In the 1820s, two Nantucket whaling ships captained by George Pollard sank within three years of each other. The sinking of the first, The Essex, inspired Moby-Dick. Remains of the second ship, the Two Brothers, have recently been found off Hawaii, the first time artifacts from a sunken Nantucket whaler have been found.
“Nantucket whaling captains were renowned for being what was called ‘fishy men,’ meaning that they didn’t care what was involved,” said Nathaniel Philbrick, a maritime historian and author of “In the Heart of the Sea,” the acclaimed account of the Essex’s sinking. “They were hard-wired to bring in whales, because whales meant money.”
Pollard, however, was different, “a little more contemplative,” said Mr. Philbrick, despite earning his first helm — the Essex — at the young age of 28.
“He definitely garnered his men’s respect,” Mr. Philbrick said. “But he was twice unlucky.”
And understandably gun-shy. According to an account by Thomas Nickerson, who had been on the Essex — and nearly starved to death at sea after it sank, but still re-upped for another voyage with Pollard — the captain froze on the deck of the Two Brothers after the ship began to sink, and he had to be practically dragged into a smaller whale-chasing boat.
“His reasoning powers had flown,” Nickerson later wrote.
Dr. Gleason says she was impressed that Pollard even went back on a boat at all, considering, you know, the cannibalism of his first trip.
“You just imagine this man who had the courage to go back out to sea, and to have this happen?” she said. “It’s incredible.”