Destruction of a Ship by a Whale - Part I

A tall sails adventure awaits you as you read this excerpt from "Thrilling Adventures By Land and Sea"
By James O. Brayman
in the 1800's


The following thrilling account of the destruction of the whale ship Ann Alexander, Captain John S. Deblois, of New Bedford, by a large sperm whale, is from the lips of the captain himself. A similar circumstance has never been known to occur but once in the whole history of whale-fishing, and that was the destruction of the ship Essex, some twenty or twenty-five years ago, and which many of our readers fully remember. We proceed to the narrative as furnished by Captain Deblois, and which is fully authenticated by nine of the crew, in a protest under the seal of the United States Consul, Alexander Ruden, Jr., at Paita.

The ship Ann Alexander, Captain J.S. Deblois, sailed from New Bedford, Mass., June 1st, 1850, for a cruise in the South Pacific for sperm whale. Having taken about five hundred barrels of oil in the Atlantic, the ship proceeded on her voyage to the Pacific. Nothing of unusual interest occurred until when passing Cape Horn, one of the men, named Jackson Walker, of Newport, N.H., was lost overboard in a storm. Reaching the Pacific, she came up the coast and stopped at Valdivia, on the coast of Chili, for fresh provisions, and the 31st of May last, she called at Paita for the purpose of shipping a man. The vessel proceeded on her return voyage to the South Pacific.

On the 20th of August last she reached what is well known to all whalers, as the "Off-shore ground," in latitude five degrees fifty minutes south, longitude one hundred and twenty degrees west. In the morning of that day, at about nine o'clock, whales were discovered in the neighborhood, and about noon, the same day, they succeeded in making fast to one. Two boats had gone after the whales - the larboard and the starboard, the former commanded by the first mate, the latter by Captain Deblois. The whale which they had struck, was harpooned by the larboard boat. After running some time, the whale turned upon the boat, and rushing at it with tremendous violence lifted open its enormous jaws, and taking the boat in, actually crushed it into fragments as small as a common chair! Captain Deblois immediately struck for the scene of the disaster with the larboard boat, and succeeded, against all expectation, in rescuing the whole of the crew of the boat, nine in number!

There were now eighteen men in the starboard boat, consisting of the captain, the first mate, and the crews of both boats. The frightful disaster had been witnessed from the ship, and the waste boat was called into readiness, and sent to their relief. The distance from the ship was about six miles. As soon as the waste boat arrived, the crews were divided, and it was determined to pursue the same whale, and make another attack upon him. Accordingly they separated, and proceeded at some distance from each other, as is usual on such occasions, after the whale. In a short time, they came up to him, and prepared to give him battle. The waste boat, commanded by the first mate, was in advance. As soon as the whale perceived the demonstration being made upon him, he turned his course, suddenly, and making a tremendous dash at this boat, seized it with his wide-spread jaws, and crushed it to atoms, allowing the men barely time to escape his vengeance, by throwing themselves into the ocean.

Continue to read Part II

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