A Fish Tale


Fish Tale
Collections of Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media
[I]n 1927, finding a whale carcass would have been a bit like discovering a bag of money on the beach, which may explain why Albert Doughty and Chester Black were all smiles on this late-February afternoon. The men were among more than a dozen Orr’s Islanders, mostly lobstermen, who gathered on nearby Ragged Island to carve up a finback whale that had washed ashore during a storm. Supervising them was a retired whaling captain, William Sylvester, who estimated that the blubber (to be boiled into oil to make paint) and baleen (likely uses include whips and helmet frames) would fetch $250 — the equivalent of roughly $3,316 today. “The lobster fishery in 1927 was not like it is today,” explains Nathan Lipfert, senior curator of Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. “Then, it was just another low-income inshore fishery, and lobstermen generally pieced together a living by doing a number of different things. By late February, when this whale was found, these guys were ready for a little extra money, and bored enough to risk trying something a little different.” Still, it wouldn’t have been much of a bonus, especially when one figures in the costs associated with the project. “The meat was probably pretty rank by the time the fishermen found it,” Lipfert says. “In fact, I would guess most of these guys never wore those clothes again.”

See more from this issue!

Magazine of Maine, Maine Restaurants, Maine Food, Down East Magazine

Get our latest stories plus online exclusives every week. Subscribe to the Down East Extra email.