Today we are sailing into the history of Nantucketers in the Pacific
Photo: Sketch of whale ramming the Essex in the Pacific by cabin boy Thomas Nickerson.
The Curator's Corner
Nantucket in the Pacific: Tabua
Photos : Engraved Tabua showing whaleship Origon , chasing and cutting in, Britannia Engraver, 1827. Whale tooth, cane smoke and palm oil coloring, ink. On loan from Janet & Rick Sherlund.
Some years ago, in Tucson on Antiques Roadshow , a woman—maiden name Bunker, descended from Nantucket Bunkers—came in with this lovely engraved whale tooth with her ancestor’s name on it, and was given an eye-popping estimate by Nantucket dealer Wayne Pratt. [Fig. 1,2&3] Wanting to know more, I called Stuart Frank at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the leading expert on scrimshaw. Stuart said there was a central mystery to the tooth. It was drilled in each end and had a honey color, showing that it had been a tabua , [fig. 4] the most highly valued object in Fijian culture. The mystery was, with a Bunker engraved on the tooth, and another in possession 180+ years later, how had it come out of Fiji to a scrimshander’s hand and back to Nantucket? 
Just before 1800, Nantucket was early into the opening of whaling in the Pacific. Uriah Swain and son-in-law James Cary took trading trips to China on the Rose and the Mars shortly after, and the younger Cary reported an abundance of whales on way back, on what became known as the Japan Grounds, one of the richest whaling grounds on earth, and first hunted by two Nantucket captains in 1820.

As told in Cary’s narrative, Wrecked on the Feejees, in our library, [fig. 5) the Oeno approached Fiji to re-supply, but foundered near shore. Most if not all escaped with their lives, only to be set upon and killed—and  likely eaten by belligerents in one of Fiji’s endless string of local wars. William Cary was the sole survivor, taken in by a local chief. Within a couple of weeks, a sunburned white man arrived, saying “Don’t you know David Whippy?” “Yes,” Cary answered, “I formerly knew him. He was a townsman of mine (in Nantucket) and an old playmate.” “I am that David Whippy,” he said.
Surviving several years, Whippy and Cary traded in sandalwood, bêche de mer , muskets and ammunition, and hired themselves out to fight in various small wars. On page 52 of the narrative came the answer to Stuart’s mystery: they were paid for their mercenary services in dried fish, pigs, tapa cloth and whale’s teeth. I had my answer! The tooth had come from Fiji, been traded to a westerner, and then carved by the Britannia Engraver, a British sailor. This tooth shows how tightly Nantucket was woven into the nineteenth-century history of enormous change in the Pacific. You can see it at our museum (whenever we are again able to open) in the Nantucket Corner Gallery.   

Photo 4 : Tabua, nineteenth century. Whale tooth, coir sinnet, cane smoke and palm oil coloring. Photo courtesy Skinner, Inc.   

Photo 5: Wrecked on the Feejees : Experience of a Nantucket Man a Century Ago, Who Was Sole Survivor of Whaleship "Oeno" and Lived for Nine Years Among Cannibals of South Sea Islands. William S. Cary. Nantucket, Mass. : Inquirer and Mirror Press, 1928.
The Pretender of Pitcairn Island

Author Tillman Nechtman presents this illustrated talk chronicling the mysterious period from 1832 to 1838 when Joshua W. Hill lived at and governed over Pitcairn Island—pretending the entire time that he had permission to do so from London’s colonial authorities.
History Topic:
Native Hawaiian Whalers in Nantucket, 1820–60
By Susan Lebo

The manuscript collections in the Nantucket Historical Association Research Library contain a rich history of the more than three hundred Nantucket whaling voyages to Hawaii and the Native Hawaiian crewmen aboard. An examination of census records, property deeds, death and cemetery documents, and the journals and business accounts of local citizens provides a rare glimpse of native, or Kanaka, seamen in Nantucket in the mid-nineteenth century. Records of their employment aboard Nantucket whaleships appear in ship logs; consulate, shipping, and discharge papers; and in ship disbursement records and crew accounts. These details indicate that Native mariners left an enduring record of their ties to Nantucket and to the island’s whaling history, and provide a wealth of information about Nantucket’s perspectives on Pacific people and their cultures, and about their lives as native whalers.
History Topic:
Were there Pacific Islanders on Nantucket?
By Frances Karttunen

Herman Melville writes of Pacific Islanders like Queequeg on the streets of New Bedford during the whaling era. Were there also Pacific Islanders on Nantucket?

