Massachusetts shipwreck

Nature of Casualty

Abandoned after trapped in ice. In 1872, hull had been carried around Point Barrow by ice. 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 the 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: The bark Massachusetts went aground Point Barrow. There was one white man on board her who staid up here last Winter. He made his escape over the ice this Summer, and was five days getting back to the ship. He was about used up when they found him this Summer. The natives set out to kill him, but the women saved him, and afterward the old chief took care of him. He saved a large quantity of bone, but the natives took it away from him, except a small quantity. He said $150,000 would not tempt him to try another Winter in the Arctic. He said that four days after we left the ships last year, the water froze over, and the natives walked off to the ships; and fourteen days after there came a heavy north-east gale, and drove all but the ground ice away - (that never moved.). Shortly after there blew another north-east gale, and he said that of all the butting and smashing he saw, the worst was among those ships, driving into each other during those gales. Some were ground to atoms, and what the ice spared the natives soon destroyed, after pilaging them of everything they pleased. We think the reason they spared the three remaining ships was because they were handy to the villages, and they probably thought they would have them to pick on. No doubt they would have destroyed them also, but they were totally unprepared for the speedy arrival of the white men. 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... 1872: One man, a boatsteerer, had chose to stay behind when the rest abandoned the fleet. He had planned to salvage the baleen from the other ships and to live aboard the Massachusetts during the winter. In 1872 he was found at Point Barrow, "about used up." he reported that the Massachusetts had drifted around the Point during the winter and that he eventually got to shore there. He claimed that the Eskimo men had taken away most of his baleen and had planned to kill him but that he was saved by their women and that finally he was taken care of by an "old chief." Bockstoce, John R., Whales, Ice, and Men: The History of Whaling in the Western Arctic, University of Washington Press, Seattle Washington, 1986: 154, 165

masachuseets bark
Photo: New Bedford Whaling Museum
Official Number: 164787

Type: Bark

Length: 108 Feet

Home Port: New Bedford, MA

Place Built: New Bedfore, MA

Date Lost: Sept. 14, 1871

Captain When Lost: West Mitchell

Where: Point Belcher, Near Wainwright Inlet (But Final Location Off Point Barrow)

Cause: Trapped in Ice

Cargo: 350 Barrels of Whale Oil