This artwork shows a scrimshaw design engraved into the surface of a real Nautilus shell. The design is inspired by scrimshaw art made by men on whaling ships, who engraved artwork into teeth and bones of the whales they caught. This artwork is engraved in the style of sailors’ tattoos.
The engraving shows a ship in a bottle caught in the tentacles of the Nautilus. The ship in the bottle is named the ‘Essex’after the whaling ship sunk by an angry sperm whale seeking revenge in 1820. This artwork sees the Nautilus dreaming it was just as large and powerful, snaring its own ‘Essex’ in its tentacles. The title is taken from the poem, ‘The Chambered Nautilus’ by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.