In 1847 and 1848, Benjamin Russell of Massachusetts, an American artist sailed around the world on a whaling ship. When not working as the ship's cooper, Russell recorded his voyage in watercolors and drawings.
Upon his return to New Bedford, Benjamin Russell and a sign painter, Caleb Pierce Pennington, created a 1,275 foot long whaling panorama of Russell's travels. They titled their work Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage Round the World . From 1848 to 1851, Russell and Pennington took their Grand Panorama on a tour of the mid-west and eastern United States.
In April 1848, Benjamin Russell recorded the painted the eruption of the volcano on Fogos Island and whaling ships anchored off the island. Located in the Cape Verde islands, Fogos Island is located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.
Maritime scrimshaw, a unique American art form, has its roots in the age of wooden ships. In the 18th century, whaler sailing ships harvested whale and walrus blubber for lamp oil and candle wax. The sailors on whaling ships had a lot of spare time on board their ships. When not hunting and processing whales, mariners occupied their free time etching and making small objects from whaling byproducts. Bones and teeth of sperm whales, baleen, and walrus tusks were readily available on board ship. These were a highly viable medium to produce hand tools, toys, utensils, and decorative pieces.
Sailors etched pictures and nautical scenes on bone, teeth, and tusks using sail sewing needles and small tools. Candle black, soot, or tobacco juice were used to bring the etched drawings into view. The earliest authenticated pictorial scrimshaw piece appeared around 1817.
This historical set includes a resin replica of a whale tooth scrimshaw. The front shows a landscape view of Fogos Island's volcano erupting in the background. In the foreground are whaling ships and boats. (This scrimshaw view is a close representation of Russell's Fogos Island picture displayed in the Grand Panorama. The reverse of this scrimshaw displays the three mast whaler Kukusoff under sail.
Upon his return to New Bedford, Benjamin Russell and an indicator painter, Caleb Pierce Pennington, developed a 1,275 foot long whaling panorama of Russell's journeys. In April 1848, Benjamin Russell taped the painted the eruption of the volcano on Fogos Island and whaling ships anchored off the island. (This scrimshaw view is a close representation of Russell's Fogos Island picture showed in the Grand Panorama.