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Re: The Alert of Peterhead

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  • maymyo25
    Alison, Thank you for your reply and the information. I looked up the area involved on Google Earth and thought it must be very barren. Then I went into the
    Message 1 of 10 , Feb 27, 2008
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      Thank you for your reply and the information. I looked up the area
      involved on Google Earth and thought it must be very barren. Then I went
      into the internet and found the following
      <http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic36-4-380.pdf> concerning a
      William Penny from Peterhead. It would seem that there were Inuit at
      Kekerten and that Penny introduced the technique of wintering on board
      ship in 1853-54. So it was not impossible to survive a prolonged stay.
      The Alerts downfall would seem to be linked to the lack of planning,
      equipment and provision.

      I would be very interested in anything you can find out though I
      appreciate your comment that the loss of a ship was more likely to be
      investigated than the loss of men. Whaling, much like coal mining had a
      hidden cost, at least hidden from those not involved, and it seems the
      loss of a whole ship was not unusual. It is easier to understand that a
      crew may go down with its ship but less easy to accept that they starved
      to death whilst protesting against the treatment they received.

      I have been investigating our Robertson genealogy for a while now and
      interesting events like these bring all those BMD records alive. Thank
      you for your help.


      --- In Peterhead@yahoogroups.com, "Alison Kennedy" <alison2kennedy@...>
      > Hi Liz,
      > Thank you for your e-mail. I'm glad the information was of some
      interest to you.
      > Unfortunately the newspapers for Aberdeen (which commenced in 1747) &
      Peterhead (commenced 1863) are not available online. Microfilm for the
      newspapers is accessible through libraries in either place.
      > I believe that whaling trips usually lasted about 9 months - a year,
      unless the boat got caught in ice when it would have lasted until such
      time as the boat became free! Conditions would have been very hard.
      > I am not aware of an inquiry for this loss, but I will endeavour to
      investigate this further. Whilst this may seem harsh, usually an inquiry
      in these days was only held when a boat was lost, not when men died -
      the loss of men was an accepted fact - the loss of a boat meant the loss
      of money - but it sometimes depended on the circumstances. It's also
      possible that an inquiry may have taken place but not covered by the
      Aberdeen Journal, 1861 being before the Buchan Observer, who would have
      been the more likely to cover the story, commenced.
      > Alison
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: maymyo25
      > To: Peterhead@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 10:39 PM
      > Subject: [Peterhead] Re: The Alert of Peterhead
      > Alison,
      > I knew there must be a story behind it as soon as I found the death
      > record of John Walker in the marine register. He died of extreme
      > debility produced by cold. Out of curiosity I turned to the next page
      > and it showed that three young men, ages 17, 27 and 22 died of
      > frostbite and scurvy caused by insufficient food both inadequate in
      > quantity and quality. Two other young men ages 17 and 28 drowned by
      > upsetting of a boat when engaged in whale fishing. One page with
      > three deaths is unavailable online but another young man age 27 is
      > shown as having died of rheumatism and scurvy.
      > They were away from home a long time and I cannot begin to imagine
      > the despair and anguish of their relatives that they suffered such a
      > horrible death. I do wonder what the outcome of any investigation
      > was. I also wonder what the normal routine was for a ship involved in
      > whaling. It would seem that this crew was short not only of food but
      > of adequate clothing and fuel. Is the Aberdeen Journal available
      > online? I live in Gloucestershire so I am not able search in Aberdeen.
      > Many thanks for your reply,
      > Liz
      > --- In Peterhead@yahoogroups.com, "Alison Kennedy"
      > alison2kennedy@ wrote:
      > >
      > > Hi Liz,
      > >
      > > The following article should help you somewhat:
      > >
      > > The Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday, October 9, 1861
      > >
      > >
      > says that a number of rumours are flying about town with reference to
      > the conduct at the ice of Mr Forbes Milne, the nominal captain of the
      > vessel - charges of cruelty, &c, being flatly and broadly brought
      > against him, with what amount of authority or truthfulness it is
      > impossible for us to say. However, the greater part of the
      > complications in the melancholy matter seem to have arisen from the
      > fact of his having been placed on board of the vessel as actual and
      > practical Captain, while he neither appeared in the books of the
