|Whaling Ships in New Bedford, Massachusetts (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
My great-great grandfather Franklin Hammett left Martha's Vineyard to set sail on a whaling ship (probably similar to the ones shown above) in 1845. He was only 15 years old at the time and sailed around the world for four years. I wrote about Franklin and his adventures for a guest post on Bards and Prophets back in December, so I am sharing a bit of that post again here.
Franklin wrote a letter about his whaling experiences to the Republican Standard and we are fortunate to still have the text of the letter. The ship left from New Bedford, Massachusetts and sailed around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. From there the whalers continued to Guam, Australia and Japan before heading home to New England.
It's impossible to imagine what that voyage must have been like, especially for a teenager on his own, but Franklin's account provides a glimpse into how frightening it must have been. This is my favorite passage of the letter:
"The next he [a whale] came up about five hundred feet, head out of water about 8 or 10 feet or it looked so to me, and some of the crew sterned and some pulled but I see he was acoming into the Boat so I started for the stern sheets of the Boat and the Mate says to me, "Where the Hell are you bound?"
It was the first time for me to be so near a Whale and my hat I guess lifted and there was not much time to talk or even to think but get a move on, so I told the Mate there was not room enough in this Boat for me and that fellow."
Franklin jumped out of the boat and this proved to be a good decision, as the whale ended up slamming that boat to pieces. I suppose if he hadn't made that call, I wouldn't be here today. :D
The passage made me laugh because I could hear my grandfather telling the story in the same way, especially the use of the phrase "that fellow."
Hammett is the maiden name of Stella, the main character in the 1884 section of The Ghosts of Aquinnah.
My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.