What Next?

On September 7th the third ship casualty took place. The Roman was near the Sea Horse Islands, in the western North Slope of Alaska, where they took a whale. While cutting it in alongside the ship, the vessel was caught between two ice floes. The pressure of the ice on both sides of the Roman began to crush it and the crew was thrown over the side onto the ice. Within minutes the ship lay on the bottom of the sea. Captain Jernegan and his crew were stranded until rescued by other whalemen.

Twelve year old William Fish Williams was on board the Monticello witnessing the disaster as it unfolded. In 1902 he gave the following account of the demise of the Roman: "The pack (of ice) performed one of its peculiar tricks of relaxing its pressure, allowing the floe against the ship to draw back, as though gathering its energy for another attack, whereupon the ship immediately sank, giving the crew but scant time in which to save themselves."

By September 8, the distraction of whaling ended as captains and crews acceptedthe dangers they faced. On this day, the ship Awashonks was destroyed in almost the same way the Roman was, but she did not sink. Rather, she lay in shallow water for them all to see as her crew joined other ships. The captain of the Eugenia bought what was salvageable from the Awashonks for a mere sixteen dollars.

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Library of Congress