Whaling Hat - detail of whales

Nuu-chah-nulth Whaling Hat

By Emma Crosbie

Whaling hat

Description

The acquisition register entry for this artefact reads:

Conical shaped hat, matted (illustrated in Captain Cook’s Voyages).

A further description by the museum’s ethnographer notes that: this is a whaling hat, onion bulb shape, with whaling scenes. Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) 18th century.

What does the whaling hat look like?

The hat is conical with an onion-shaped piece on top. It is decorated, in black, with men on small flat boats hunting whales with harpoon-like weapons.

Whaling hat
Whaling Hat - detail of whales

Where does it come from?

This hat probably came from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Who were whaling hats worn by?

Whaling hats were worn by the Nuu-chah-nulth people of the North Pacific Coast of Canada; whaling was an important part of their culture.

How did this artefact end up in the National Museum of Ireland?

It is believed that this hat was collected on Captain Cook’s third voyage, 1776 – 1780, by Captain James King, and donated, by him, to Trinity College Dublin. It was later transferred to the collections of the Science and Art Museum, Dublin, whose collections later became part of the National Museum of Ireland.

In the late 19th century attempts were made by employees of the Science and Art Museum to establish the authenticity of artefacts that were claimed to be part of the Cook Collection. This hat is mentioned, in 1894, in a catalogue of artefacts being transferred to the museum: “One of the objects received from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1882, is, most probably, identical with one figured in Cook. This is the woman’s conical hat of basket-work from Nootka Sound, figured on plate 39 of the large set of plates to Cook’s Voyages. A comparison of the original with the plate puts this almost beyond doubt.”

Learn more...

The whaling hat is part of the Museum’s Ethnographical collection, which is stored in Collins Barracks, and is not currently on display.

You can read more information on Captain Cook’s Voyages in the following:

Cook, James (1999). The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery edited from the original manuscripts: Volume I: The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-1771. Suffolk: Boydell Press.

Cook, James (1999). The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyage of Discovery edited from the original manuscript Volume II: The Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772-1775. Suffolk: Boydell Press.

Cook, James (1999). The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery edited from the original manuscripts: Volume III: Part 1, The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780. Suffolk: Boydell Press.

Cook, James (1999). The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery edited from the original manuscripts: Volume III: Part 2, The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780. Suffolk: Boydell Press.

 
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