More Captain Chat Part 7 – Uncle Bethuel is Wrecked in Siberia » Part 7 – The Reminiscences of Captain Thomas Chatfield

“It was the first of October, and no help would reach them, or anyone know anything about them before the following May, with food enough, with close economy, to last from three to four months and scurvy (that scourge of the High latitudes) sure to make its appearance in a short time…”

Wow, poor Uncle Bethuel goes ashore on an island in the Ochotsk Sea, builds a camp, crosses the frozen straits, finds some Cossacks, and doesn’t lose one of his 32 men. Let’s see, today I listened to a tele-direct web discussion about PTI rates, accessory attach rates, and debated the fine points of a merged agenda for an Integrated Media marketing presentation ….. Garrr. Time to swash the buckle and batten the hatches. wins 2006 Neal Award for Best Web Site

“American Business Media – ABM
Best Web site: Category 3
Editorial Staff”

Congratulations to the staff at and the crew at CXO Inc. They’ve achieved a huge amount of progress in the past year, are in the middle of a massive IT and design upgrade, and this award is validation of those efforts.

Janice Brand, Todd Borglund, Jennifer McCarthy, Bill Hall, Chris Murray, Sandy Kendall, Chris Lindquist, Joe Nguyen, Paul Kerstein, Irina Gabecchia, Jim Alla, Danielle Tetreault,  Jennelle Hicks, Ann Butera …  online GM Rob O’Regan, and CEO Mike Friedenberg …. and the magazine staff. Great job.

Questions about Arctic Whaling

Jim Forbes asks if the “bone” that Chatfield talks about — he shipped tons of the stuff back to Massachusetts, estimating one load’s value at $18,000 in 19th century dollars — is “baleen.” Nope. Baleen is a fibrous material that some species of whale sport in their jaws which acts as a strainer. The whale would plow through a mess of sardines, anchovies or krill with its mouth open, scoop up a ton of protein, and then expel the water through the balleen, leaving the food inside. Bone was just that — bone. It was used, these were the days of pre-plastic, for fake ivory applications. Scrimshaw is not bone, but whale teeth. Baleen was used for corset stays, collar points, hoops in hoop skirts. All sorts of uses.

Jim also asks about “kedge” anchors. Anchors were a very big deal for a whaler. They were like emergency brakes on a steep hill in San Francisco. Captains lived in total fear of a lee shore — meaning, they never wanted to be blown onto a beach. The more distance between the ship and the shore, the safer they felt. So, if the wind is blowing off-shore — meaning, the wind is coming from the direction of the land,  then, if all hell broke loose — a mast breaks, a rudder is disabled, the ship will be blown away from the reefs and shoals. If the wind is blowing on-shore, towards the land, then any screw up could result in utter disaster and the loss of the ship. That’s where the anchors come in. If you are totally screwed and being blown ashore, time to drop anchors. Ships were constantly losing their anchors. Either because their lines snapped, or because they became fouled on the bottom and had to be dropped. Most ships had two.

A kedge anchor was a small anchor that could be placed in a ship’s boat and rowed someplace. Think of it as a manuevering device. You’d run it off the stern, drop it, and then winch up tight to move the stern back and forth. Very useful for winching a ship sideways, off of a shoal, etc. Here’s a definition:

[the]…smallest anchors, the kedge anchors were used when the ship was anchored in a harbour. They helped to steady the ship and keep her clear of the bower anchor cable. They could also be used to ‘kedge’ or warp the ship. Warping was a way of moving the ship in a confined space or if there was no wind. The kedge anchor would be rowed away from the ship by boat and then lowered. By pulling in the anchor cable the ship could be moved along. This could be repeated until there was more space or the sails caught the wind.”*

*HMS Victory website