Whaling shipwreck linked to "Moby-Dick" discovered

Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:37pm EST
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HONOLULU (Reuters) - Marine archeologists off Hawaii have found the sunken remains of a 19th-century whaling vessel skippered by a captain whose ordeal from an earlier shipwreck inspired the Herman Melville classic "Moby-Dick."

Iron and ceramic scraps from the Nantucket whaling ship Two Brothers were located in shallow waters nearly 600 miles from Honolulu in the remote chain of islands and atolls that make up the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The ship, which struck a reef and foundered in 1823, was skippered by Captain George Pollard Jr. Two years earlier, Pollard commanded another ship that was rammed by a whale and sank in the South Pacific in a saga immortalized in Melville's 1851 novel "Moby-Dick."

The discovery was unveiled on Friday by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which led the initial 2008 expedition to the wreck and subsequent explorations of the site during the past two years.

NOAA said it marks the first discovery of a sunken whaler from Nantucket, Massachusetts, birthplace of a U.S. whaling industry that played a key role in America's economic and political expansion into the Pacific.

The wreck lies in an area protected by the U.S. government as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a fact that expedition leader Kelly Gleason, a marine archeologist, said was key in helping to preserve the site.

"Anywhere else in the world a ship like this in 10 to 20 feet of water probably would have been looted, or picked apart or just damaged by development," she told Reuters.

Artifacts found there include two anchors, three cast-iron trypots used for melting whale blubber, remains of the vessel's rigging, harpoon tips, whaling lances and cooking utensils.

The material and design of the items confirmed they were of 1820s New England origin, and no other whaler from that era is known to have wrecked in the vicinity, Gleason said.   Continued...

<p>Maritime archaeologist Dr. Kelly Gleason with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is shown with a ginger jar from the 19th-century shipwrecked whaling ship Two Brothers in this publicity photo released to Reuters February 11, 2011. REUTERS/Greg McFall/NOAA FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS</p>