The remains of the Two Brothers, the sunken whaling ship belonging to the captain who inspired Herman Melville’s classic 19th Century novel Moby Dick, has been found by US marine archaeologists in shallow waters off Hawaii (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
In 1823 the ship hit a coral reef and sank, while Captain George Pollard was the skipper.
The Essex, his previous ship, had been rammed by a whale and also sank in 1821, providing the narrative for the book.
Researchers from America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) found the remains of the Two Brothers about 600 miles (965 km) north-west of Honolulu in the remote chain of islands and atolls.
Although the warm waters disintegrated the wooden vessel, the researchers found harpoons, a hook for stripping whales of their blubber and cauldrons used to turn whale blubber into oil.
“To find the physical remains of something that seems to have been lost to time is pretty amazing,” said Nathaniel Philbrick, an author and historian, who has been researching the Two Brothers, the Essex and their captain.
“It just makes you realise these stories are more than stories. They’re about real lives.”
But compared with the Essex’s run-in with the sperm whale, the sinking of the Two Brothers was relatively uneventful.
After the Essex sank, Capt Pollard and his crew drifted at sea for three months. They had no food or water and before they were rescued they even resorted to cannibalism.
Capt Pollard gave up whaling and became a night watchman in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Even though Pollard’s adventures inspired Herman Melville, he is not thought to have been the basis for the novel’s obsessive Capt Ahab.