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Still, Captain Ahab has retained a powerful hold on the popular imagination, a one-legged spectre striding through minds blameless of having read the book. Yet again, as a popular figure, Captain Ahab persists outside the complex philosophical framework within which he was conceived. As Richard Slotkin has shown us, in Regeneration through Violence , like Boone and Crockett, Ahab comes down to us in the form in which Peter Benchley recreated him, as a seagoing version of our most popular archetype, the Hunter. Chief among the missing is the lesson of Narcissus, which is the message intended by Melville.

Which brings me again to the old John Barrymore version, a timeless example of the Holly woodizing of literary classics, which is of trivia the essence. Hesitating outside her house, Ahab happens to catch a glimpse of Hope in the arms of his brother, Derek, invented like Hope for the occasion. Abandoning all thoughts of Hope, he sets out to sea again and tracks down the great beast that bit off his leg: Moby Hun.

With the help of his friends, Queequeg and Fedallah, he kills it. He also kills his brother, Derek, who ill-advisedly signed on for the voyage. Ahab, presumably, is Edmund Teller, and out of that union Dr. Strangelove was born. In truth, no movie will capture the complex truths of Moby-Dick , no more than Job can hook Leviathan, nor Charlton Heston do justice to Exodus— by which I do not mean the novel by Leon Uris.

For we are talking about secular scripture, transcendent fictions that outlive generational interpretations. The Hollywood versions of the Twenties and Fifties tell us very little about Moby-Dick but considerable about the people and the times that produced them. If approached, the Nautilus , like Moby Dick, is capable of destroying ships; and when Professor Aronnax sets out in search of the mysterious creature, he theorizes that it is a gigantic narwhale.

The Franco-American connection is strengthened by the name and nationality of the ship Aronnax first sets out in, the Abraham Lincoln whose captain is named Farragut , a steam-driven marvel of martial technology, and by the name and nationality of the Canadian whaler, Ned Land, a throwback to the athleticism of Long Tom Coffin. Like Pym, Aronnax and his companions escape the disaster without telling us how they managed to do it, perhaps because Poe already showed how it should be done.

Here, once again, is the essential domestication theme, demonstrating how man by means of technology—the hardware engendered by the divine gift of reason—may continue to enlarge his habitable dominion. Verne is often celebrated for the prophetic qualities of his fiction, having envisioned not only the submarine but a number of other technological devices not yet invented, but there is another, ironic side to the innovative aspects of 20, Leagues Under the Sea. Science fiction thenceforth took off for outer space, converting the cigar-shaped Nautilus into a rocket ship and Ned Land into Buck Rogers, while Nemo survives as a shrunken, mummified Dr.

Huer—or the faun-eared Dr. Here again, as in the sights witnessed by Nemo and his guests, the marvels associated with romance as a literary genre, and here once again Captain Cousteau, who brings the Franco-American connection back home via a television system called NET.

The Whale and the Horror

Setting out in his modern-day version of the Nautilus , a Bathysphere that moves, Cousteau, like Nemo, walks and talks on the ocean floor, existing on familiar terms with Leviathan or exploring the Gothic interior of some wrecked and coral-encrusted ship. Much is made of the preparations for each dive, with long, fond camera glances at the dials, switches, valves, and like paraphernalia, with intimate peeps inside the secret recess of that immaculate bridal suite, the Decompression Chamber.

Whatever else Cousteau may be doing in the waves, he is not being wanton with them: he carves his straight navigational lines across the water in a high-powered rubber dinghy. He never just swims. The world aboard a ship is traditionally homoerotic, but what Melville only hints at Cousteau makes graphic, as the Captain like some ubiquitous and avuncular Pandarus presides over all arrangements.

There is an element of athleticism here, but it is not the Anglo-American sports of Cooper, Dana, or Hemingway. Only the great skill of Captain Cousteau the Master Diver and the advances of modern technology stand between these beautiful young aquanauts and instant and horrible death. Once again: Yo Ho Ho. And Ho Ho Hum. What Cousteau is peddling is as sci mostly fi.

