History & Cultures

The ocean has played an important role throughout history. Seafaring cultures arose from a need to explore and find other lands, and many coastal communities rely on the sea for food, clothing and more.

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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...
CREDIT: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Basque Whalers Background Having...
Join marine archeologists as they trace the history of the Trouvadore , a slave...
Bikini Atoll, formed over millions of years around an island in the Pacific...

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The Charles W. Morgan sailing en route to Newport on June 15, 2104. Built in 1841, the Charles W. Morgan sailed on 37 voyages to remote corners of the globe during her 80-year whaling career. The Morgan departed in spring 2014 on...
Join marine archeologists as they trace the history of the Trouvadore , a...
Fish swim around the wreck of the HMT Bedfordshire , an Arctic fishing...

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The ocean holds a lot of history. Warships from World War II have been found on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean through the...
In the Caribbean, Ann Bonny and Mary Read served with Captain “Calico” Jack Rackham. In 1720 Rackham and his entire crew were captured and executed—except for Bonny and Read. They said to the judge...
Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began as a way for fisherman to keep a record of the fish they caught. The fisherman would apply sumi ink to one side of a freshly caught fish, then...
Two divers, one in an atmospheric dive suit (left) and the other in standard dive gear (right), prepare to explore the Lusitania shipwreck in 1935. Over the decades, diving gear has evolved and...
Master carver Douglas Chilton rides at the prow of his creation—the Raven Spirit canoe—at its ceremonial launch in Washington, D.C. The canoe is now on display in the Smithsonian’s Sant Ocean Hall...
Middle-aged and a retired soldier, Bonnet was an unlikely pirate. Yet he bought a sloop, armed it with 10 guns, and hired a crew of about 60 men. Then he sailed to the east coast of America and...
A 2011 excavation led by the Arctic Studies Center uncovered this fragment of decorated European stoneware called a bellarmine jug. Uncovering this fragment, that was likely manufactured in the 15th...
Crafted from the skins of salmon, these mittens are naturally waterproof. They kept hands dry while paddling or working with fish nets. Learn more about Northwest Pacific cultures and marine life in...
A local woman sells live shellfish from her boat in Halong Bay, Vietnam.
Rowboats were sunk in Yellowstone Lake at Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park in the early 20th century. The rowboats were used to ferry visitors and guests of Lake Hotel, and are now a part of the...
November is American Indian Heritage Month . Mark the occasion by learning about the Raven Spirit Canoe , a craft that was carved in Alaska by master carver Douglas Chilton of the Tlinget Nation. The...
Eventually, however, Bartholomew Roberts’ luck came to end. He was killed off the coast of Africa. Following his wishes, his crew threw his body into the sea—finery and all. Then, in the largest...
Recorded Feb. 15, 2011, this video from the Third Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts includes a tribal song written and sung by Suquamish Tribal member Bearon Old Coyote; a welcome to the...
by Emily Frost CREDIT: Kevin Rolle Albatrosses Get ‘Romantic’ to Increase Chick Survival Albatross relationships seem especially relatable to humans. These long-lived and highly-endangered birds will...
Whalers hunted right whales for their blubber, which could be turned into oil to burn in lamps or make soap, and their baleen. Baleen is the series of fringed plates hanging in their mouths that they...
This 1874 photo of a squid draped over a bathtub was the first ever taken of a giant squid. It belonged to the Reverend Moses Harvey of Newfoundland. More about the giant squid can be found in the...
The ocean holds a lot of history. Warships from World War II have been found on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean through the use of sonar technology and are being explored before they give in to the...
On March 1, 1954, the United States military tested nuclear bombs in the ocean around Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean to see what kind of damage they would do to ships. The largest explosion was...
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