Let’s Talk Fish

Last weekend, when we were up in Boston visiting children for Easter, we all went to the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Though we may detest the thought of whaling now, it once was a thriving industry as whale oil was a precious commodity before other forms of fuel were found. The museum was a fascinating place, bringing the majesty of these incredible, awesome creatures together with man’s struggle to capture them.


The scrimshaw displays were amazing. Such artists to carve tiny, intricate things into ivory! I peered through a little peephole in one of the rooms and saw the tiniest diorama.


What made a surprising impact on me, however, was a little fifteen-minute film that played in their small auditorium. It was about what fishermen have to go through today in order to bring us the fish we buy in the supermarket. It’s not like wrestling that fleeing chicken to the ground and hauling it in a truck to the store so I can fry it up with mashed potatoes. Fishing those big fish is downright dangerous! From the early days of the fishing industry, men have lost their lives bringing us those fish. Tuna and swordfish and other large fish live way out in the ocean, and storms can toss about a fishing vessel with devastating effects. If you have never seen the movie The Perfect Storm, you should. You will never take for granted that piece of fish on your plate again. Once, when we visited Gloucester, Massachusetts, we saw a memorial to all the fishermen who had lost their lives in that community, including those shown in that movie. Sobering! Thank you, Gorton fishermen!

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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20 Responses to Let’s Talk Fish

  1. Matt says:

    COming East:

    Not sure if you were aware or not but you were in one of the biggest fishing ports in the world when you visited New Bedford. It is well over a Billion dollar industry per year. People have no idea of the fishing culture and the indusrty that exsists down on the docks. The boats come in daily and off load 10s of thousands of pounds of fish, scallops, lobsters and crabs.

  2. Leah says:

    I was not a fan of The Perfect Storm. However you are right that it makes you look at fishing completely different.

    • Coming East says:

      The Perfect Storm was a hard movie for me to watch, Leah, because it was based on a true story. When I saw the names of those men inscribed on a memorial wall in the town hall of Gloucester, it really made a statement.

  3. pattisj says:

    It truly is a dangerous way to make a living.

  4. Al says:

    Interesting post! I still have, but seldom use, a set of cuff links made out of scrimshaw. And I got them in New Beford. We used to go up there a lot when I was stationed in Newport, R.I.

    • Coming East says:

      Oh, of course you would have been there when you were stationed at Newport. How difficult it must have been being stationed in that terrible place! George and I dream that his retirement job will be as Director of Security and Safety for the Newport Preservation Society, the organization who takes care of the “cottages.” We would live in the servants’ quarters on top of the Breakers.

  5. No, I haven’t seen it yet though I’m sure my husband has several times. I have marked my calendar to remember to ask Rick to get it when he asks “What do you want to watch this weekend?” Silly but I have to do that or I just come up blank. Thank you for putting this recommendation in front of me. Sounds like a must see.

    • Coming East says:

      Yes, it is a must se, Georgette. It is a true story and it didn’t happen very long ago. We’ve been to Gloucester many times. Definitely an interesting place to visit, and, of course, great seafood!

  6. Since moving to the Maine coast I have also developed a new appreciation for that fish on my dinner plate. The daily news usually contains news of boat mishaps, new laws limiting catch and the notorious lobster wars. It is a new perspective for this girl from the suburbs of a large eastern city. We love, and appreciate, our fishermen (women)!! Thank you for bringing us a healthy and yummy food!

  7. Those pictures are amazing! Thanks for bringing me along on your adventure. -kate

  8. Amy says:

    Thank you for reminder us that fishing big fish is downright dangerous! Storm has no mercy… That ivory carving is a beautiful and delicate work, nice shot!

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, Amy. I think we tend to take a lot of things for granted without thinking about how they come to us. Fishing is a biggy, though. Besides the danger, fishing requires the fishermen to be out at sea, away from their families for long stretches of time. As soon as they bring in a haul, they have to leave again. It’s a hard life.

  9. Rick and I have watched several documentary segments on the dangers of fishing off the Alaska coast. Yes, sobering. My Alaska grandmother sent us several pieces of scrimshaw from walrus. One piece we used whenever we played cribbage. It’s at my mother’s now. Our fishing culture in the States is so wide and varied: the East Coast, Gulf Coast and the Pacific Northwest…all different. What an interesting trip you made to that museum.

    • Coming East says:

      I never thought about how varied the fishing culture is, Georgette, but you are right, though many things I’m sure are in common. I would like to see more documentaries on fishing, especially one about the industry in Alaska. Have you ever watched The Perfect Storm? It was sobering to see the names of the men in that film inscribed on the wall of the town hall in Gloucester along with others there who had lost their lives fishing.

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