This research seeks to explore the industrial nature of pelagic whaling ships that operated in the Pacific region in the early to mid-19th century. It aims to contextualize the industrial experience and working environment through the historical and archaeological investigation of several whaling ships wrecked in the Pacific Ocean. By examining the technological developments, industrial processes, and social and cultural conditions on board these ships, a better understanding of this important aspect of world maritime heritage will be obtained.
Whaleships wrecked in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
The archaeological focus of this research is collection of wrecked whaling ships located within the boundaries of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The Monument encompasses the islands, atolls and reefs of the area commonly referred to as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In the early 19th century whalers began venturing into the region while en route to the Japan Grounds, located to the northwest of Kure Atoll. Between 1822 and 1867, ten American and British whaling ships are known to have wrecked within Monument boundaries. The locations of five of these shipwrecks have been identified and investigated.
Due to their extremely remote location and the protection status provided by the Monument, these sites represent well preserved and untouched examples of the physical remains of whaling vessels that operated in the Pacific. The tropical reef environment of the region, as well as natural and cultural factors that have affected site formation, have resulted in archaeological deposits characterized by the non-wooden artefacts of the industry.
The range of time represented by these sites (i.e. from the earliest period of whaling in the central Pacific to the peak of whaling activities in Hawaii) and the existence of wrecks of two nationalities offers a unique opportunity to learn about 19th century whaling in the Pacific at perhaps its most dynamic period. Further, since there are comparable time periods and contrasting nationalities represented, in-depth study of the artefact assemblages and site distributions could shed light on technological differences between the contemporary fleets and changes over time.
Jason Raupp holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, Louisiana) and an M.A. in History and Historical Archaeology from the University of West Florida (Pensacola, Florida). He has worked on terrestrial and maritime archaeological projects in the US, Africa, Australia, Asia and the Pacific and has extensive experience in public and private sector cultural heritage management. Past employers include the US National Park Service, the University of West Florida, Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, Flinders University and South Australia’s Department for Environment and Heritage. Jason is Secretary of the Australasian Institute of Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) and the SA State Tutor for AIMA & the Nautical Archaeology Society’s Maritime Archaeology Training Program.
For information about whaling and the wrecks in the Monument go to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument’s Maritime Heritage Program.
*photos courtesy of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument