Diver Dr. Kelly Gleason discovered the shipwreck. Photo by Bert Ho

Diver Dr. Kelly Gleason discovered the shipwreck. Photo by Bert Ho

Exhibit features lost whaling shipwreck found in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Captain of this sunken ship was also captain of ill-fated Essex, inspiration for Moby Dick.

Editor’s Note: Head to Nantucket to view “Lost on a Reef” exhibit that shares the story of an 1823 shipwreck in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that ended up on the French Frigate Shoals in 1823 — or read the fascinating tale right here.

(Honolulu, HI) On August 16th, maritime archaeologist Kelly Gleason, the Maritime Heritage Coordinator for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, will formally introduce the Lost on a Reef exhibit on display at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.  During this special event, Gleason will describe the discovery of the 19th century Nantucket whaleship wreck site, and the subsequent research that led to its positive identification as the Two Brothers.  The Two Brothers is notable because it is the first discovery of a wrecked whaling ship from Nantucket.  The ship was captained by Captain George Pollard Jr., who previously commanded the ill-fated Essex, the story of which was inspiration for Herman Melville’s classic tale Moby Dick.

Lost on a Reef highlights the broad maritime heritage of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and presents findings and artifacts from years of survey and research by NOAA maritime archaeologists.  Through interpretive panels, video footage, an interactive display, and artifacts recovered and conserved from the shipwreck site, the exhibit shares the story of the Two Brothers, which wrecked on a stormy night at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on February 11, 1823.

Gleason will also give an update on recent survey work at the shipwreck site and filming for an upcoming documentary about it conducted this past July, and describe the intricate process to retrieve and conserve artifacts that have been sitting on the seafloor for nearly 200 years.

The Lost on a Reef exhibit, which is planned as a travelling exhibition, aims to share the seafaring history of Papahānaumokuākea with the island community of Nantucket, whence the Two Brothers hailed.  Like Hawaiʻi, Nantucket was profoundly affected by the whaling industry in the early 19th century.  The story of the Two Brothers helps to link these two island communities on opposite sides of the country.

“The Lost on a Reef exhibit is an exciting way for Papahānaumokuākea and the team of NOAA archaeologists to share this compelling shipwreck story with the public,” says Gleason.  “The exhibit and the artifacts are great examples of the way that archaeology can help to make the distant past very real and tangible.  Forging a partnership between Papahānaumokuākea and the community of Nantucket through shared maritime history has been really rewarding and inspiring for everyone involved.”

The artifacts on display in the exhibit set sail from Nantucket’s harbor over 189 years ago.  They return to Massachusetts as an exciting opportunity for the community to learn more about the remote islands and atolls in the Hawaiian Island archipelago that make up Papahānaumokuākea, the largest marine protected area in the country and one of the largest in the world, and the nation’s first mixed natural/cultural World Heritage site.

“We are honored to host Dr. Kelly Gleason at the Nantucket Whaling Museum,” says Ben Simons of the Nantucket Historical Association.  “What could be more exciting than to hear about the discovery of a real Nantucket whaleship, the Two Brothers, on the ocean floor from the scientist who discovered it!  To be face to face with artifacts from the wreck, and to picture the tragic Captain George Pollard, Jr. enduring a second calamity at sea, gets to the heart of Nantucket history.”

On August 15, Gleason will facilitate Family Exploration Day:  Shipwrecks and the Sea, also at the museum.  This event, geared toward families with children ages seven and older, will include a variety of interactive, hands-on activities exploring maritime archaeology and sharing the story of the wreck and discovery of the Two Brothers with a broader audience.

In Hawaiʻi, those who are interested in learning more about maritime heritage in the Monument can visit the Lost on a Reef exhibit on permanent display at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in Hilo on the Big Island.

For more information about the Two Brothers, click here or click here:

For more information about the exhibit at the Whaling Museum, click here.
Papahānaumokuākea is cooperatively managed to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of Northwestern Hawaiian Island ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations.  Three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and State of Hawai‘i – joined by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, protect this special place. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was inscribed as the first mixed (natural and cultural) UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States in July 2010.  For more information, please visit www.papahanaumokuakea.gov.

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