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Whalers Village Museum

What do you do for a week in Maui when you’ve been there before?  Several times.  Even in Hawaii I can’t resist a museum.  Last year we went to the Sugar Museum. Whalers Village Museum wasn’t listed on the top 10 things to do in Maui in our KBC planning calendar, but we really enjoyed this compact, top-notch museum.

Upstairs in Whaler’s Village

Fishing is a… discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish. –Herbert Hoover

This next picture impressed me because of the diversity of the workers in the middle 1800s, included native Hawaiians, Negroes, Europeans, sons of wealthy Americans, and native Americans.  Whalers lived together for 3-5 years for a total income of about $50.  The conditions would appall the poorest of the poor by today’s standards.  Whaling ships stored so little water that sailors usually washed their few clothes in urine.

The oldest whalers were in their late 20s.

They spent most of their time carving  scrimshaw and waiting for whales to appear.


Incredibly ornate carvings in ivory or teeth helped sailors whittle away the long evening hours.

Jaws lost his dentures.

I’m sure the sailors saw their fair share of these happy snappers.  The day after we left Maui one shark attacked a swimmer at one of the beaches we visited in southern Maui.

These guys look like they are having a whale of a good time.

Whaling, I learned, provided the world with most of its heating oil before fossil fuels were discovered in the 1800s.  The cost of heating and lighting oil in the 1800s cost 3-5 years out of around 100,000 lives of these young men.  I read a report once that stated that the beginning use of fossil fuels improved the economic conditions worldwide.  Reading about the conditions under which these young men labored helps understand why whale oil was so cost-prohibitive, even without factoring the cost of depleting the population of whales.

Whaler’s Museum is upstairs under the clock tower.

If you get to Maui, take a few minutes away from shopping to sneak up to the Whalers Village Museum.  Then go downstairs and fix yourself a yogurt sundae sold by the pound.  (That’s not the amount of pounds it puts on you!!!  WHEW!!)

I hope you enjoyed your brief museum tour.  Next stop tomorrow:  Coffee Plantation  Also today a brief look at Mama’s Fish House.

19 replies »

  1. Fascinating post! Yes, whaling began the whole “oil” revolution and mentality, really. I’ve always found that fascinating. The U.S. apparently was at the top of the industry. And yes, VERY appalling conditions indeed.

    There is one famous wreck, a Nantucket ship of aye a wonderfully diverse crew, that was sunk by the rather angry backlash of a very disgruntled male sperm whale that did not enjoy having lungs jabbed at with spears. The account of this wreck actually inspired Melville’s Moby Dick. That insatiable lust for profit, for blubber, for oil- the modern birth of that very mentality- man’s nascent into believing at last he really could conquer and defeat Nature. The real story itself is absolutely fascinating, indeed, and definitely reveals this deep-rooted obsession…whalers all the way from Nantucket, venturing out onto that brutal, unpredictable, madness-inducing sea for years…and what treacherous work once they found and successfully speared and killed a whale… What astounded me most about that story is that the two survivors, after all that death, and resorting to cannibalism (which ironically was the very thing they feared from the nearby islands they avoided landing at, which would have saved them), in very advanced stages of dehydration and suffering extreme PTSD- could not wait to get BACK onto another whaling boat months later! I think the wreck took place in 1820, cannot remember name of it….keep thinking The Essex….but I’m sure this was all featured in the museum. I’d like to meet this museum one day indeed!

    Did you know there are bowhead-whales in the arctic that have lived to be over 200 years old? One was found with a harpoon still lodged in the bone. They are exceedingly shy of boats…wonder why?? They are astounding, 50 % blubber, and live possibly even beyond 200, and a mammal?!!! WOO cool, hardly believe it. Well, so Doug Allan informed me in a gorgeous documentary about whales. Right, done babbling….err making music rather. Loved this post, cheers,

    Autumn Jade


    • Wow, what an amazing comment. I learn more in your comments than I do the whole time I’m researching the article! 50% blubber, hmmm that sounds familiar, and I’m not even OVERLY fat. OK, I’m not quite there yet, but still 50% doesn’t sound that far off! And it lived to be over 200? Hmmmm More ice cream, please.


