The whaling fleet lost in 1871 has been found

It seems that at least two of the whaling ships lost in the great Arctic whaling fleet disaster of 1871 have been found off the coast of Alaska.   It is believed that their discovery may lead  marine archaeologists to the sites of the other 30 odd ships lost that terrible autumn.  The loss of these vessels, 22 of which were from New Bedford, Massachusetts, helped further the end of the whaling industry in the United States.

A painting from the period showing many of the ships trapped in the ice. I believe the original is in the whaling museum in New Bedford.
A painting from the period showing many of the ships trapped in the ice. I believe the original is in the whaling museum in New Bedford.

So what happened to this fleet?  Basically, in June 1871 a shift in the weather pattern helped push sea ice towards the coastline of Alaska.  While seven ships were able to escape to the south (thank God, for these seven helped rescue the crew and passengers of ALL of the trapped vessels), the other 33 whaling ships were trapped.  Over 1,200 people were on these ships, spread out over some 60 miles along the Alaskan coast.  In September they eventually evacuated their ships, and the seven ships that escaped basically removed all of their valuable whaling tools and cargo and made room for their fellow whalers.  Only one ship was recovered, if memory serves, and all the others were lost: some were crushed and sank, others were pushed ashore by the ice, and some were burned by the local Inuits.

An image from Harper's Weekly showing three of the trapped whaling ships.
An image from Harper’s Weekly showing three of the trapped whaling ships.

So who knows?  Perhaps these wrecks will prove to be a treasure trove.  It would be nice to know that some of the items from these ships were still around and might be recovered.  I look forward to hearing what NOAA (the organization who found the wrecks) plans to do next.

-Geoff

 

Advertisements

1 thought on “The whaling fleet lost in 1871 has been found”

  1. Azorean Portuguese emigrated to the New Bedford area because many were trained whalers. When the whaling industry collapsed, the immigrants found employment in cotton textile mills. A few worked in commercial fishing as in Glouster.

Add your $0.02.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s