Whaling shipwreck found in Hawaii linked to Moby-Dick
Whaling shipwreck: A shipwreck discovered in Hawaii is believed to be the second whaling ship the real-life Capt. Ahab sailed after the famous sperm whale sank his first ship. The remains of the whaling shipwreck are to be displayed in Hawaii, and may travel to Nantucket, where the real Capt. Ahab lived.
A fierce sperm whale sank the first whaling ship under George Pollard's command and inspired the classic American novel "Moby-Dick". A mere two years later, a second whaler captained by Pollard struck a coral reef during a night storm and sank in shallow water.Skip to next paragraph
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Marine archaeologists scouring remote atolls 600 miles northwest of Honolulu have found the wreck site of Pollard's second vessel — the Two Brothers — which went down in 1823.
Most of the wooden Nantucket whaling ship disintegrated in Hawaii's warm waters in the nearly two centuries since. But researchers found several harpoons, a hook used to strip whales of their blubber, and try pots or large cauldrons whalers used to turn whale blubber into oil. Corals have grown around and on top of many of the objects, swallowing them into the reef.
"To find the physical remains of something that seems to have been lost to time is pretty amazing," said Nathaniel Philbrick, an author and historian who spent more than three years researching the Essex — and its fatal encounter with the whale — the Two Brothers and their captain. "It just makes you realize these stories are more than stories. They're about real lives."
Officials from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — one of the world's largest marine reserves — were due to announce their findings at a news conference Friday, exactly 188 years after the Two Brothers sank.
Kelly Gleason, the maritime archaeologist who led the discovery, first saw the ship's anchor in 2008 while surveying French Frigate Shoals.
The anchor could have belonged to any one of three 19th century whaling ships that sank at this atoll. But additional artifacts found by Gleason's team over the next two years — like the cast iron cooking pots scattered around the wreck site — were unmistakably from the 1820s, while the other two vessels sank in 1859 and 1867.
The sinking of the Two Brothers was relatively uneventful compared to the Essex's epic run-in with the whale. After the Essex capsized, Pollard and fellow crew members drifted at sea without food and water for three months before they were rescued. To survive, Pollard and others resorted to cannibalism, including eating one of the captain's cousins.
Still, Thomas Nickerson, a crew member who served under Pollard both on the Essex and the Two Brothers, later described his boss as being in a daze as they had to abandon ship for the second time.
"Capt. pollard (sic) reluctantly got into the boat just as they were about Shove off from the Ship," he wrote.
Fortunately, the Two Brothers was sailing with a fellow whaling ship, the Martha, which had taken shelter near a rock. When the sun rose, the 20 or so crew members of the Two Brothers rowed over to the Martha which picked them up. They all survived.
Pollard gave up whaling, though he was just in his mid-30s, and returned to Nantucket, Mass., where he became a night watchman — a position of considerably lower status in the whaling town than captain.