Lost Whaling Fleet
In 1871, a fleet of 33 whaling ships sailing off the north coast of Alaska were warned by the local Inupiat people that it was going to be a bad weather year. They didn't listen. When the wind shifted and the ice came in, all 33 ships were trapped. While all the crew members miraculously survived, the ships went down, where they were lost until this September when researchers from our Maritime Heritage Program went to find them. Check out our video to see what they found. #EarthIsBlue
In 1871, a fleet of 33 whaling ships were lost off the north coast of Alaska in what would be termed one of the greatest disasters in the history of American whaling.
When those ships sailed up in 1871, they were warned by the local Inupiat people that this was going to be a bad weather year. They didn’t listen. And when the wind shifted and the ice came in, 33 ships were trapped.
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program is working in the Arctic off the coast of North Alaska to try to locate the remains of shipwrecks lost in one of the epic disasters in the history of American whaling.
Finding these ships not only talks about those times, it reminds us of how we as Americans not only created an industry, but how we adapted to changes in industry, how we adapted to changes over time. Any mission like this requires a fair amount of preparation. It also requires a great deal of hard work.
This mission was one that saw people with different skills coming together, from archaeologists and surveyors to the boat crew themselves. And the payoff was the discovery of at least two of these ships sitting on the bottom, broken, chewed by the ice, but still there and identifiable. When you look at books like Moby Dick, when you think of how whaling figured big in the American consciousness, to know that now only one of these whaling ships survives one, out of all those hundreds.
And yet on the bottom are these broken remains of these other whaling ships, which are a reminder that sanctuaries, as well as the rest of the ocean, can be a big museum at the bottom of the sea.