The rowing boats depicted are a type associated with the Polynesian Islands, as the South Pacific was a prime hunting area for whalers on their voyages, which averaged nearly four years.
Scrimshaw falls broadly into two categories, decorative and utilitarian. Examples of the latter include pie crimpers, busks, swifts and walking canes. This example covers both functions. Besides being finely decorated the panbone is drilled with two holes which suggests that it was originally intended to be hung from a wall. Further, the two whalebone strips at the top both have two small hooks on the underside. This would seem to suggest that something would have been attached to them e.g a watch or a portrait of a loved one.