Hoisting aboard the whalebone from a right whale
Whales and Whaling pictures
A ship on the Northwest coast of America cutting in her last right whale Drawing by H. W. Elliott from a French lithograph designed by B. Russell.
One of the first parts of flensing a right whale was to cut away the baleen plates or "whalebone" to be hoisted aboard and cleaned and stored. Right whales yielded a particularly large amount of whalebone and in long pieces, so in the early days of whaling these were particularly valuable. Later on in the days of industrial whaling, more economical substitutes had been found for the whalebone and so what had been a lucrative part of the early trade was too time consuming to process and not valuable enough when brought to shore, so it was simply thrown overboard as useless waste.
Picture used courtesy NOAA