Annual NC Whales & Whaling Symposium

Teaching is one thing, says North Carolina Maritime Museum Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster. But telling a story, that’s what makes learning easier and more engaging.

“I’ve been at this 30 years,” Rittmaster said. “I’ve got a whole lot of stories.”

Rittmaster is one of the organizers of the annual North Carolina Whales and Whaling Symposium, an event that focuses on the whales found in our coastal waters, historic hunting practices, marine mammal conservation and other related topics. The date for the 2020 symposium has not yet been set.

“This symposium has been very popular,” Rittmaster said. “I think it’s fun too.”

A shared interest in marine mammals led to the symposium’s creation in 2016, according to John Hairr, the museum’s education coordinator, who worked with Rittmaster in developing the museum’s most unique and innovative educational program.

Hairr’s focus includes the history of whaling in North Carolina while Rittmaster is drawn to current biology and conservation.

“We sort of complement each other,” Hairr said.

So it was natural that they would incorporate their combined expertise into the day-long programming.

“We just started the symposium to show off some of the cutting-edge marine mammal research being done in the region, as well as communicate about the region’s deep history in whaling and the porpoise fishery,” Hairr explained.

The program will feature educators, biologists, environmentalists and historians giving presentations regarding whales and whaling that are appropriate for all audiences. There will also be displays showcasing marine mammal bones, teeth, baleen, oils and skeletons.

“We like putting things in people’s hands when we can,” Rittmaster said.

For more information on the North Carolina Whales and Whaling Symposium or other programs and events at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, visit ncmaritimemuseumbeaufort.com or call 252-504-7740.