The Finback whale shown in this antique postcard which was mailed in 1918, at first glance looks as if it beached on the Provincetown shore. But on closer examination, and from reading the caption on the photograph, the sad truth is this whale was hunted and killed for its blubber oil. Currently an endangered species, the Finback is the second largest animal in the world. (The Blue Whale is the largest) It has been described by naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews as “the greyhound of the sea”. Since the mid 1980’s whale watching has become a way for visitors to Cape Cod to observe these handsome mammals. Often sighted in the waters on the tip of Cape Cod are primarily Humpback Whales as well as a few Finback Whales.
This particular whale in the vintage postcard above was killed by Captain Joshua Nickerson while at the command of the steamer the A.B. Nickerson. It was one of the largest of the Finback species ever taken in Provincetown and measured 65 feet and 4 inches in length and weighed 136 tons. According to the book Provincetown written by Herman Atwell Jennings, “in 1886 the steamer and a facility for processing whales was built at Herring Cove near the Race Point Lighthouse and in 1889 a wharf was extended from shore four hundred feet to enable the factory steamer to bring the whales and other fish alongside to be handled.” A number of the streets in Provincetown have the names of the early families that include Nickerson, Snow, and Dyer. Small towns have their secrets. Want to gain a more intimate sense of the town and its inhabitants? You’ll want to read the new novel Remaining in Provincetown, now available at Amazon.com. Like us on Facebook and you may win a FREE copy.