The "Friends of the Museum" work with the museum by underwriting new projects, purchasing equipment, funding educational and public awareness programs and acquiring land and facilities needed for expansion.Their combined effort offers programs such as "Build a Boat in a Day," Sailing Programs, Beaufort Oars, Junior Sailing, Sea Scouts, Summer Science School and much more, including the annual Wooden Boat Show.
In January 2004, the museum staff, including Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster, responded quickly to the news of a beached whale; they buried the dead creature on the beach. Four years later, when the bones were exhumed, the team found a whale-skeleton puzzle of more than 200 bones, bone fragments and teeth.
After the bones traveled to N.C. State University for "de-greasing"—a process to keep the skeleton from dripping oil and creating bad odors—the team set up an off-site work facility. A dedicated team spent four more years cleaning and reassembling the skeleton. The skeleton is now suspended above the main exhibit hall in the North Carolina Maritime Museum on Front Street. As part of the whaling exhibit, visitors are able to use interactive touch screens to learn more. Whaling tools, equipment and images also help tell the story of those who braved the sea off the Outer Banks of North Carolina in pursuit of these huge creatures.
The earliest history goes back to 1666 when New England sailing vessels cruised North Carolina waters in pursuit of sperm and right whales. A lease in 1723 allowed Governor Burrington, Christopher Gale and John Lovick to take whales along the coast between Cape Fear and Currituck Inlet for a term of seven years. A whaling license was issued to Samuel Chadwick in 1726. Chadwick and three other residents of Carteret Precinct were permitted to whale with three boats.