A Nantucket Sleighride

February 23, 2014

       Have you wondered what we mean by calling The Whale Guitar a "Sonic Nantucket Sleighride"? The term Nantucket Sleighride was whaler lingo for the perilous time after harpooning a whale, during which the whaling boat was dragged like a sleigh by its own lines behind the frantically fleeing whale. Whalers pulled along for the ride bet their fate on the exhaustion of the whale. Once exhausted they could more easily kill her and harvest her oil.

       But an angry whale might drag a boat several miles before tiring, reaching speeds of up to 23 MPH.  And whales sometimes rammed and overturned boats during the chase.  Few crewman knew how to swim, and many lost their bet with fate.

       Since Nantucket was the birthplace of the New Englad whaling industry, the sleighride was named after it. This photo from a 1768 whaling log in the collections of The Providence Public Library is one of the first descriptions of a Nuntucket Sleighride, before it was given its name.

       The Whale Guitar literally depicts a Nantucket Sleighride, and in a more figurative sense, the fateful peril all creatures and we ourselves are dragged into by man's untempered chase for wealth, oil, energy, light, and even beauty.  Direct  killing by whaling is mostly eradicated on the planet, yet countries like Japan still conduct whaling underthe guise of "research".  A research whose "byproduct" is harvested to manufacture the emollient base for blood red lipstick.  
      Less directly, and  looming over all creatures is the potential for death by illness from the toxins and radiation man has ceaselessy tossed into our shared seas.  The angriest whale cannot outrun, smash or capsize these human activities.  Only we can make an impact, and turn the tides of our shared fate.

 

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