Whaling Museum trip brings Moby-Dick to life

In January, Abbey Fifth-Form students received a guided tour of the Whaling Museum in nearby New Bedford, MA. The trip, which has become a tradition in recent years, coincides with the students’ reading of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Though Ishmael and Ahab are fictional characters, their voyage aboard the also fictional Pequod was a very real one, and New Bedford was the epicenter of the industry during Melville’s time. Not surprisingly, Melville sets the early chapters of the novel there, where Ishmael stays at the Spouter Inn, meets his companion Queequeg, and sets out for Nantucket and the seven seas. 

The museum provided an invaluable experience for students to inhabit the world of the classic novel by experiencing what life on a whaling ship was like. They spent the morning examining sperm whale skeletons, harpoons, and scrimshaw, and they climbed aboard the museum’s ½ scale replica of a whaling ship similar to The Pequod. 

Students also attended a guided presentation of the museum’s archives, where they examined documents from Melville’s own experience of whaling in the South Pacific. Before concluding the trip, students crossed the street to visit Seaman’s Bethel, the chapel where Ishmael hears Father Mapple’s sermon from the famed ship-prow pulpit. Many thanks to the teachers and staff who chaperoned, and the knowledgeable docents and staff at the museum, who made such an enriching experience possible for our students. And a special thank-you to Kimberly Aubut at the New Bedford Historical Society for accommodating Abbey students at Seaman's Bethel on her day off!