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Cutting spade

The cutting spade, with its long wooden handle, is used to flense the whale.

Flensing involves cutting the whale into pieces and separating the blubber from the meat. It can be carried out at sea, by the shore, or, more often, on the flensing station, near the tryworks.

The whalers harvest all the useful parts of the animal: meat, baleen, blubber, and the spermaceti, a waxy substance found in the whale’s head. It’s an odourless luxury product, used to make candles, soaps, ointments, and textiles. Whale flesh is consumed by whaling crews.


Date: Replica of a 16th-century object

Origin: Canadian Museum of History

Owner: Canadian Museum of History


Pope, P. E. (n.d.). Economic activities: Basque whalers. Digital museum of New France. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://www.historymuseum.ca/virtual-museum-of-new-france/economic-activities/basque-whalers/

Herzog, A. (n.d.). L’âge d’or des chasseurs de baleines basques en Amérique (deuxième moitié du XVIe siècle) [The golden age of the Basque whalers in America (second half of the 16th century)]. ARCHÉOLAB.QUÉBEC. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://www.archeolab.quebec/familles-d-objets/basques-en-amerique-du-nord

Illustration: Cutting spade