A: Yes. Pacific Islanders began joining the crews of Nantucket whaleships almost as soon as the ships entered the Pacific, and some of them accompanied the ships all the way back to Nantucket.
The first whaleships, the Balaena of New Bedford and the Equator of Nantucket, reached Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands) on September 29, 1819. On board they had as an interpreter a Native Hawaiian who had received some schooling in Boston. After taking a sperm whale in Kealakekua Bay on the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, the two ships moved on to the island of Maui, where the Balaena took on two more Native Hawaiians , whom they called Joe and Jack.
Extraordinary Nantucket Woman:
Susan Austin Veeder, Whaling Voyage Journalist
Susan was the first of the Nantucket whaling women to keep a journal. From September 1848 to March 1853, Susan Austin Veeder (1816–1897) sailed with her husband, Captain Charles A. Veeder, on a whaling voyage aboard the ship Nauticon. The journey took her around Cape Horn to ports in Chile and then to Oahu, Tahiti, and as far north as the Fox Islands in the Arctic.
Digitization & Transcription Update
Of over 400 volumes, comparatively few logs (at last count 11) in our collection were kept by women. These logs can be particularly interesting as they may offer another lens through which to observe seafaring life. As we scan and upload our way through the Ships' Logs collection, we have rediscovered another lady's log that was previously overlooked! 

Log 350, previously titled as the log of the bark Annie Ann, was kept in 1869 by Mrs. John C. Pierce. In an obituary for her husband, Captain John C. Pierce, it was noted his last voyages were aboard a ves sel called the Amie (not Annie) Ann. The obituary also revealed Mrs. Pierce's name as Amie A. S. Pierce—a closer look at the log suggests that the vessel, owned by John W. Pierce, was likely named after the captain's wife!
You can help us transcribe this log and others kept by ladies at sea below.
Historic Nantucket
Click image to open this issue!
Discover more Pacific-themed articles in these issues:

  • Naming the Pacific: Howland Island, New Nantucket, Guano, Amelia Earhart, and the Minerva Smyth,” by Stuart M. Frank, Ph.D. (p. 10)

  • Lost and Found in Papahanaumokuakea Marine Nantucket Monument: The Possible Wreck Site of the Nantucket Whaleship Two Brothers,” by Kelly Gleason, Ph. D. and Jason T. Raupp, Ph. D. Candidate (p. 13)
Activities for Kids

Enhance at-home learning by downloading free and easy to use ACKtivity kits added weekly and lesson plans for all ages.

NEW Journey to the Pacific
ACKtivity Kit added today!
Test your ACK knowledge
Take our online quiz after exploring these items from our collection.
NHA University is a weekly resource featuring videos, history topics, artifacts, transcription projects, and more. Intended to enrich at-home learning for all—coming to your inbox every Tuesday.

Attend NHA University online anytime
to catch up on past lessons, here .
As the summer approaches, we welcome seasonal residents back to the island and look forward to a safe and enjoyable season. A lot of things have changed since the last time you were on Nantucket.

Today, we share an important letter from the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Town of Nantucket: “As you consider a return to the island we wanted to reach out to our seasonal residents with some guidance and best practices to ensure that the summer will be as safe as possible for everyone on Nantucket.”   
During this difficult time, the NHA is pleased to share curated digital content weekly for the enrichment and enjoyment of our members and friends. Staff looks forward to welcoming you back to the Whaling Museum to enjoy an expansive array of exhibitions and programs once it is safe to open our doors.

Due to the CARES Act, donors now receive a higher deduction on their charitable gifts. To learn more, click here . If you would like to support the NHA during this time, consider joining as a member or making a donation today. 
The NHA is closed to the public; this includes the Whaling Museum, Research Library, and Historic Properties.

All NHA public programs and events are cancelled for the foreseeable future.

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