No matter how low Cousteau sinks, he explores depths not much deeper than an aquarium—and about as dangerous. In the manner of Melville on whales, the author loads us with all kinds of information about sharks but to a far different end. Here again the Franco-American connection—for Verne was a pioneer in the mixing of melodrama and data— here reduced to canned spaghetti: where Melville used his cetology chapters to elevate Moby-Dick to epic stature, Benchley throws his facts in our eyes to blind us to the unlikely behavior of his special fish, who in haunting a particular beach behaves more like something out of The Exorcist than a real-life shark.

It seems to me, moreover, that Benchley commits a kind of literary crime, a higher plagiarism, with his heavy-handed equivalencies to Moby-Dick. He is simply another of D. Instead, we are made to understand that the Shark is an agent of Divine Retribution, sent in to plague a resort community because of shady real estate deals, occasional adultery, and like abominations. He has been a volunteer reader of whaling logs and journals in the Research Library since and has contributed several articles to Historic Nantucket. It Is often saId, and rightfully, that various islands in the Pacific — including a few that were of tactical and strategic importance to American forces during World War II — were first discovered and explored by nineteenth-century whalers.

However, the specifics are seldom explained, some of the circumstances are only vaguely known, and most of the particulars remain unclear. There seems to be a lot of confusion about who discovered what, when. In addition to well-documented landfalls by official American naval expeditions, some of the landmark discoveries by Yankee mariners are generally familiar, perhaps especially those of the whaling and sealing captains who are nowadays regarded as pioneers in Antarctic waters.

Faculty Bookshelf – English – UW–Madison

However, what Delano and his British counterparts actually saw was not the continent itself but rather the ice shelf and perhaps one of the Antarctic islands, so Delano and his British rivals are not the only claimants. Nathaniel Palmer — is revered in his native Stonington, Connectcut, for what many maintain is a more significant first, accomplished in sighting and recognizing the actual Antarctic continental land-mass. First, as master of the whaleship Manhattan of Sag Harbor on a Pacific Ocean whaling voyage, he blundered and blustered his way into history.

Japanese maritime endeavor was thus restricted to coastwise trading and fishing in onshore waters in small craft. Captain Cooper, cruising for whales in the Manhattan on the so-called Japan Grounds in , rescued the castaway crews of two disabled Japanese trading vessels that had been blown out to sea. Ignoring the embargo, he took them back to Japan, gently forcing his way past a flotilla of. There, the local authorities only reluctantly permitted the shipwrecked sailors to be repatriated, the Americans were not permitted to set foot on Japanese soil, and Cooper was politely Portrait of Mercator Cooper by Fordham invited to sail away and Hubbard — , circa The whaling never return—which he scene in the background is a faithful copy did, but not before he and after the lithograph South Sea Whaling by his officers and crew William John Huggins — There is no extant record of what the Yankee sailors presented to the Japanese—perhaps knives, shirts, hats, tobacco, and other goods readily at hand on shipboard; but they received in return small ceramic and lacquer-ware objects, an elaborate woodblock-printed map of Japan, a charming watercolor portrait of the Manhattan, and at least one scroll chronicling the history-making encounter in handwritten Chinese characters with watercolor and ink illustrations.

It was not so much a discovery as a pioneering exchange, a decade before Japan was finally, forcibly opened to trade with the West. Then, a few years later, on a whaling and sealing voyage in the ship Levant of Sag Harbor, Captain Cooper made the first-ever actual landfall on the Antarctic continent, at Victoria Land on January 26, Either he or one of his subalterns reports vary was likely the first human being ever to set foot on the Antarctic continent. Whalers had first arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in By the time McKenzie called there in the mids, Honolulu, on Oahu, and to a lesser extent, Lahaina, on Maui, had become the centers of Pacific operations for the whaling fleet.

In the course of seasonal whaling cruises to the north and south, the whalers discovered and charted various landfalls, corrected errors in the published latitudes and longitudes of remote islands and atolls, contributed to improving the accuracy of nautical charts and sailing directions, located reefs and identified shoal water and other hazards to navigation, and made their own recognition drawings and sailing directions when they found the existing ones deficient. The Guano Islands are three small, flat, uninhabited coral islands in the central Pacific, so called because the extensive rookeries there came to be exploited by American interests for their abundant guano thick deposits of bird droppings , which for a period of years was brought back in enormous quantities to the United States, where it was processed to be used as fertilizer.