  2. Oh dear, here I go again. The dentures thing kicked this off…which I thought was too funny. Right, well, I must tell you about this fish I swim with. It is a sheepshead fish. I bet you’ve heard of these wonderful maties. Well, I swim with them and quite literally kiss them, but only recently discovered they have very human-like teeth, and got to thinking- fabulous new source of dentures, something new to market. I must say, some of these sheepshead’s really have some fine masticators indeed. They like to munch along the coquina where I swim. Well, they did. All under sand at the moment after Sandy swiveled by. Right, I am DONE now.


    • So, are they going to be ok? do you think any of them got away? I admit swimming in a calm ocean can be pretty daunting, so swimming in a hurricane doesn’t sound too promising, but they are fish, even if they have human teeth. My husband found the saddest video on you tube today. A mother seal was barking, looking for her baby, which had been eaten by a whale. Her barking upset our dog so much that she started barking. When she started barking, the neighbor dogs heard her because the door was open. Those dogs started barking. When V stuck his head out the window, he could hear barking dogs for miles around. It was eerie. Seal’s barking was literally heart rending. I’ll have to have him find it for you.
      So, did you get a picture of the sheepshead’s teeth? Do you have an underwater camera? I’ll have to tell you about my experience with that some day. Another story!


      • Oh yes they are brilliant. Just moved on to better locations for foraging for now. It was absolutely groovy to discover huge shoals of fish beneath the heathen waves. I dove down beneath these great hurtling waves so as to escape drowning issues, and found myself swimming through great walls of fish hovering down there where it is so very still and peaceful, ‘neath the roar above. I flippered out far enough, where it becomes “peaceful” and the waves are peaking in all their full glory, and there the fish were lunging out of the water between “sets”- sharkies were chasing them! It was sooooo groovy!!! So fish manage even in super-storm conditions.

        That is very, very sad about the mother seal. Aye, they indeed form deep bonds…and the fact that dogs were baying for miles, all this mournful and lugubrious keening…bizarre. Orcas I know love to feed on the baby seals from time to time; I’ve always wanted to see the great spectacle.

        No, not an underwater camera by choice har har 😉 Well, actually I do have one, ha ha, but the conditions in the water are always a bit too dim. I have captured mullet underwater before. I covet capturing my precious sharks. Now I do have a “baggie” I like to pop me camera into so I can capture epic surf and so forth, but me camera was out of working order during those FANTASTIC waves….BLAST. Oh well, she’s coming around now har har.

        Right, I need to stop. I type at something like 150 words per minute, this is very bad. I could say anything…who knows. So I cease.

        Must hear more about the lamenting seals soon, perhaps a post, looking forward to it. I did not know you could hear them from where you lived. I dig that.

        Autumn Jade


      • oooo I re-read, I see now. Dog heard recording in living room of barking seal, and began to bay, spurring dogs to bay from miles around. THAT is very eerie indeed. I wondered how you could hear seals so far away, and then omniciently deduce that it must be a mourning mother seal- I was very impressed with your skills being so in tune with seal cries


      • And THEN to know that “op, yes, I hear precisely what happened. It was a whale that took the baby seal…so sad. No, V, not a great white, definately a whale. The pitch is very specific here.” Yes, I was impressed indeed.


  3. sheepsheads, rather. I need to stop this speed-typing now. I’ll just get meself into trouble. P.S. Love the photos, thanks so much for this. I so long to go there one day indeed! Last photo very redolent of here.


  4. Haha, I have to go to museums whenever I travel as well! The last trip I took was to Oklahoma for my ex’s graduation from Basic Training – we were only there for 2 days, but I still dragged everyone to two museums 😛

    This looks like a really interesting one! I hope to get to Maui one day, though I’ve been to Oahu and visited Pearl Harbor which was an incredibly moving experience.





Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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