      > Custom House in that capacity, nor possessed a certificate entitling
      > him to hold that office. With regard to the charges brought against
      > Mr Milne by the crew, we forbear alluding to them until the matter be
      > properly and fully investigated by the authorities. The Alert left
      > Peterhead for the Straits on the 18th May, 1860, and sighted the ice
      > on June 8. On July 27, a boat was capsized following a fish, and two
      > of the crew, Burnett and Mitchell, were never seen after being
      > pitched out of the boat. On August 12, five boats chased and kept in
      > a number of white whales on a shoal till the tide receded. 111 of
      > them were killed. On October 25, a number of the men were ill, and
      > only a boat's crew out of the whole ship's company were able
      > to "flinch" a fish that was caught, which could not be done for a few
      > days in consequence of the severity of the weather. On November 3,
      > the Alert bore up for home with a northerly wind, but after several
      > endeavours, could not get out of the Gulf. On the 25th she was
      > driven up into a bay about 20 miles equi-distant from Niatlik and New
      > Boyes stations. At this place she wintered. Serious
      > misunderstandings are said to have taken place between Mr Milne and
      > the crew on the score of provisions &c. Between the 11th November,
      > 1860, and 31st July 1861, other eight men died. Fuel ran short, and
      > proper food, even when it could be had, could not be properly
      > cooked. Sometimes a couple of days' allowance of beef would be
      > served out, and then for some weeks no more would be allowed. The
      > crew had little or any sugar (so essential in these regions) for the
      > whole of this time. The bread got done, and flour and Indian meal
      > (got from the American ships) was served out as food; but in
      > consequence of the scarcity of fuel, it could not be rendered
      > properly available. For some time a number of the crew left the
      > ship, existing by what they could get at the stations and from other
      > ships. Seals flesh, whale skins, blubber, &c., had to be eaten on
      > board the ship. Mr Milne, however, remained all along in the vessel -
      > for some time alone, with the exception of a couple of boys, the
      > rest of the crew being taken away by Captain Simpson of the "Union,"
      > and Mr Thompson, manager of the Aberdeen Artic Company at Kickarton,
      > as they were all dangerously ill at the time. The most deaths
      > occurred in the commencement of the thaw, the cases being scurvy,
      > exhaustion, and exposure to the weather - none of the crew being
      > prepared with the necessary clothing or anything else for an Artic
      > winter. On the 23d August of this year, when the "Alert" was
      > preparing to proceed home, on the representation of the crew, and
      > investigation into the differences between Mr Milne and them was held
      > on board the "Artic" of Aberdeen - Captain Reid of the "Artic,"
      > Captain Simpson of the "Union," and Captain Mackinnon of the "Alibi,"
      > acting as judges in the matter. The result of their deliberations
      > was that they decided on displacing Mr Forbes Milne from his post as
      > Captain, filling his place by Mr Taylor the mate. Mr Robertson of
      > the "Alibi" was then obtained to act as mate. Matters now went on
      > more smoothly, and a full supply of provisions having been obtained
      > from the depots of the Aberdeen Artic Company, the vessel bore up for
      > home immediately, and arrived here on Tuesday forenoon (as stated in
      > our last). The names of the men dead are - John Mitchell, New Deer,
      > and William Bennett, Strichen, drowned by the upsetting of a boat,
      > 27th July 1860; John Walker, Peterhead, 11th November 1860; John
      > McKenzie, Portknockie, 13th December 1860; William McKenzie,
      > Peterhead, 24th April 1861; Peter Campbell, Sutherlandshire, 30th
      > May; Alex. Pickard, Longside, 3d June; Robert Milne, carpenter,
      > Peterhead, 25th June; William Nicol, Peterhead, 31st July.
      > The "Alert" brings intelligence of the loss of the "Union" of this
      > port. She sank at her station in the month of May, but her cargo,
      > amounting to some 25 or 30 tons of oil, and her casks, do, have been
      > saved. Her men were living at their station-houses, and were all
      > saved.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Alison
      > >
      > >
      > > ----- Original Message -----
      > > From: maymyo25
      > > To: Peterhead@yahoogroups.com
      > > Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 4:02 PM
      > > Subject: [Peterhead] The Alert of Peterhead
      > >
      > >
      > > Please does anyone have any information or know where I can find
      > out
      > > about the tragedy that happened to the whaler, the Alert of
      > Peterhead
      > > in 1861. The shipmaster, John Walker was married to Isabella
      > Robertson.
      > > I think that half the crew died, and I wonder if there is a
      > memorial to
      > > them?
      > >
      > > Liz Robertson
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