Feb

12

 Thought this would be of interest to the Chair and other followers of Captain Pollard…

HONOLULU — In the annals of the sea, there were few sailors whose luck was worse than George Pollard Jr.'s.

Pollard, you see, was the captain of the Essex, the doomed Nantucket whaler whose demise, in 1820, came in a most unbelievable fashion: it was attacked and sunk by an angry sperm whale, an event that inspired Herman Melville to write "Moby-Dick."

Unlike the tale of Ahab and Ishmael, however, Pollard's story didn't end there: After the Essex sank, Pollard and his crew floated through the Pacific for three months, a journey punctuated by death, starvation, madness and, in the end, cannibalism. (Pollard, alas, ate his cousin.)

Despite all that, Pollard survived and was given another ship to steer: the Two Brothers, the very boat that had brought the poor captain back to Nantucket.

And then, that ship sank, too.

On Friday, in a discovery that might bring a measure of peace to Captain Pollard, who survived his second wreck (though his career did not), researchers announced that they have found the remains of the Two Brothers. The whaler went down exactly 188 years ago after hitting a reef at the French Frigate Shoals, a treacherous atoll about 600 miles northwest of here. The trove includes dozens of artifacts: harpoon tips, whaling lances and three intact anchors.

The discovery is believed to be the first of a Nantucket whaler, one of an armada of ships that set sail during the early 19th century when the small Massachusetts island was an international capital of whaling. It was a risky pursuit that led sailors halfway across the world — and sometimes to the bottom of the sea.

"Very little material has been recovered from whale ships that foundered because they generally went down far from shore and in the deepest oceans," said Ben Simons, chief curator of the Nantucket Historical Association. "We have a lot of logbooks and journals that record disasters at sea, but to be taken to the actual scene of the sunken vessel — that's really what is so amazing about this."

The discovery was, in some ways, as fortunate as Pollard was cursed.

The Two Brothers — which was bound for the newly opened Japan Grounds after whalers had fished out the Atlantic and parts of the South Pacific — was long known to have sunk on the night of Feb. 11, 1823, off the French Frigate Shoals.

Full article at NYT.


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