Back in December, I briefly mentioned a new addition to our fantastic Nicholson Whaling Collection, but now I can offer a few more details. The logbook records the 1875-9 voyage of the very ill-fated whaling ship the John Carver:
The emphasis is really on the “ill”: The voyage started with Master #1 (Aaron Dean), who died and was replaced by Master #2 (Lysander Gault), who fell ill and was replaced by Master #3 (John A. Coffin), who also fell ill and was replaced by Master #4 (J.F. Stanton). Stanton himself became ill as well, but he managed to complete the voyage.
So how unusual is a situation like this? According to whaling scholar (and one of the driving forces behind the excellent American Offshore Whaling Voyages database) Judith Lund only 27 voyages, from among the thousands undertaken, went through four masters (another 14 had even more). And that figure includes voyages in which a single master was counted twice (if he was replaced at some point and then resumed command, for instance).
Other notable features of this log:
- It documents the mental breakdown of a sailor, John Fry, who jumped overboard and attempted to swim away from the ship.
- It is accompanied by the voyage’s original shipping papers and an unusual manuscript contract outlining the payment to members of the crew:
- It also includes other ephemeral materials, like these notes between Master #3 and Master #2:
The additional materials are listed in the Nicholson Whaling Manuscripts finding aid.
The log of the John Carver is available for use now, so stop in anytime (or contact us first) to work with this newly-available piece of whaling history.
New acquisitions to the Nicholson Whaling Collection are made possible by a generous acquisitions endowment provided by the donor.