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Howland Island and Baker Island lie about 40 miles 65 km apart just north of the Equator and about 1, miles 2, km southwest of Honolulu. It was sighted again in by the Nantucket whaleship Loper under Captain Obed Starbuck, who referred to it as New Nantucket, indicating that the island and its name were already known, at least among Nantucket mariners. Perhaps because of interest in the commercial possibilities of guano, and that it was Captain Baker whose report brought news of the guano deposits to New England, Baker is the name that stuck.

Jarvis Island was discovered in , the same year as Baker Island, by a British whaleship Eliza Frances of London under a Captain Brown, who named it after the owners of his ship, Messrs. Edward, Thomas, and William Jarvis. Subsequent whaler visitors gave it other names. Captain Michael Baker landed there a few times in the s in the New Bedford ship Braganza and, without attempting to. However, the British name—Jarvis—is the one that stuck even after American sovereignty was firmly established and guano production begun on a massive scale in the s.

Stood of[f] till 12 o[clock] tacked in for the Land Saw it no more the Current Swept us to Se[a]ward. Wednes[day] February the 1st [] Commences with moderate winds and fair weather. Lowred the Boats and Pulled for them. Returned on board the Land in sight to se[a]ward. Run down to it. Because of much later events, Howland is nowadays the best known of the Guano Islands, and the history of its nomenclature is far the most interesting of the three.

The island, one of the Kingsmill Group of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands in modern-day Kiribati , is said to have been discovered but not inhabited by Polynesian voyagers around , and became known to Americans not long afterwards when the Nantucket whaleship Oeno, Captain George B. Worth, sighted it and named it Worth Island, circa — The party line on Howland Island is that it was named after the lookout who first spotted it from the bark Isabella of Fairhaven, Mass.

Netcher, in This was George F. Howland, one of the boatsteerers. However, it is not clear that it was the bark Isabella of Fairhaven and not the ship Isabella of New Bedford, in which latter case the namesake could have been the fourth mate, John Howland; or the captain, Edward Howland. It need hardly be pointed out that newly discovered islands are seldom named for lowly subalterns on a vessel of which the captain had as yet no island named after himself.

Thus the captain, Edward Howland, seems far the most likely candidate of the three. Even the Polynesian voyagers who came there in were preceded by Russians two years earlier. In Lithograph by Joseph L. Boston: George H. The Polynesians arrived in , George Worth discovered the island again not long afterwards, and the Minerva Smyth called there twice during — But by , when the island was supposedly christened by someone named Howland in some ship or bark named Isabella, the island had already been known as Howland intermittently for around sixteen years.

How Nantucket Came to Be the Whaling Capital of the World

The name goes back to the Minerva Smyth in In fact, while missionaries, merchants, fugitives, adventurers, and on-the-beach sailors colonized many of the other Pacific islands, the whalers were just about the only ones to call at Baker, Jarvis, and Howland — until the s, when they were annexed by the United States and exploited for guano—which forms the next chapter in the historic connection between the Guano Islands, the whaling trade, and the New Bedford Port District.

The Guano Islands Act, passed by Congress in , essentially authorized commercial entities to assert American sovereignty over any uninhabited island worldwide for the purpose of exploiting its guano resources. Accordingly, the Guano Islands were formally annexed as a U. Guano could take actual possession. Then, in , U. Guano forcibly ousted American Guano. Fall During her attempt to fly across the Pacific and around the world, she took of from Oakland, California, on March 17, , with her navigator Fred Noonan.

They were scheduled to land on Howland Island on July 2, but they never made it, and what fate befell them has never been discovered. Meanwhile, a government scheme in the s to make use of Howland prompted more activity than the islands had seen since the s. According to Michael J.

Lewis Handy was born September 23, , at Sandwich, Mass. Like his father and two of his brothers, Lewis went whaling in his youth.

The eldest brother, William Jr. He embarked on his first whaling voyage at age 17 in the New Bedford brig Commodore. Because the island is located halfway between Hawaii and Australia, many believed it would be an ideal place to refuel planes making the journey between the two landmasses. So the United States tried to colonize Howland in Decatur May —August , commanded by his father his only whaling voyage as captain.

