With little improvement in the weather, it was time for some difficult decisions to be made. Winter had clearly set in. Twelve hundred lives and three million dollars of property were at risk. The resources of the Inupiaq Eskimo on land were limited. It was agreed that the whalemen needed to find a way out before everyone perished.
After a meeting of all the masters, it was granted that it was totally impractical to try to get any of the fleet out of their predicament. Captain Jernegan and the other masters of doomed vessels drafted two documents that illuminate the severity of the situation off of Point Belcher on September 12, 1871. The first was a declaration of intent to abandon the vessels. The second was an appeal for help from masters of ships in clear water south of Icy Cape.
Once the decision to abandon the surviving ships was firm, the next challenge became getting crew and whatever provisions possible to the seven American whaleships to the south in open water. Some two hundred whaleboats launched in the narrow band of navigable water between Wainwright Inlet and Icy Cape carrying 32 masters and 1,187 men, women, and children rowing and sailing southward.
Martha's Vineyard Museum