Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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(Courtesy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

America's whaling fleet expanded the country's global reach and transformed the economy of the Pacific in the 1800s. Very few wrecks of these vessels have ever been found, as they usually went down in deep water, far from shore. This year, federal marine archaeologists working at French Frigate Shoals in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii finally identified one—Two Brothers, a Nantucket whaler that sank in 1823. The discovery started with a 10-foot anchor, and also included three iron trypots in which blubber was rendered into oil, remnants of the ship's rigging, and another anchor. Two Brothers has a special place in literary history. It was the second ship led by hard-luck captain George Pollard Jr. His first was the Essex, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale, providing inspiration for Moby Dick. Oh, and the Essex crew, including Pollard, resorted to cannibalism while drifting and starving on the open ocean.

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