Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Hammett

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.

41 comments:

  1. I remember that passage from your guest post. I would've jumped as well.

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  2. You wouldn't have got me in the boat in the first place. Do they still go whaling from New Bedford?

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  3. I love that story about the whale - I wouldn't want to hang out in a boat with "that fellow" either. :)

    Amazing you have that sort of history. I don't know that much about my family that far back.

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  4. I can close my eyes and visualize this scene - the young man, the whale, the boat….

    Julie, you and your family have such an amazing history! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex's Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

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  5. @Alex, me too.

    @Bob, no, they don't do it now. But I wouldn't have gotten on the boat either LOL.

    @Trisha, I love how he wrote "that fellow," LOL.

    @Madeline, oh, thanks for reading it! It's fun to share. :)

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  6. Very cool to have that rich history! *another a z blogger

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  7. I could only imagine how frightening it would be. I'd be fast out of that boat too!

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  8. I love that passage, too. He sounds like someone I could sit and listen to for hours. I bet he had some good tales. :)

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  9. Smart thinking to get out of the boat. I love history of people's lives-geneology with heart

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  10. That's so cool you have that letter from him, and I loved the line "...there was not room enough in this Boat for me and that fellow."

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  11. @sl, thanks, great to meet you!

    @Christine, I know, although I would have been too chicken to ever go on the voyage in the first place LOL.

    @Melissa, I agree, he seems like he was a funny guy.

    @Birgit, I do too, it's so interesting to read the first hand accounts.

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  12. I always love hearing the tales of 'the old days'. You think it was a more 'simple' time, though there was much more under the surface than we're ever told.

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  13. I remember that post - I loved tit then, and I love it now :) It's such a great anecdote, and such a great story about your grandfather!

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  14. Oops, I mean great-great-grandfather!

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  15. @Mark, very true.

    @Liz, thanks, I'm so glad you liked it. And I knew what you meant, no worries LOL.

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  16. Wow, that must have been frightening.

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  17. Oh my gosh! How frightening...I'd be out of that boat so fast, you have no idea lol

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  18. I love seeing prints like that of the tall masted ships. Whaling was quite dangerous. He'd grow up quick on a whaling ship, I would think.

    Another interesting post!

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  19. @Laura, I know, I can't imagine.

    @SK, LOL, same here.

    @DG, I agree, he must have!

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  20. I also liked when he wrote " acoming into the Boat." You can hear his voice strongly in the way that he writes. I bet his journal was fascinating reading!

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  21. I'm always so impressed by how rich and detailed your family history is- and how well-preserved because of you!

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  22. Sounds like your great-great grandfather was an adventurer. And what a great things it is that you have a letter he wrote about his experience on the voyage. That is a treasure, indeed.

    "...so I told the Mate there was not room enough in this Boat for me and that fellow." That is my favorite part. Made me chuckle. :)

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  23. @Lisa, I love that too. :D

    @Bev, I feel so lucky to have it well-preserved. On my mom's side of the family we don't have much info at all.

    @Chrys, my favorite too LOL.

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  24. What a treasure to have. That letter from your great-fret-grandfather shows there was literary talent in those genes you were fortunate enough to inherit. Loved his humor he captured in the face of the pending disaster.

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  25. Whales are an awesome sight. I remember seeing them in Hawaii.

    Hugs and chocolate!

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  26. Oh gosh, that was frightening!! But I also smiled at his answer. "There was not toom enough in this Boat for me and that fellow." I'd have jumped too!!

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  27. Wow, that sounds like quite the adventure he had. Only 15 and already sailing the world? That is amazing!

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  28. That was an amazing story, Julie. It must have been terrifying for your great grandfather, and yes, it is as well he survived.
    I was told that my paternal great grandfather went for a drink to a pub over the Yorkshire moors and was never seen again! Thankfully he already had children when this happened.
    People did have a way of speaking in those time, and I can imagine the description of 'that fellow'.
    Great post, as usual.

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  29. damn I'm enjoying your posts - especially this one. I can practically hear that kid saying that. Amazing he survived the ordeal and last 4 whole years whaling. Not a job I'd want.

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  30. Now there's an adventurous 15 year old! How awesome you still have his words.

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  31. What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing this! ~Jax

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  32. Funny that my theme, "Hauntings," doesn't scare me, but the idea of being on a ship in the middle of the sea scares the heck out of me! Your relative was brave to do it at 15. :)

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  33. Oh my gosh, such wonderful history and it's all in the family!

    No wonder you're such a great story teller!

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  34. Amazing story. I'm glad he got out of the boat in time. I've never heard of that happening, but whales can do that.

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  35. Wow, thank goodness he jumped! I love how you made his surname Stella's maiden name... :)

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  36. To do something so huge so young! Wow. and this is your history. Superb!

    shahwharton.com

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  37. To do something so huge so young! Wow. and this is your history. Superb!

    shahwharton.com

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  38. Hi Julie .. wonderful to have the letter to paper still - so you can re-read it often .. and then use it in your stories ...

    Your great-great- grandfather would be chuffed to bits to know his memory is kept alive through your stories ..

    I loved reading this - and I can because of him deciding to get a move on out of the whale's way .. crumbs .. scrunch and splatters and horrors .... wonderful read - Hilary

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  39. @Lee, thanks so much for saying that about the literary talent, so nice of you to say!

    @Shelly, I've never seen one in person, would love to one day.

    @Cecilia, I know, it makes me laugh even though it had to be terrifying.

    @Loni, isn't it amazing? People grew up much more quickly back then I guess.

    @Fanny, oh, I wonder what happened to him! I always think the moors seem so creepy anyway so that story would freak me out. Thanks so much, I'm glad you liked the post.

    @Marcy, so glad you're enjoying them, thanks!

    @Jax, thank you for reading!

    @Lexa, it scares the heck out of me too LOL.

    @Yolanda, oh, that's so nice, thank you!

    @Heather, I couldn't resist. :)

    @Shah, isn't it something? I can't imagine doing anything like this now, much less when I was 15.


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  40. @Hilary, oh, I didn't think of that, but I bet he would be thrilled. Thanks so much. :)

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Thank you for your comments!