In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon

Druett, Joan
Algonquin Books 2003
ISBN 1-56512-347-6
Date finished: 2008-04-27

In 1841, the whaleship Sharon set out from Fairhaven, Massachusetts under Captain Howes Norris. The voyage was doomed, though; after reaching the Pacific, whales were difficult to find and lowering th boats rarely led to a successful hunt. Captain Norris's temper grew shorter, and he began to take out his frustrations on the crew, administering floggings increasingly often. His anger focused on one black sailor, George Babcock, and eventually Babcock died from the mistreatment during a horrible flogging that lasted several hours. Sailors would desert at every port, and the captain would struggle to replace them. Finally two Pacific Islanders who were recent recruits killed the captain while most of the crew was off in the whaleboats; Norris had probably begun to abuse them as well, and they likely feared for their safety. Herman Melville, who was on the Sharon's sister ship, doubtless heard the story and incorporated it into his novel Moby Dick. Druett, who specializes in maritime history, pieces together the story from ships' logs, private journals, newspaper reports, and academic histories, and assembles it into a smoothly flowing narrative.

Tagged: maritime history

Permalink: http://books.amk.ca/2008/04/In_the_Wake_of_Madness.html

%T In the Wake of Madness
%S The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon
%@ 2008-04-27
%A Druett, Joan
%K maritime history 
%G ISBN 1-56512-347-6
%I Algonquin Books
%C Chapel Hill
%D 2003

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