Presented by Brad Barr of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA archaeologists have discovered the battered hulls of two nineteenth century whaling ships nearly 144 years after they sank off the Arctic coast of Alaska in one of the planet's most unexplored ocean regions. The shipwrecks, and parts of other ships, that were found are most likely the remains of 33 ships trapped by pack ice close to the Alaskan Arctic shore in September 1871. The whaling captains had counted on a wind shift from the east to drive the ice out to sea as it had always done in years past. The ships were destroyed in a matter of weeks, leaving more than 1,200 whalers stranded at the top of the world until they could be rescued by other seven ships from the fleet located about 80 miles to the south in open water off Icy Cape. No one died in the incident, but it is cited as one of the major causes of the demise of commercial whaling in the United States.