Lewis probably made another whaling voyage or two during —24 but the circumstances have not been discovered. His next and probably his last outing was in the Minerva Smyth August —March According to some genealogical sources, he may at some point have been married to a Susan Landers and had a son named William Lewis Handy. But if this happened at all it must have been prior to July 17, , when he married Fanny Brett of Rochester or Marion, Mass.

The union produced eight. After a few months, the men were rotated off the island and replaced with fresh recruits. This exchange continued for [five or six] years. Once a reference point for Yankee whaleships on the trackless deep, then — twice, briefly in both instances — the scene of hopeful but short-lived enterprise, and uninhabited ever since, Howland has for the past seventy years languished, and except for the shadow of Amelia Earhart is mostly unremembered. And except for cartographers and a few Pacific navigators, Jarvis and Baker are almost entirely unknown.

Michael Trinklein provides a fitting coda:. Lewis himself remained active as a merchant sea captain well into his sixties, and died on April 10, , at Sandwich, aged See Walter Teller, ed. The exceptions were that certain Chinese and Korean traders were allowed to enter certain Japanese ports, and one Dutch merchant ship per year was permitted to land at the Dutch trading enclave of Dejima, at Nagasaki. Alexander Almy, born in New York circa , was a career seaman working out of New Bedford from circa From to he was whaling in the bark Morning Star, having shipped as a green hand and then been successively promoted to seaman, boatsteerer, and junior mate.

He was afterwards.

Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World

The United States made great efforts to build them, the Japanese were intent on bombing them, and Amelia Earhart likely died trying to find them. Yet there is no record of any plane ever landing on Howland Island. Only a few months after his appointment as an administrator at American Guano, he died suddenly in an accident on Jarvis. Michael J. When my wife, Nina, opened an antiques shop on Nantucket in , I thought I would try to zero in on pieces made by Nantucket blacksmiths, and in the course of that endeavor, I made several rather disappointing discoveries.

I was well aware that authentic old whaling tools are always scarce in the antiques marketplace, but Nantucket-made pieces are especially hard to find. Most discouraging is that information about the Nantucket makers is almost nonexistent, stemming mostly from the fact that until late in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth century, Nantucket had no comprehensive business or personal directories.

There were only a few fragmentary directories of Nantucket County, such as in the Massachusetts Register of , , and perhaps some other years, and as part of the Henry F. Walling map of Nantucket in Several state censuses also listed some Nantucket blacksmiths, but they, too, are fragmentary. Unfortunately, the U. Even though whaling continued out of Nantucket until , seventeen vessels made only twenty-six voyages from this port, in the entire decade of the s. I have as yet no idea of how Stackpole was able to find their business locations.

In spite of their scarcity, to date, I have been able to collect about twenty-five whaling tools, which I believe, or know for sure, were made by approximately ten Nantucket blacksmiths, either on the island, or shortly after their leaving the island. Some of these I had collected years before, and have now recognized them for what they are; only a few of them were collected on Nantucket. In this article, I write about, and illustrate, some of them, arranged by maker, roughly in chronological order from the earliest to the latest.

The NHA has at least one bill from Samuel, in , to the owners of the ill-fated Nantucket whaler Essex, sunk by a sperm whale in Perhaps he made all of the whalecraft for that doomed voyage. I have three pieces by this maker. The first is a double-flued harpoon that I bought in from a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, dealer at an antiques show in New York State.

I did not recognize it as a Nantucket-made piece until many years later. This harpoon has non-curved cutting, and rearflue edges, which, while not exclusive to Nantucket-made double-flued irons, are frequently characteristic of them. This spade belonged to the well-known local historian and wood and ivory carver, Charlie F. Sayle Sr. I visited Charlie shortly before his death in , and photographed him holding this spade, which he told me he had bought on Nantucket many years earlier.

Pictorial images on American whalecraft are virtually unheard of, but I have two in my Nantucket collection. My feeling is that both of these might have been made in — as a show of pride and patriotism as well as competition to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. In this spade was sold at auction here on Nantucket, and I was lucky enough to be able to buy it.

