Northern Alaska Shipwrecks ( B )

BOWHEAD (1884)     The 533 ton steam whaling bark Bowhead was lost on August 11, 1884 at Blossom Shoals near Icy Cape.  She had departed San Francisco December 16, 1883 bound for a whaling voyage in the Arctic.  The crew had made the Bowhead fast to ground ice to clean her boilers when she was struck and holed by a piece of drifting ice. She sank quickly.  The crew was rescued by the vessels Narwhal and Balaena nearby.  Some of the cargo of whale oil, bone and whaling station supplies was salvaged but the Bowhead, said to be worth more than $100,000, was lost.

                Mapping and Location : Northern Alaska  70 23 N 161 57 W

                Sources : 1. U S Revenue Cutter Service 1867-1914 Microcopy 641 (1966), 2. Shipwrecks of the Alaska Shelf and Shore (1992)


BRAMIN (1851)     The 245 ton whaling bark Bramin was lost September 25, 1851 about 100 miles from East Cape while on a whaling voyage in the Arctic.  The Bramin had suffered a collision with the whaling bark Adeline during a heavy northeasterly snowstorm and sustained a crippling blow.  The following are excerpts from an accounting given in a letter by her first officer Gilbert Baden published in 1852:

                “On the 7th of Sept., the Bramin was driven on the south-west shore of the Arctic Ocean in a gale of wind, about 100 miles from East Cape.  On the 25th, at 3 o’clock, A.M., while lying too in a gale under close reefed main and mizzen top-sails, wind from the North heading East North-East, the weather being thick with snow.”  “We saw a ship on our lee bow under a heavy press of canvass standing directly for us, and before the wheel could be put up or other precautions taken, she came into us with a heavy crash, carrying away starboard anchor, ship’s head and head-frame, foretop gallant and royal masts, jib, flying jibs and booms, all head stays, martingale, shrouds and gear belonging to the bowsprit, and rendering it useless….leaving us in a leaky and unmanageable condition.”  “We wore ship and made what sail we could.  It was so thick we could see no land.  We saw the ship that had run into us at anchor, proving to be the Adeline, of New Bedford.  She was in a bad or even a worse condition than ourselves.”  “…on the morning of the 27th, the fog clearing, we found ourselves close upon a lee shore three or four miles from land in an open bay, the gale increasing.  We found we could not head out on either tack, and were drifting fast upon the breakers which were mast-head high.  We concluded to stand along as near the other ship as we could, let go our anchors and stand our chance with the rest.”  “….when the ship gave an uncommonly heavy plunge, and parted the chain, and with it destroyed our last and only hope of saving the ship, it being time to look out for ourselves. We got the boats ready, all hands got into them, and with much danger shoved off from the ship, being close by the breakers.  We dared not stop to get a second suit, but were glad to escape with our lives.  After much toil and trouble we arrived on board the Adeline

                The estimated value of the Bramin and her cargo of whale oil and bone was $20,000

                Mapping and Location : Northern Alaska  68 15 N 169 52 W

                Sources : 1. New Bedford Mercury / New York Times January 20, 1853, 2. Shipwrecks of the Alaska Shelf and Shore (1992)



2 Replies to “Northern Alaska Shipwrecks ( B )”

  1. Hello,

    Is there any information on the Sealing Schooner “Bessie Rueter”? Records I have found report that it went down with all hands in the Chukchi Sea on Oct. 6, 1892. My Great Uncle, Walter E. Handy was a crew member. That’s about all I have been able to glean so far. He was from Marion, Massachusetts.


    Willy Cutts
    Newberry, Florida

    1. The Bessie Rueter is listed in the Unknown section as a 31 ton schooner lost with all hands in Alaskan Waters. My information came from a list called Shipwrecks of the Alaskan Shelf and Shore published in 1992. I believe that information came from a shipwreck book by J Gibbs called Windjammers of the Pacific Rim from 1987. You mentioned October 6, 1892 and the Chukchi Sea which I cross referenced and the 324 ton whaling bark Helen Mar went down then (Oct 6, 1892) and there (Chukchi Sea) with the loss of most of its crew (35). What is most interesting is the First Mate’s name was listed as W E Hardy. This information can be found in Lewis and Dryden’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest published in 1895 but available online for download. The story of the demise of W E Hardy and the Helen Mar is at the top of page 406.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *