History & Cultures

FEATURES

Photo
Whale baleen, the stiff bristly mouthparts that sieve small prey from the water, was strong yet flexible, and was used to provide structure in many human products, including umbrellas, corsets, and whips. Right whales...
2012 marked the 70th anniversary of a series of World War II battles in the...
November is American Indian Heritage Month . Mark the occasion by learning...
Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began over 100 years ago as...

LATEST POSTS

In the 19th century, "whalebone" was an important fashion tool—however, it wasn't made out of bone, but whale baleen . Dried baleen was flexible yet strong, and used to create structure in clothing, such as tight corsets, used by...
To people living in warm climates, all ice looks the same. But if you live...
Whalers hunted right whales for their blubber, which could be turned into...

LEARN MORE

The ocean was the world's highway, and ships brimming with precious cargoes plied the waters. These merchant ships were...

The Ocean Blog

During what is known as the Golden Age of Piracy, pirates reaped great rewards—and, if they were caught, faced terrible punishments. Learn about some of the most legendary pirates of that time in the...
Roberts dressed in embroidered coats and hats with feathered plumes, like an elegant gentleman. One of the most successful pirates of all, he captured 400 vessels in just three years! Learn about...
This slideshow features illustrations of some of the plants and animals that William Dampier, a naturalist and pirate, observed in Australia (then known as New Holland) and New Guinea. Learn more...
Yes, there were women pirates! And Bonny (left) and Read were among the most famous. Dressed in men’s clothes, they fought side-by-side with other pirates—many of whom believed the two women were men...
As soon as Dampier set foot in Australia, he began making observations and collecting specimens of plants, which he carefully pressed between the pages of books to be studied by the “ingenious” and “...
Excavations between 2002 through 2011 at Hare Harbor have shown that this site was a whaling and fishing station occupied by Basque and Inuit assistants ca. 1680-1730. Archaeologists have uncovered a...
Sometimes the “Watcher,” a raven with an irregular wing, monitored carver Douglas Chilton’s progress on the canoe from an overhead perch. More about raven spirit can be found in our Raven Spirit...
Dampier was not able to collect specimens of fishes and other ocean life. But he had his shipboard artist carefully record the species that Dampier found new and unusual.
The Raven Spirit canoe would eventually travel more than 4,828 kilometers (3,000 miles) from Prince of Wales Island to Washington, D.C. More about raven spirit can be found in our Raven Spirit...
This over 2,000-year-old shipwreck in Mazotas, Cyprus, was discovered in 2007. The ship was loaded with wine from Chios, one of the most expensive and sought-after Greek wines in antiquity. The...
This painting of swarthy buccaneers in the midst of a fierce battle was painted by the prolific American marine painter Frederick J. Waugh, and won an award in 1910. The New York Times wrote: “The...
To people living in warm climates, all ice looks the same. But if you live day-in and day-out on sea ice, like the Inupiaq people of Alaska, you would find that there are many kinds of ice, all...
Dampier rescued Alexander Selkirk from Juan Fernandez island around 1708. Selkirk's story inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe . Read a story by one of Selkirk's descendants in Smithsonian...
This is the cover of the book William Dampier -- pirate and naturalist -- wrote about his first trip around the world, one of four that he eventually made and described in a series of bestselling...
Join marine archeologists as they trace the history of the Trouvadore , a slave ship bound for Cuba that wrecked in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1841, and the ship’s passengers unusual path to...
For over a decade scientists have been investigating an early European whaling site at Hare Harbor in Quebec, Canada . Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just south of the 16th century Basque...
"This World of Ours, Does not feel steady, We keep rotating, Oi! What will happen to us?" This is one of the questions that a group of performers from the Pacific island of Tuvalu is posed to...
Tlingit paddlers carefully lift the Raven Spirit canoe into Washington’s Potomac River for its ceremonial launch. More about raven spirit can be found in our Raven Spirit featured story .
Subscribe to History & Cultures