African American Whaling Captain

I recently ran across a story about an African-American whaling captain, William A. Martin, here:

http://www.mvheritagetrail.org/williammartin.html

We have a logbook at PPL which was kept aboard the Eunice H. Adams (sailed in 1887 out of Edgartown), captained by Martin. It is a relatively chatty log as these documents go. I’ve transcribed here the first entry and a longish entry in the middle, just for a taste.

October 16, 1887:

Took our anchor from port of New Bedford at 9 O’clock AM and shaped our course for sea with a company of 25 all told. At 12m [Noon] discharged the Pilot. Wind blowing strong from South west. At 3 O’clock PM kept off and steered for Tarpaulin cove. Came at anchor at 6 PM in eight fathoms of water. So ends this day.

Saturday June 22 [1889]:

Begins with a calm. At 1 PM a light breeze from the SW sprung up. At 3 PM sperm whales were raised [i.e., sighted] by John A. Chapman. The whales were going quick WSW. They were raised about 3 miles ahead of the vessel. Lowered the two port boats and pulled to the windward but could not head them off. When the boats were about four miles from the vessel more whales were seen from the brig on the lee bow. The Capt. Lowered the starboard boat but could not head off the whales. The other two boats set sail and went off to the leeward. The larboard boat got in ahead of one and tried to go on but the whale went down. Then the waist-boat went on to another and struck and was fast about five minutes when the iron drawed. Then the LB struck the same whale. Got the whale alongside at 9 PM. Later part very rainy and windy. Commenced cutting at day light. Sperm all round the vessel but the weather was too bad to lower. Finished cutting in at 9 O’clock. So ends this day.

For more on the whaling collection at PPL, see:

http://www.provlib.org/ri_image/Whaling%20Collection/Sites/pages/specialcollections/nicholsonwhaling/index.html

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One thought on “African American Whaling Captain

  1. Pingback: African American Sailors & History | The Realm of the Chaos Fairy

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