Sandefjord Museum – Sandefjord, Norway - Atlas Obscura

Sandefjord Museum

Sandefjord, Norway

Europe's only museum solely dedicated to the history of whaling still has a fully-functioning whaling ship. 


Located in Sandefjord, Norway, the Hvalfangst Museet or Sandefjord Museum claims to be Europe’s only museum that is solely devoted to the study of and education about whales and whaling. Given the giant whale models on display and the real-life whaling ships you can explore, it may at least be the only whaling museum that you ever need.

The museum was originally built back in 1917, marking Sandefjord’s first ever museum building. It was the brain child of one Lars Christensen, son of a shipyard owner, who set out to educate the public of the day about the plant and animal life living in Antarctica, and about the history of the whaling industry. Since its founding, the museum has continued to grow and evolve, while never losing sight of its mission to educate visitors about the great behemoths of the sea.

Today the museum has a number of unique attractions that let visitors get a glimpse of the interaction of humans and whales. Inside the museum there are exhibits that track the history of the whaling industry, focusing on Norwegian whaling in particular, but spanning all of the oceans of the globe. There is also a zoological portion of the museum that features recreations of many of the common animals from the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Most impressively, there is a full-size recreation of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling of one of the galleries. Outside of the main museum building there is also the Southern Actor, a 1950s whaling vessel that is still in working order, although it is no longer used for whaling. 

Whaling as an industry might be an unfortunate blight on our relationship with the oceans, but it has an interesting history nonetheless. Possibly as a testament to how fascinating we find the giants of the sea in general. 

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