Gay Head shipwreck

Nature of Casualty

Abandoned after trapped in ice, in 1872 and found burned by Inupiaq Eskimos. Tornfelt, Evert E., Burwell, Michael, Shipwrecks of the Alaskan Shelf and Shore, U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Alaska OCS Region, 1992

The Bringhampton Republican publishes the following private letter from Capt. William H. Kelley, of that city, who was Captain of one the fleet of whalers deserted in the ice Point Belcher a year ago, and is again in the Arctic in command of a vessel: They [natives] burned the Gay Head (the ship I abandoned) and Concordia where they lay. New York Times 10-31-1872

The five northernmost ships, the Roman, Comet, Concordia, Gay Head, and George, were completely surrounded. Slightly to the south the John Wells, Massachusetts, Contest, J. D. Thompson, Henry Taber, Fanny, Monticello, and Elizabeth Swift were not as tightly gripped... Masses of whaleboats were already heading south, relaying provisions to the ships in clear water, when on Wednesday, the thirteenth, the ice crushed the bark Fanny and dragged the bark George past the Gay Head, smashing her jib-boom on the way..... 1872: The Eskimos had also burned the Gay Head and Concordia and stripped many of the remaining ships. Many of the natives of Icy Cap stayed inland in the summer of 1872 for fear of retribution. Saddest of all, as they rummaged through the ships searching for supplies of alcohol, most of which the whalemen had destroyed before leaving, they broke into the ship's medicine chests and a number are reported to have died from drinking the contents of the bottles. Bockstoce, John R., Whales, Ice, and Men: The History of Whaling in the Western Arctic, University of Washington Press, Seattle Washington, 1986:154, 157-158, 164

gay head ship
Photo: New Bedford Whaling Museum
Official Number: 10353

Type: Bark

Length: 112 Feet

Home Port: New Bedford, MA

Place Built: Mattapoisett, MA

Date Lost: Sept. 14, 1871

Captain When Lost: William H. Kelly

Where: Point Belcher, Near Wainwright Inlet

Cause: Trapped in Ice and Later Found Burned

Cargo: 530 Barrels of Whale Oil