14495 This is an exceedingly rare whaling tool, known as a Gouge or Half Round Spade. In The Whale Fishery and its Appliances, James Templeman Brown’s catalog of The Great International Fisheries Exhibit held in London, 1883, it is described as being “used by sperm whalemen for making a large hole in the blubber for the blubber hook”. The length of the spade is 21 in., maximum width is 4 1/2 in. and the offset of the curved blade is about 1 3/4 in. Overall length, including a probably later wooden pole, is 72 in. Due to a layer of old black paint covering the metal, which we elected not to remove, we cannot detect any probable maker’s marks. The numeral 53, perhaps an old museum or collection mark, is on the concave side of the blade. Traces of the original red lead primer are visible.
We are aware of only 4 other gouge spades existing in any collections; one in the New Bedford Whaling Museum, one in the Smithsonian Institution and two in the Hellman collection.