With the advent of spring, large schools of whales make their appearance in the Arctic, forcing their way under the floes and through the leads in the ice, bound to the northward. Hardly a season passed that one or two whaling ships were not trapped or wrecked by the arctic ice pack; more than 160 whaling ships were lost.
In August 1871, 41-whaling ships from Hawaiʻi, New England and California came to the icy waters of the Arctic in the pursuit of the bowhead whale. The ice blocked their passage south. In the storm, they abandoned ship; 1,200-crew set out in small whale boats to make their way across 60-miles of water to safety.
The boats reached the rescue fleet safely without the loss of a single life. The overcrowded ships then made their way uneventfully to Hawaiʻi. Although whaling in the Arctic did continue for a number of years, the industry never recovered from this disaster.
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