currently has 6000 object and archival items in its holdings including whaling tools, products, and even art. 

“We have one of the best scrimshaw collections in the northeast. People can see beautiful examples of what men carved at sea during the hours, weeks, months, years, of boredom,” Dayan said. 

As one of the three original whaling ports on Long Island, Cold Spring Harbor maintains a buoyant connection to its maritime heritage. Whaling was one of the area’s most important sources of commerce, facilitating economic and social growth while making Cold Spring Harbor somewhat of an industrial hub.

Whaling was fairly steady, if inherently risky, work. Voyages were long and frequently fraught. Whalers could lose their boats or even their lives when whales fought back. 

“It was a dangerous job,” said Van Bell. 

Yet the sea provided potential opportunities to those who might not find it on land, motley crews of experienced sailors, farm boys, and escaped enslaved men. 

“Whaling ships were like a kind of United Nations,” Dayan said. 

Rather than being paid a wage, crew members were generally paid with a cut of the profits. Whale products included everything from food to oil for lamps, and overhunting eventually led some whales to near extinction. 

Whaling as a much sought source of communal sustenance, however, predates European settlers. Indigenous groups like the Shinnecock had a strong tradition of whaling on Long Island, anchored to their connections to the sea. This heritage is explored in another exhibit at the museum, Shinnecock Artists and Long Island’s First Whalers, which debuted January 2021. 

Both exhibits are part of the museum’s ongoing efforts to expose the public, both adults and children, to the diverse background of Long Island whaling. A different feature, the hands-on exhibit If I Was a Whaler, permits kids to pretend to be whalers from the 1800s. 

“We want to get the community excited and engaged in the story of whaling, following through with our mission of sharing the diversity of our whaling heritage and how it enhances and impacts our lives,” Van Bell said. 

Whale Boat Chats will be offered on Nov. 5,  Dec. 3 and 29 and Jan. 27 with more dates to be announced in 2023. The programs will be held at noon and 1 p.m. and are free with paid admission to the museum of $6 for adults and $5 for kids and seniors. Members are free. 

Located at 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor, the Whaling Museum is open to visitors from Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.