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Price Realized: $7,020 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2324 Lot 356
(WHALING.) [Chase, Obed G.?] Journal of a successful cruise of the whaling ship Helvetia in the South Pacific. With 6 inked whale symbols. Autograph manuscript, 103 pages plus 15 of later notes. Folio, original 1/2 calf, moderate wear; several pages cut or torn out, closed tears on a few other leaves, whaling entries all complete and legible. Vp, 21 October 1837 to 16 June 1839
Estimate $5,000 - 7,500
The Helvetia sailed out of the small whaling port of Hudson, NY under captain Shubael Cottle. She sailed around Cape Horn and stopped at Tahiti and New Zealand, among other ports. She also stopped at Mocha Island off Chile, the neighborhood of the famous albino sperm whale Mocha Dick, who was killed that year (and inspired Moby Dick).
The voyage began slowly, and in the early months the Helvetia saw few whales. The journal keeper fretted on 21 June 1838: "We are 8 months from New York this day with only 300 bbls oil, and want to get some more very much." On the 4th of July, he wrote: "We celebrated the day by fireing 2 guns and setting the colours. So ends, all hands very anxious to see some whales." The crew was often kept busy picking apart old rope and spinning it into yarn; later a few entries note that "All hands employed scrimshanting" (20 May 1839), implying that they were doing decorative carving of whalebone for the market. After months of "hard luck," the Helvetia ran into "greasy luck" (the good kind) in the fall of 1838, and nearly filled their hold with oil. The trip home went smoothly except for a gale which struck on the return below Cape Horn: "A sea struck our ship which stove 3 boats and some of the bullworks . . . some of the oil got stove in the hold and so we pump oil" (27 March 1839). A man also fell overboard on the trip (21 January 1838), but was saved--the loss of hard-won whale oil may have been a greater sorrow to the Helvetia's captain. The ship returned to New York in less than two years with a full cargo of 350 barrels of sperm oil, 2,350 barrels of whale oil, and 21,000 pounds of whale bone, making this a very successful cruise. See Starbuck, page 342.
Following the whaling journal are two additional pages of log entries in the same hand dated 1841; the author had apparently fallen ill in New Zealand on his next voyage and was being shipped home as a passenger on an American vessel. Following the journals are 12 pages of farm accounts dated 1852 to 1874, apparently in the town of Busti, Chautauqua County, NY; two accounts relate to the family of Ezra Babcock of that town. One of the accounts is between "O.G. Chase dr. to S.G. Curtiss." Obed G. Chase (1812-1884) of Busti fits the chronology perfectly. He was cited in an 1881 atlas as a veteran Nantucket whaler who settled down in Busti in 1841. On the final page is "A List of Whales Taken aboard the Ship Helvetia," with separate list for sperm whales, all arranged by which of the four boats landed the whale.Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $7,020