Nantucket Historical Association Acquires Important Ship’s Logbook Related to Famous Essex Survivor

The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a generous gift from the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association. The gift is an important logbook kept by famous survivor of the Essex disaster, Thomas Nickerson, which was purchased at auction August 4, 2018.

The logbook, “Journal of a Whaling Voyage on Board Ship Wabash”, descended through the family until its sale on August 4 at Rafael Osona’s Maritime Auction. “The NHA is most appreciative of Osona’s good work to both source and bring Nantucket treasures back to the island, thus giving the Friends of the NHA the opportunity to acquire and give them a permanent home on Nantucket,” says James Russell, NHA’s Gosnell Executive Director.

Thomas Nickerson (1805-1883), was the youngest member of the crew of the ill-fated whaleship Essex of Nantucket which was famously destroyed by a whale in 1820. After surviving the disaster, he returned to whaling, and went on to serve on numerous vessels throughout a long and prosperous career. He served as mate on a number of whaling voyages and later commanded merchant ships. Later in life he ran a rooming house on Nantucket and wrote one of the two first-hand accounts of the Essex, the manuscript of which NHA also safeguards.

Titled “Journal of a Whaling Voyage on Board Ship Wabash” the logbook is a leather bound, 78-page daily account of an 1832-33 whaling voyage out of New London and records the number of whales sighted and taken, other ships spoken to, and places visited. The book is replete with watercolor drawings of whales, national flags, and coastal landscapes. Blank pages in the back of the book contained drawings and draft letters from Nickerson’s nephew, added later.

The Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association have purchased over $1.7M worth of art and artifacts since their founding in 1986. These include many of the most significant additions to the NHA, such as the 2008 purchase of two paintings of the whaleship Spermo from the 1820s and the 2011 purchase of the “Back of Nichols’ Barn, ’Sconset”, an oil painting by George Inness.

Support from the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association, has enabled the NHA to acquire numerous artifacts, works of art, and documents, and to ensure that such objects stay on or return to Nantucket to be enjoyed by the people of the island. The organization has also supported such projects as the construction of the NHA’s Gosnold Museum Support Center; the conservation of artifacts; and the restoration of the parlors in the Hadwen House. The gracious assistance of the Friends has strengthened NHA’s active collecting activities.

 

“Once again the generosity of the Friends has strengthened the NHA’s ability to tell compelling stories of real people from Nantucket’s past,” says Michael R. Harrison, the NHA’s Obed Macy Director of Research and Collections. “There are so few surviving artifacts personally related to the Essex crew that it is a real joy to be able to add this colorful logbook to our collection.”

To view a digital version of the “Journal of a Whaling Voyage on Board Ship Wabash” click here.

The mission of the Nantucket Historical Association is to tell the inspiring stories of Nantucket through its collections, programs, and properties.

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