A fine, bright work of Nantucket Harbor, this Stobart original illustrates the historic prominence of whalers in the important port. A sidewheel steam tug is assisting the Bark NAUTILUS into a camel, a sort of floating dock with lines beneath which will allow the steamship to tow the ship over the obstructing sandbar outside the harbor mouth. Brant Point Light is in view behind this, the second oldest lighthouse in America, after Boston Light. First built in 1746 by whalemen, it has necessarily been rebuilt many times.
By the mid-1800s, whaling in America had achieved world prominence and Nantucket and New Bedford had re-emerged at the head of it all. The industry averaged about $10 million annually, and employed about 50,000 people beyond the whalers themselves. Period paintings often show the hardships as well as the triumphs, where Stobart has chosen and mastered a scene which resonates the respect the profession held within the dedicated communities.
Anchored at what is now the "Old North Wharf" other whaling barks await their turn in the transport camel. Two barks christened NAUTILUS served as whalers: the first was a converted 374-ton Tea Clipper which experience greater success as a whaler for George Allen & Son of New Bedford, under a number of captains, including George A. Smith and Charles Swain. The second, a converted Boston-to-Mobile packet of 220 tons, left Nantucket in 1857 for the Indian Ocean. After the success of sending home 80 sperm whales, she was lost at Port Dauphin. Stobart's artistic tribute honors each their memory.
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