Illustration by Rockwell Kent for the 1930 Lakeside Press edition of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick

The Fate of the Crew

3 survived on Henderson Island
5 survived in the boats
1 deserted before the attack
12 died

Master and Mates
Captain George Pollard Jr. Survived.
Owen Chase, first mate Survived.
Matthew Joy, second mate Died. Buried at sea.
Obed Hendricks Lost at sea.
Benjamin Lawrence Survived.
Thomas Chappel Survived on Henderson Island.
Owen Coffin Shot. Eaten.
Isaac Cole Died. Eaten.
Henry Dewitt Deserted before the disaster.
Thomas Nickerson Survived.
Richard Peterson Died. Buried at sea.
Charles Ramsdell Survived.
Barzillai Ray Died. Eaten.
Samuel Reed Died. Eaten.
Isaiah Sheppard Died. Eaten.
Charles Shorter Died. Eaten.
Lawson Thomas Died. Eaten.
Seth Weeks Survived on Henderson Island.
Joseph West Lost at sea.
William Wright Survived on Henderson Island.
William Bond, steward Lost at sea.

The Return

Incomplete news of the Essex disaster reached Nantucket before Owen Chase, Thomas Nickerson, Benjamin Lawrence, and Charles Ramsdell arrived home on the whaleship Eagle in June 1821. Two months later, Captain Pollard arrived on the Two Brothers, and 1,500 islanders met him on the wharf in profound, awe-struck silence.

The men were welcomed back into the community, which stoically accepted the chance perils of whaling. Pollard, Nickerson, and Ramsdell shipped out for the Pacific again within a few months. Chase, working with a ghostwriter, turned his log from the ordeal into a book published in New York before the end of the year. He then signed himself aboard a New Bedford ship and headed back to the Pacific.

Two Brothers

The owners of the Essex entrusted Captain Pollard with another ship, and he sailed for the Pacific as master of the Two Brothers mere months after returning home. In a true show of confidence, Thomas Nickerson and Charles Ramsdell shipped with him. Fifteen months later, the Two Brothers struck a coral reef in a storm northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. The men found themselves again cast into small open boats in the middle of the ocean. Providentially, they were rescued the next day.

Captain George Pollard Jr.

The wreck of the Two Brothers ended Pollard’s whaling days. After one voyage in the merchant service, he quit the sea and worked as a grocer on Nantucket for a few years. Later he served 13 years as one of the town constables. A good-natured man, he fasted privately every year on the anniversary of the loss of the Essex. Married for more than 50 years, he died in 1870.

Captain Owen Chase

Owen Chase enjoyed two more decades of successful whaling in the Pacific, eventually becoming part owner and master of the Nantucket ship Charles Carroll. He married four times; his second wife was Nancy Slade, widow of Matthew Joy. He retired to Nantucket in 1840. It is said that near the end of his life Chase began hoarding food in the attic of his Orange Street house. He died, insane, in 1869.

Captain Thomas Nickerson

Thomas Nickerson worked as a mate aboard whalers into the 1830s, when he switched to cargo ships. He retired as a master mariner to Brooklyn, New York, where he penned his own account of the Essex tragedy. Returning with his wife Margaret to Nantucket in the 1870s, he operated a boarding house on North Street (now Cliff Road). He died in 1883.

Captain Charles Ramsdell

Charles Ramsdell continued to sail on whaling ships, rising to command the Salem ship Lydia for two voyages in the late 1830s. Married twice, he died in 1866.

Captain Benjamin Lawrence

Benjamin Lawrence continued whaling, eventually becoming part owner and master of the Nantucket brig Dromo on three voyages into the Atlantic between 1838 and 1841. He was keeper of the Quaise Asylum for many years beginning in 1848, and in later life farmed and fished from a home in Siasconset. He and Eliza Pitman, married in 1824, had six children. He died in 1879.

From the NHA Collections
(Click on an image for more detail)

“Aftermath” as it appeared in the original 2015 exhibition at the Nantucket Whaling Museum.

Next: In the Wake of the Essex