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Friday
Feb112011

Shipwrecked Whaler from 1823 Discovered in Hawaiian Waters

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HONOLULU) -- Nearly 600 miles northwest of Honolulu, in the remote Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, lies a shipwreck with a literary link to history.

George Pollard was captain of the Essex, a Nantucket whaling vessel that sank in 1821 after being rammed by a sperm whale in the South Pacific. He and his men drifted at sea for three months, having to resort to cannibalism before eventually being rescued.

The Essex's epic tale inspired Herman Melville's classic novel Moby-Dick, but it is Pollard's second ill-fated vessel, the Two Brothers, that is gaining notoriety today.

Exactly 188 years to the day after the Two Brothers sank during a storm in 1823, marine archaeologists working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that they have found the ship's wreckage.

"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 researched both the Essex and the Two Brothers extensively. "It just makes you realize these stories are more than stories. They're about real lives."

Pollard and his men survived the Two Brothers wreck and were rescued in the morning by the whaling ship Martha, which had been sailing with them. But Pollard had never imagined lightning would strike twice and according to the writings of Thomas Nickerson, a crew member who worked both doomed voyages.

Although most of the wood from the Nantucket, Mass. vessel has disintegrated in Hawaii's warm waters, researchers have discovered multiple harpoons, a hook used to strip whale blubber and cauldrons that were used to turn blubber into oil.

The Two Brothers is the first wrecked whaler from Nantucket, the birthplace of whaling in America, to be found. The vessel was part of a fleet of several hundred whaling ships that played a part in America's economic and political expansion into the Pacific. The vessels were also responsible for the near extinction of many whale species and the early exploration of the polar regions and Indian Ocean.

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