WHHM Conversation: Woods Hole Whaling, by Dr. Jim Hain

A Woods Hole Historical Museum Conversation about Whaling in Woods Hole
November 13th, 12:30 PM, Woods Hole Public Library

Candle House in Woods Hole in the early 1900s. Robert C. Hunt Jr. postcard collection, Falmouth Public Library.

The stone Candle House on Water Street, which now houses administrative offices for the Marine Biological Laboratory, is a reminder of a time 175 years ago when Woods Hole was home port for a number of whaling ships.  In “Woods Hole Whaling:  A National and Global Enterprise from a Small Village,” Dr. Jim Hain will present the history of whaling in Woods Hole.

 Today, ships and researchers from the village sail the oceans seeking knowledge directed to the conservation of whales.  In a past time, the ships and people sailed widely to harvest the whales.  As with Texas and Louisiana today, the raw materials then were brought to a refinery or manufactory―in this case, the Candle House in Woods Hole,  used for storing whale oil and manufacturing spermaceti candles.

 Dr. Hain has assembled details from logbooks, account books, narratives, photographs, videos, cemeteries, and the work of other authors to paint glimpses of Woods Hole, whaling voyages, and the whaling related products manufactured and sold from the village.

 Dr. Hain has worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Sea Education Association, and is currently affiliated with Associated Scientists at Woods Hole.  He has done research from Newfoundland to Brazil.  One of his current projects is studying and monitoring right whales and their calving in coastal waters of northeast Florida, where he works from December through April. 

 The conversation will be held at Woods Hole Public Library lower level meeting room and is free and open to the public.

Annual Oyster Talk and Tasting 2018

Woods Hole Historical Museum will hold its annual Oyster Talk and Tasting on Friday, August 24, from 5 to 7 PM on the museum grounds at 579 Woods Hole Road.
The first part of the evening will be a talk by local oyster growers Pete Chase, Eric Matzen and Mary Murphy explaining how oysters are grown in this area and the results from the past year. Pete could be considered one of the pioneers of modern oyster aquaculture in Falmouth, as he established his oyster growing operation in Gansett Cove. Now there are a host of people growing oysters in Falmouth, stretching from Waquoit to Megansett. Pete, Mary and Eric are part of a cooperative, Sippewissett Oysters, which sells its oysters through Coonamessett Farm.
Tickets are $40. This event is for museum members only but for only $30, non-members can join the museum and enjoy benefits of museum membership for the year.
To get tickets, either call the museum at 508-548-7270 or stop by 579 Woods Hole Road. For more information, email whhmdirector@gmail.com.

Docents’ Training, June 2017

Docents’ training was held June 13 at the museum with informative presentations by our exhibit curators. Tom Chilton has once again used his design expertise on our shellfishing exhibit. Our navigation exhibit had several guest curators, including Steve Wagner, former Fisheries captain; Virginia Land, associate professor and captain at SEA; and Jennifer and Arthur Gaines, with Bob Grosch using his skills to mount and hang charts and naviational tools.

2017 Model Boat Show

The 11th Biennial WHHM Model Boat Show (April 22 and 23) was a wonderful event!  Despite a very raw and rainy day Saturday there was a good turnout and Sunday was absolutely spectacular!  Exhibitors and attendees clearly enjoyed the wide variety of things to see and do. There was something for everyone! Judy Stetson reports that one of the exhibitors, who travels around the country to various model boat shows, rates the WHHM show as among the best!

The members of the Model Boat Show program committee worked hard over the past few months to bring this event together: Jay Burnett, Christie Chilton, Tom Chilton, Bob Grosch, Kathy Cooper, Laura Reckford, P.K. Simonds, and Debbie Scanlon. And, of course, the outstanding co-captains of the event, Jennifer and Arthur Gaines, who are committed to what has become a great Woods Hole tradition and community builder. Thanks to all!

A Talk about Cod and the Cape by John Cumbler

The Woods Hole Historical Museum is honored to present Professor John Cumbler who will speak on June 28, 2016, at 1 PM. Dr. Cumbler, a popular and awarded history professor at University of Louisville. His fields of specialization are United States environmental history and economic history. He has recently published his seventh book “Cape Cod: An Environmental History of a Fragile Ecosystem”. The book is an economic and environmental history of Cape Cod. The subject of his talk in Woods Hole will be “Cod and the Cape”, a subject which will tie into the Museum’s new exhibit about historic cod fishing.

