Researchers find 1823 shipwreck of Nantucket whaling ship
- On 12/02/2011
- In Underwater Archeology
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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.
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.
"It was kind of like this ship trap of atolls," Gleason said. "It went from about 40 feet to all of the sudden they were in about 10 feet of water."
For Hawaii, the discovery is a reminder of the great upheaval the whaling industry brought to a kingdom still adjusting to life after the first European travelers arrived.
The hundreds of whaling ships that called on Hawaii’s ports starting in 1819 boosted the kingdom’s economy, but this mostly benefitted a few men who became suppliers to the vessels, said Jonathan Osorio, a professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
The arrival of thousands of outsiders — some of whom claimed Hawaiian law had no jurisdiction over them because they were American or European — challenged the young monarchy.