Search for the Lost Whaling Fleets of the Western Arctic

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.

  • Log 13: Mission Summary

    January 14, 2016  |  By Bradley W. Barr

    Barks 'Arctic' and 'Progress' receiving the crews of the wrecked and abandoned ships south of icy cape.

    We went to the Arctic to write the final chapter of this compelling story of American whaling heritage, and believe we have assembled the information to complete this task.

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  • Log 12: Drop Camera: In Search of the Lost Whaling Fleet

    October 5, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr, Grace Cardarelli, Myles Riddell, and Devon Snell

    Final, assembled drop camera design.

    As a University of New Hampshire senior project team, we were tasked to develop a cost-efficient and mission-specific drop camera system to explore shipwrecks off the coast of Wainwright, Alaska.

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  • Log 11: Coastline Observations

    October 2, 2015  |  By Hans Van Tilburg

    Beach at the village of Barrow, with artificial berm.

    The R/V Ukpik, making long close-to-shore transits in the survey area, provides the perfect platform for observing the state of coastal erosion here in the Arctic.

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  • Log 10: Tour of the R/V Ukpik

    August 16, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

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    Video courtesy of the Search for the Lost Whaling Fleets of the Western Arctic 2015 Expedition. Download (mp4, 28.8 MB).

    The Research Vessel Ukpik (pronounced “ook-pik”) was purchased by Southern Cross, LLC, in 2011 as a platform to conduct research in the Alaskan Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

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  • Log 9: Native Hawaiians and the 1871 Whaling Fleet Disaster

    September 28, 2015  |  By Hans Van Tilburg

    Display from Hawaii Maritime Heritage Center of a whaling-era merchant shop.

    What was the impetus for thousands of young men taking up a dangerous and remote profession in unfamiliar waters? What was their experience on board the foreign vessels like?

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  • Log 8: Video Report from the Chief Scientist

    August 14, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

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    Video courtesy of the Search for the Lost Whaling Fleets of the Western Arctic 2015 Expedition. Download (mp4, 17 MB).

    Video Report from the Chief Scientist, Brad Barr, Ph.D.

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  • Log 7: Brief Time Ashore

    September 22, 2015  |  By Hans Van Tilburg

    Drift of coal in the dunes.

    One of our tasks prior to conducting the side scan and magnetometer survey was to go ashore near Point Franklin and establish the base station for accurate navigation. The small inflatable boat was large enough for Arthur, myself, and Matt.

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  • Log 6: The Cost of Abandonment

    September 18, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

    Barks 'Arctic' and 'Progress' receiving the crews of the wrecked and abandoned ships south of icy cape.

    On this day, 144 years ago, the rescue fleet was beginning its journey back to Honolulu, having taken aboard the 1,219 survivors of who had successfully navigated the ice-choked and stormy waters along the Chukchi sea coast to safety.

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  • Log 5: Magnetometer Survey Technology and Methods

    September 13, 2015  |  By Matthew Lawrence

    Photo of Matthew Lawrence and Brad Barr deploying the gradiometer (with Captain Mike Fleming at the winch) during one of the early test runs.

    During the search for shipwrecks, archaeologists rely on magnetometers to locate ferromagnetic material associated with the shipwreck. Magnetometers detect variations in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by iron or other magnetized material such as brick or rock.

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  • Log 4: “...Our Dreadful Situation...”

    September 12, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

    The Rendezvous At Icy Cape—The Boats Effecting a Landing.

    On this date, 144 years ago, a momentous and unprecedented decision was being made. The captains of the 33 whaling ships caught in the ice had convened aboard the Champion to consider their options for saving the 1,219 officers, crew, and in some cases, families, from their fate.

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  • Log 3: Setbacks and Unexpected Opportunities

    August 18, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

    This tower marks Point Franklin along the coast of the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.

    It should be of no surprise to anyone that weather in the Arctic is often a challenge.

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  • Log 2: The Best Laid Plans...

    August 3, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

    The gradiometer is comprised of two magnetometers separated from each other in a rigid framework, and in this picture, it is about to be deployed. Archaeologists soon discovered one of the instruments did not work.

    In 1871, 32 whaling ships were abandoned by their captains and crews who were here to catch whales. The best laid plans, as they say, often go awry.

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  • Log 1: Arrival

    August 8, 2015  |  By Bradley W. Barr

    A view of the industrial landscape of Prudhoe Bay.

    After a long but largely uneventful flight, the mission team arrived in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where we were to meet the boat.

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