Published February 11, 2011
NOAA has released images and video from its recovery of the Two Brothers, a Nantucket whaling ship that sunk near Hawaii almost 200 years ago.
Marine biologists discovered the wreck by happy accident at Papahānaumokuākea (PA pa huh NOW muh KOO uh KAY uh) Marine National Monument. The evidence found helps tell the story of poor George Pollard, a sea captain with terrible luck.
“The captain of the whale ship Two Brothers is a pretty famous whaling captain — famous for his misfortune,” said Kelly Gleason, the lead researcher, in a WBUR interview.
In 1820, Pollard was captain of the Essex, a ship that was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. Pollard and his crew survived the wreck but nearly died while lost in the Pacific. After 95 days, driven by starvation, Pollard cannibalized his own cousin. He somehow made it back to Massachusetts.
A friend told Herman Melville the incredible tale, and the story of “Moby-Dick” was born.
Amazingly, Pollard and two men from his crew took to the high seas again, this time on the Two Brothers. (These are the same crew members who watched their captain eat a man.) Disaster struck again, or rather, the ship struck disaster, when the Two Brothers ran aground on the French Frigate Shoals, in the northwest Hawaiian islands.
Pollard survived again, but he would never embark on another mission.
“The community of Nantucket really did give this man and the entire crew kind of a second chance, and they didn’t pass judgment right away,” Gleason said. “But after that experience with the Two Brothers, he really was marked as an unlucky man. And sailors are pretty supertitutions.”
Pollard ended his career as a night watchman in Nantucket.
NOAA produced a video interview with Gleason about the remarkable discovery, which you can watch on our YouTube page.