Two shipwrecks from the 1800s have been found off the Alaskan coast, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The shipwrecks might be a part of an American fleet of 33 whaling vessels trapped by the ice in 1871 off the northern Alaskan coast in what is called the Great Whaling Disaster. About 1,200 people – women, men and children have been caught in the freezing waters of the Arctic.
The ships have finally been found after 144 years as a result of the melting ice brought by the global warming. This has given explorers increased access to expand the searches. The two shipwrecks have been found in September when archeologists of the Maritime Heritage Program started searching about 30 miles of the Chukchi Sea in an attempt to find any sign of the long lost whaling ships.
Previous signs of the existence of the wrecks in the area were some gear pieces recovered from the shipwrecks by the local Inupiat tribe and timbers scattered on isolated beaches in various areas from Wainwright to Point Franklin.
NOAA archeologist Brad Barr and member of the research team says that previous research suggested that some of the sunken ships might be on the sea floor but nobody had any proof regarding the exact place of the lost vessels. They could not even be at all anymore as currents and erosion from the last century and a half could have scattered them along the beaches.
To find the ships the NOAA team used the latest sonar technology to scan the sea floor. They finally found the “magnetic signature” of the two whaling ships with the outline of their structures. Besides the ships there were lying anchors, fasteners, ballast and also pots used by the whalers to render oil from whale fat.
The two ships which are now lying at the bottom of the sea were once a prosperous part of a fleet of almost forty whaling ships. In June to August 1871 the fleet was traveling through the Arctic to hunt bowhead whales. They got as far as Point Belcher near Wainwright, Alaska when a sudden weather shift started pushing the pack ice towards the coast. Only seven vessels managed to escape in time leaving the other 33 trapped in the ice. As the ice pack was tightening around them the ships were being crushed and finally sunk.
All the 1,219 people abroad have been evacuated, crossing 70 miles of ocean in small whaleboats to a point where the seven escaping ships were waiting for them. Amazingly, nobody lost their life in the Great Whaling Disaster.
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