After WILLIAM H. KELLEY, The Destruction of the Whaling Fleet in the Arctic Ocean, c. 1872.
After WILLIAM H. KELLEY
The Destruction of the Whaling Fleet in the Arctic Ocean
New Bedford: Edwin Dews
Paper size: 18 3/4" x 23 3/4"
This hand colored lithograph depicts an event that dealt one of the final blows to the American whaling industry. In September; 1871; off Cape Belcher; Alaska; thirty-four whaling vessels; including 21 from New Bedford; became trapped in the ice and had to be abandoned. A total of one hundred and eighty whaleboats carrying 1;219 souls were rescued and carried to safety by only seven surviving whaleships. In late June 1871; forty whalers passed north through Bering Strait; chasing bowhead whales. By August the vessels had passed as far as Point Belcher; near Wainwright; Alaska; before a stationary high; parked over northeast Siberia; reversed the normal wind pattern and pushed the pack ice toward the Alaskan coast. Seven ships were able to escape to the south; but 33 others were trapped. Within two weeks the pack had tightened around the vessels; crushing four ships. The vessels were spread out in a long line; some 60 miles (97 km) south of Point Franklin. A total of one hundred and eighty whaleboats carrying 1;219 souls were rescued and carried to safety by the seven surviving whaleships. Amazingly; there were no casualties. This lithograph is based on drawings by Captain William H. Kelley; master of the whaleship Gay Head; which was one of the vessels abandoned and lost during the catastrophe.