The Whalers Cabin Museum
In days gone by the building was simply called "the shack." Originally built by Chinese fisherman in the early 1850's, the cabin overlooks Whalers Cove and Carmel Bay just as it has for over 160 years. The historical record is not complete enough to tell us whether Portuguese whalers ever lived in the old rustic cabin, but the name Whalers Cabin has stuck. Over the years many people have lived in the cabin. At one time when the area was a fishing village, there were up to ten similar structures as part of the village. Now only the cabin remains as the oldest structure built by the Chinese on the Monterey Peninsula.
In 1983, after the last resident of the cabin moved out, California State Parks, the Point Lobos Foundation and the docent group began planning to open the cabin to the public for other uses. In the summer of 1986 archaeologists and volunteers conducted an archaeological dig in the cabin's floor and they found evidence of Chinese and Japanese occupancy. When the Chinese lived here the floor was hard packed earth. In later years a pine floor was added supported by granite chunks from the quarry that began operation in the late 1850's in what is now the parking lot. They also found whale vertebrae serving as the foundation. Still later an oak floor was added on top of the old pine floor.
After the archaeological work was completed, the cabin was raised and placed on blocks so a foundation could be poured to help stabilize the structure. The old fiberboard walls and ceiling, wiring, and pipes, all added after the Chinese occupancy, were removed. The interior would have the look of walls that were papered and whitewashed.
Kurt Loesch, a docent who volunteered to help with the archaeological dig, had the idea to transform Whalers Cabin into a cultural museum. After the project was approved, Kurt and other docents under his direction contacted descendants of the families that had lived at Point Lobos, obtaining artifacts, old photographs, and other memorabilia that formed the basis of the museum's collection. Government records and local newspapater archives revealed the history of the property. With Kurt's input, California State Parks exhibit speciaists designed displays around each time period. The museum opened in 1987.
Today, the walls of the museum speak of the many cultures that utilized and conserved the land for generations – Ohlone, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and others. They also chronicle the farsightedness of A. M. Allan, the last owner of Point Lobos, whose family sold the land to California State Parks in 1933, designating it to be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Among the diverse collection of artifacts you can see Native American jewelry and grinding mortars, Chinese fishing equipment, a display recalling the Portuguese dairies, Japanese “hard hat” diving equipment, photographs, models, and numerous other items. When you visit the museum, a knowledgeable docent will be glad to help you understand what you are seeing and how it relates to the Point Lobos of today.
Kurt pursued, assisted in, and was able to bring about the registration of Whalers Cabin on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2007. In recognition of his leadership, Kurt was honored after his death in 2013 by the placement of an interpretive panel describing the creation of the museum, which you can view here.
The Whaling Station Museum
The Carmel Bay Whaling Company was operated in Point Lobos by a group of Portuguese seamen from 1862 until 1879. Between 1854 and the demise of shore whaling in 1900 there were only 16 shore whaling stations in California, with only about 300 men involved. Artifacts for the museum were hard to come by. Help came from the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, who donated or loaned artifacts for the small museum. A harpoon collection was later loaned to the museum from the National Maritime Museum. Click to download a copy of the Brochure on Whalers Cabin and Whaling Station Museums.
Outside the Whaling Station you can see a variety of whale bones, a magnificent specimen of Humpback Whale baleen, and the “try pots” that were used at Point Lobo to render the oil from the whale blubber.