The Crush Begins

Beginning August 29, sharp needles of driving snow accompanied the gale and immobilized the fleet. Ice covered the sea in chunks bigger than houses and the winds drove them back inshore so quickly that most of the whaling ships were unable to maneuver towards open water. Nothing but ice was visible from the mastheads to the vessels, even with 21 hours and 32 minutes of daylight!

On September 1, the first ship casualty was the Eugenia. Breaking loose from her anchor chain, she was driven toward the beach. Next, the Comet was squeezed between two massive chunks of ice forcing her upward and half out of the water. Despite the drama beginning to unfold, for many of the whalemen it was still "business as usual" as they continued their work whaling.

Many of the masters believed that a northeasterly gale would soon drive the ice offshore and allow them to work easterly along the land as they had in the past. The Arctic Whaling season was notriously short, so many of the whalemen were more worried over the loss of time than they were over the rapidly deteriorating wheather.

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Library of Congress