Maui News

Shipwreck with Link to Moby Dick Discovered in NW Hawaiian Islands

February 11, 2011, 11:36 AM HST
* Updated February 11, 5:26 PM
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By Wendy Osher

A lost whaling shipwreck with links to Herman Melville’s novel, Moby-Dick, was discovered in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Blubber Hook artifact discovered at wreck site. Photo, NOAA.

Maritime heritage archaeologists with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, made the discovery in the remote Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  The wreckage of the 1800’s Nantucket whale ship, Two Brothers, was found on a reef off French Frigate Shoals, nearly 600 miles northwest of Honolulu.

The whaling vessel was from Nantucket, Massachusetts, the birthplace of America’s whaling industry.  Two Brothers was captained by George Pollard Jr., whose previous Nantucket whaling vessel, Essex, was rammed and sunk by a whale in the South Pacific, resulting in inspiration for Herman Melville‟s famous book, Moby-Dick.

The Two Brothers ship met a similar fate when it hit a shallow reef off the French Frigate Shoals exactly 1888 years ago today, on February 11, 1823. Pollard and his crew were rescued the next morning, and the wreckage of the ship has been lost on the ocean floor until the recent discovery.

Dr Kelly Gleason examining a spear tip at the whaling vessel wreckage site. Photo, NOAA.


Archaeologists first uncovered the boat’s large anchor in 2008 while on an expedition to study marine life.  Subsequent expeditions in 2009 and 2010 resulted in the discovery of more artifacts, including blubber hooks, whaling harpoon tips, whaling lances, and cast-iron cooking pots.


Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument maritime archaeologist Kelly Gleason said, “ Shipwreck sites like this are important in helping tell the stories of the early days of sailing, to include whaling and maritime activities both in the Pacific and around the world.”

***(Supporting information courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

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