Last Whale Killed Off the North Carolina Coast

A whale skeleton during assembly at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences circa 1900-1920.

On March 16, 1916, the last whale killed by North Carolina fisherman was caught near Cape Lookout.

Whaling was practiced in North Carolina since the colonial era, and the first evidence for whaling in North Carolina comes from a 1666 commercial whaling license issued by Peter Carteret, the assistant governor of the North Carolina colony. The industry quickly became prosperous with English and Scottish settlers setting up fisheries up and down the coast to catch and process whales for their meat, oil and bone. North Carolinians played an active role in this industry although their participation was most often shore-based as opposed to  oceanic.

By the early 20th century, as Americans turned to gasoline and kerosene for their heating and lighting needs, and to synthetic substances for greasing, whale oil fell into disuse and the shore-based whaling industry collapsed.

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