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.
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.
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.