Curriculum Guide

Come on board a whaling ship for a three-to-five year voyage with your captain and tour guide, David Coffin.

Settle in to a history of whaling in New England, including anecdotal information about Nantucket’s involvement in the Boston Tea Party. Explore the many uses of whale oil, including lamps, perfume, candles and soap. Explore, learn, sing!

Here are some of the words we encounter in the Life at Sea: A Voyage in Song enrichment program:

Port: left side

Starboard: right side

Bow: front

Stern: rear

Capstan: A barrel-like fixture at the bow around which the chain is wrapped while hoisting the anchor

Masts: Large tree-like structures to which the sails are rigged

Rigging: All the lines and chains used in the raising of sails and supporting of mast

Sails: Large canvas or cloth used to “catch” the wind to move a vessel

Crow's Nest: Small shelter in the top mainmast for the lookout

Dory Boats: Small rowing boats

Lines: Not ropes! There are no “ropes” on a sailing ship

Schooners: Certain types of sailing vessels

Clipper Ship: Improved schooner built for speed for transporting cargo in the 1850’s

Packet Ship: Fast ship built for passengers (such as the Dreadnought, built in Newburyport

Whaling: The hunting of whales

Sperm Whale: The best whale to catch for it had the best quality oil

Herman Melville: Author of Moby Dick (1851), the greatest epic about whaling ever written

Sea Shanties: Songs used to establish a rhythm for the sailors to pull, haul, heave, or pump at the same time

Nantucket Sleigh Ride: The dory boat towed by a whale by means of the line attached to the harpoon

Cape Horn: The tip of South America, the route to the Pacific from the east coast

Crossing the Line: Passing over the Equator

Shellback: A seasoned mariner

“David Coffin is a musician, performer, and music-educator of remarkable ability and insight. As a maritime specialist and descendant of some of America's greatest seafaring families - the whaling Coffins of Nantucket - no one could be better suited to presenting the traditional songs and yarns of Yankee seafaring in the Age of Sail.”

Stuart M. Frank
New Bedford Whaling Museum