Introducing New Bedford
During its heyday as a whaling port (1765–1860), New Bedford commanded as many as 400 whaling ships. This vast fleet brought home hundreds of thousands of barrels of whale oil for lighting America's lamps. Novelist Herman Melville worked on one of these ships for four years, and thus set his celebrated novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, in New Bedford. Nowadays, the city center constitutes the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park, with maps and other information available at the visitor center.
The centerpiece is the excellent, hands-on Whaling Museum, occupying seven buildings situated between William and Union Sts. A 66ft skeleton of a blue whale and a smaller skeleton of a sperm whale welcome you at the entrance. To learn what whaling was all about, you need only tramp the decks of the Lagoda, a fully rigged, half-size replica of an actual whaling bark.
Across the street from the museum, Seamen's Bethel is the chapel that was immortalized in Moby Dick. This is where the marathon, nonstop reading of the novel takes place every year on January 3, the anniversary of Melville's embarkation from New Bedford harbor.