Dr. Cumbler is on phased retirement and splits his time between Louisville and Wellfleet. He is a trained and certified rescuer of large marine mammals and sea turtles.

The talk is free and open to the public and will be held in the lower level meeting room of the Woods Hole Public Library, adjacent to the Museum at 581 Woods Hole Road. There is metered on-street parking as well as small lots at the Museum and Library. The Museum exhibits will be open before and after the talk. For more information, call the Museum at 508-548-7270.

Walsh Rose Walk

The Woods Hole Historical Museum will host a walk around the village looking at the rambler roses developed by Michael Walsh at the turn of the century. Rosarian Gretchen Ward Warren who specializes in the Walsh roses will lead the walk, which will last about an hour and a half.


The roses were developed in Woods Hole just behind the Museum and have been growing in gardens and on fences around the village for more than one hundred years, mostly unidentified and unheralded. The Museum has been bringing these beautiful flowers back into the public eye, with workshops and walks.

This next walk has been scheduled to coincide with the peak of the bloom, and will be held Thursday morning, June 30 at 10:30. People may call the Museum at 508-548-7270 to reserve a space. The numbers of participants will be limited to 20.

To learn more about Michael Walsh and his roses, click here.

A Conversation About Shellfishing

The next “Conversation” sponsored by the Woods Hole Historical Museum will be a historical look at shell-fishing in Falmouth. The Conversation is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24 at 1 PM in the meeting room in the lower level of the Woods Hole Public Library, 581 Woods Hole Road, adjacent to the Museum.

The speaker will be Matt Weeks, who comes to the subject with not only a lot of on-the-water knowledge, but also a deep curiosity and skill in searching historical documents. Matt was the fisheries technician for the Town of Falmouth for two years, and helped oversee the creation of oyster rafts in Little Pond, among other duties. Since then, he has moved on to become a self-employed shellfisherman, with an oyster grant just outside Waquoit Bay. He works that grant, and also participates in wild harvest.

He has found the time and energy to do serious research in the historical records in the Falmouth Historical Society archives and the Falmouth Public Library, gleaning information about shellfishing dating back to 1770s. He will talk about the results of that effort. Continue reading

Oyster Talk and Tasting 2015

The Museum held its fourth annual Oyster Talk and Tasting in August. The event began with a talk by local oyster growers Eric Matzen and Pete Chase. Eric and Pete are founding members of the Falmouth Shellfishermen’s Co-operative and have pioneered oyster aquaculture on the Falmouth shore of Buzzards Bay. They described the benefits and challenges of growing oysters on the Cape and gave a demonstration of how to successfully and safely open oysters. After the talk, attendees got to taste oysters from several different locales. Below are some photos from the event.

Underwater Archeology: A Talk by Raymond Hayes

The Woods Hole Historical Museum marked Massachusetts Archeology Month (October, 2015) with an illustrated talk by Raymond L. Hayes, Ph.D. about his underwater archeological survey of Great Harbor, Woods Hole.

Dr. Hayes, who is a research associate at the Institute of Maritime History in the Smithsonian Institution, finds Great Harbor particularly interesting because it has several unusual features for Cape Cod: a very deep area in its south-east quadrant, providing a deep-water anchorage, historical docks on the south-east edge, as well as the Pacific Guano Company docks farther north into the harbor where ships would tie up when returning laden from the Pacific islands. He will share the results of his surveys both under-water and on the shores.

Old bottle found in Great Harbor (Raymond Hayes)

Old bottle found in Great Harbor (Raymond Hayes)

Ray Hayes is Professor Emeritus and former Assistant Dean for Medical Education, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC. He completed his college education at Amherst College and holds post-graduate degrees from The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). He has served on faculty at several medical schools, including Harvard, the University of Pittsburgh, Morehouse, Howard University and the University of the West Indies (Mona, Kingston, Jamaica).

Continue reading