I have one harpoon and two spades made by this early blacksmith. No doubt it was cheaper to buy a die with a single letter than one with two or three letters. This iron was bought at auction on Nantucket. The second spade I bought at an auction on Cape Cod in This was about the time that I became a whaling tool collector, and this early spade was the first one I had ever bought. It appears to be looking to its left. I feel strongly that patriotism and competition are why these two anomalies exist, but have no idea of who is copying whom.

Nathaniel had a blacksmith son, George W. Atwood —90 , who, according to the Stackpole article, had a shop on Old South Wharf. One is chisel-marked Alpha for the Nantucket whaler of that name mentioned previously , and the other is marked Alabama, for the whaleship of that name, built for Nantucket owners in Medford, Massachusetts, in We have hanging in our home the registration for the Alabama for its maiden voyage of I remember clearly holding that iron while looking at that registration and lamenting why this blacksmith used a trademark with only a single letter.

The answer struck me like a ton of bricks. The third name listed was Charles A. Folger, a blacksmith with a shop on Old South Wharf. Surely a major owner of a vessel, who provided services needed by that vessel, would most likely be the one hired to supply those services. That is the way business works today and no doubt worked in the s. I have two double-flued harpoons that I am attributing to George Swain.

I spoke to the late Sam Sylvia just after my purchase, and he told me he had found it in an old house at the corner of Vestal Street and Quaker Lane. The second iron I bought in from a dealer in Maine. He said it came from someone in North Carolina who had Nantucket connections. How did it get there? In the s, solicitations were made to all current and former American whaling centers seeking gifts of whaling items for a huge International Fisheries exhibition to be held in London, England, in Macy, an important whaleship owner from the very last days of Nantucket whaling.

I have examined and photographed this harpoon at the Smithsonian. I have attributed all to George Swain, because he was a significant player in the local blacksmithing field. Census, named George Sprague, twenty-four years old, but he does not appear in I seriously doubt that he is the GS of these four earlynineteenth-century harpoons.

Two of them we have already met. I have two pieces that I am attributing to Edward, who had a shop on New North Wharf now called Steamboat Wharf , both before and after the fire of The house was believed to have been the summer home of the famous whaleship owner Henry Coffin, whose house in town was at 75 Main Street. The other is a fine double-flued harpoon that I bought at auction on Cape Cod. Allen had a shop on New North Wharf in , according to the Stackpole article, which lists the blacksmith firm of R. The U. Census lists both Allen and Robinson, but the Census has Allen only.

Smith listed anywhere. For the present, at least, I am including this iron among my Nantucket pieces, albeit with a question mark. I have three Paddack harpoons—one a head remnant of a double flue, which I bought forty years ago for ten dollars at a flea market in Poughkeepsie, New York. The dealer told me that it was dug up in a yard in that Hudson River former whaling community. Perhaps it broke off behind its head and was later found in a whale taken by a Poughkeepsie whaleship.

The other two Paddack irons are a single flue and a Temple-type toggle iron, bought from a dealer in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Gifford also had his shop on Commercial Wharf. Whaling was rapidly dying in the s, and the shipsmith business became very bleak indeed. In the late s, Gustavus moved to Charlestown now part of Boston where for a time he was employed in the Navy Yard there. About , he teamed up with another Gifford named Eugene H. Some years ago I acquired an billhead for that firm—a bill for pickaxes, which is interesting in having a logo showing four different styles of harpoons, a lance, and a whaling spade.

In February of , Nina and I visited Antarctica by cruise ship. After leaving the Antarctic Peninsula, we made an unscheduled visit to a Chilean research station on Greenwich Island in the South Shetlands. They were delighted to see us as they had had no visitors, so far, in that Antarctic summer. I was amazed to find a little museum on that island. About two years ago, I bought from a dealer on Nantucket a very fine Temple-type toggle harpoon, in obviously unused condition.

Lewis Temple was an African-American whaling blacksmith from New Bedford, who, in about , is credited with developing the first toggle harpoon for use in the American whale fishery. Temple was a fine blacksmith, but he was illiterate, and he never patented his invention. He was the only blacksmith on Nantucket with those initials, nor could I find any others with those initials in the or U. Census Reports for the other major whaling ports of the eastern U.