“THE WHALE STOVE THE BOAT BADLY & KILLED ELIJA JOHNSON”: MANUSCRIPT AMERICAN SHIP’S LOG AND ACCOUNT BOOK OF THE WHALERS MASSACHUSETTS AND FANNY, DOCUMENTING WHALING ACTIVITIES FROM 1865-70, WITH WOODCUT WHALE STAMPS
(WHALING) WILCOX, Nathan B. Journal of Voyage, Bark Massachusetts, N.B. Wilcox, Master. WITH: Bark Massachusetts and Owners in Account with Nathan B. Wilcox, Master. No place: 1864-68 [Log Book]; 1865-70 [Account Book]. Two volumes. Folio (Log Book measures 9-3/4 by 15-1/2 inches; Account Book 8 by 12-1/2 inches), contemporary three-quarter brown sheep, marbled boards. Housed in matching custom clamshell boxes.
Revealing primary source document, describing both dramatic and mundane daily events aboard the whaling ships Massachusetts and Fanny, with woodcut whale stamps for each whale killed in one volume.
“Entrepreneurs made and lost fortunes, whaling masters, both drunken and pious, and ordinary whalemen, some of whom returned with a lifetime supply of exotic tales, painted a vivid portrait of the romance and perils endemic to the whaling industry” (Westport Historical Society). These daily first-hand accounts by whaling master Wilcox provide fascinating historical insights into 19th-century whaling practices. The Log Book contains 112 pages of manuscript in a neat and very legible hand, and 52 whale stamps representing a variety of species of whales as well as whale tail stamps to indicate the whales that escaped. Entries note the longitude and latitude of each kill, with woodcut stamp for each whale, as well as the names and positions of other whalers sighted in the same grounds. A typical entry reads: “Begins with fresh SW winds and drisly rain at times. At 11 am board for whales waist boat struck got the boat badly stove. Lubbard boat took his line went on to the whale… The whale stove the boat badly & killed Elija Johnson the boat stearer. Whale sunk hauld the irons out trying to haul him up took the stoven boats in put out a boat from overhead… at 9 board again lubbard boat struck turned up the whale and took it to the ship. At 6 am finished cutting middle part. Fresh breases from E latter part light wind from E & snow squalls at times…”
All told the Bark Massachusetts made 12 voyages from the port of New Bedford beginning in 1836, with her final voyage beginning in 1870. She was lost in the Arctic in 1871. Her first voyage was to the Indian Ocean and all subsequent voyages were to the Pacific or to the North Pacific with the exception of her final voyage which was to the Indian Ocean. The final entry in this particular Log Book is dated February 22, 1868, indicating the voyage to the North Pacific lasted two years and six months. The managing agent for the vessel was Swift & Allen of New Bedford. While the bulk of the log accounts for the movements and actions of the Bark Massachusetts, the first few pages have various entries which are titled: 1) Sperm Whales Seen and Taken in Bark Fanny; 2) Bowheads in Arctic Ocean Taken in Bark Fanny; 3) Comments Regarding the Sightings of Icebergs January 4, 1864-July 6, 1864; 4) Reports of Ships Where They Took Oil. This front matter comprises six pages and includes 16 whale stamps. The Account Book begins on October 2, 1865 and ends January 12, 1870, and contains 39 manuscript pages in a neat hand. The Account Book shows salaries to crew, expenses incurred at various ports around the world as well as sales records at various international ports. John R. Bockstoce, Whales, Ice, & Men, 32, 143-59 (photocopy included). Alexander Starbuck, History of the American Whale Fishery (1989). The Record of American and Foreign Shipping (1869). Judith Navas Lund, Whaling Masters and Whaling Voyages Sailing from American Ports, New Bedford Whaling Museum (2001). Bookplate; owner signature.
Interiors clean, wear to original bindings, particularly Log Book. Very good condition, a most desirable piece of American whaling industry history.