Having a “whale” of a time in New Bedford

Whale skeleton

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - A group of students get a close-up look of a Sperm Whale skeleton during a tour of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Wednesday, June 8, 2011. The museum has 20 galleries of art and science exhibits, including four other whale skeletons. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell.

Written by 3rd Class Petty Officer Connie Terrell, U.S. Coast Guard First District public affairs.

Four of the world’s largest mammals hovered over my head, almost close enough to touch.

As amazing as it was to see four fully intact whale skeletons suspended in midair, I forced myself to move on to the rest of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The entire building was a testament to how important our living marine resources mission is.

Years of whaling in the northeast took a big toll on the whale population here in the 1st Coast Guard District. Today, Coast Guard crews enforce fisheries laws that ensure whales have enough to eat and grow in numbers. We also serve as first responders and assist the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration when a whale becomes entangled or stranded.

I have witnessed first-hand the missions our crews in the 1st Coast Guard District perform on a daily basis. Just recently I was underway with Station Merrimack River as their boat crews responded to reports of an entangled humpback whale. My visit to the whaling museum reminded me just how important the Coast Guard’s role is in protecting marine life, often endangered or threatened, and their habitats.

Children hands on experience

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - A group of students feel what it was like to be a deck hand on a whaling ship during a tour of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Wednesday, June 8, 2011. The museum has several exhibits and activities, including a half scale model of a whaling ship, where children and their parents can learn what it was like being a whaler. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has 20 galleries of art and science exhibits including fully intact humpback, right, sperm and blue whale skeletons. It is also home to the world’s largest collection of whale ship log books and scrimshaw, the indigenous art form of whalers where they inscribed scenes on large whale teeth.

Thanks to the museum’s generosity, Coast Guard and other military members can check out the museum free of charge from now until Labor Day with up to five of their family members as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

For more information on the Whaling Museum go to www.whalingmuseum.org and for more information on the Blue Star program go to www.bluestarfam.org.