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Stories from the Park Lecture Series – Bound for Desolation: New London “Whalers” and Isles of the Southern Ocean

April 3 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams Street
New London, CT 06320 United States

Stories from the Park Lecture Series
by Deborah Donovan, TRHP Director Emeritus

Come mingle with friends and other guests in Lyman Allyn Art Museum’s elegant Hendle Library during a reception with wine and light hors d’oeuvres, visit the museum’s exhibits, and hear stories about Island Affairs of the Thames during this 5-part series.

Although citizens refer to New London, with pride, as “The Whaling City,” in fact much of its 19th century whaling business was that of “elephanting” or harvesting oil from the massive elephant seals that inhabit the islands of the Southern Ocean. This often forgotten or glossed over business can appear less adventurous, dangerous, profitable or widespread as whaling, but take a deeper look. Come join us to explore the oil business in New London – including those of local firms which brought large fortunes home to New London. Hear stories about intrepid seamen, who for all practical purposes “owned” two of the very desolate islands of this region: Kerguelen Island and Heard Island. On islands that experience some of the worst weather and working conditions on earth, these New Londoners created communities and industrial operations, harvesting and processing both whale and elephant seal oil in vast quantities, and overcame many of the difficulties inherent in the strictly “whaling” voyages – desertion, scurvy, boredom, and years away from home. Along the way they demonstrated both a robust business model and a remarkable testimony to their sailing and small craft handling skills.

This series will be held on the first Wednesday of the month through May 2024 at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum and begins with a reception at 6 PM featuring wine and light hors d’oeuvres immediately followed by the monthly lecture at 7 PM.


Regular Pricing
TRHP + LAAM Members – $15
Non-members – $20

Early Bird
TRHP + LAAM Members Early Bird* – $10
Non-member Early Bird* – $15

*Early bird rate is valid through March 27, 2024.

Purchase Today:

Thames River Heritage Park Foundation is pleased to present its 2024 lecture series: Stories from the Park: Island Affairs of the Thames. Probing the historical impact and influence of the connections with islands near and far to the Thames River, the 5-part series will explore the “power of place” from social, cultural, political, economic and ecological perspectives along with its impact and influence on life on the Thames – historically and up to the present time.

This program is made possible thanks to grants from Connecticut Humanities and Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.

Author Bio
Ms. Donovan is a retired tourism and economic development professional with a strong personal interest and background in history and the business and cultural heritage of New London and Southeastern Connecticut. Deborah has served on the boards of the Association for the Study of CT History (ASCH) and New London Landmarks and was a founding board member of Thames River Heritage Park. She is past President, Treasurer and long-time board member of the New London County Historical Society. She holds a BA in English from Boston College and an MA in American Studies from Trinity College. Her Trinity thesis, “This Terrible New Island: the 1855-57 voyage of the Bark Laurens from New London to Heard Island,” sparked her interest in the sub-Antarctic “Desolation Islands” – Kerguelen and Heard – which for over three decades were the primary whaling and elephant seal hunting grounds of several of New London’s largest whaling firms. She has made numerous presentations on this story locally, and at state and regional conferences, including the Dublin Seminar in Early American Life, and ASCH Annual meetings.


April 3
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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Thames River Heritage Park


Lyman Allyn Art Museum
625 Williams Street
New London, CT 06320 United States
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