The Whaling Ship



of New Bedford


     Wilmington & Liverpool Packet was built in Westport, MA, in 1815. It was registered on 23 May of that year, being 384 tons, a length of 106' 4", a width of 28' 7" and a depth of 14' 3 1/2". It had 2 decks, 3 masts, a square stern, no galleries and no figurehead.1 No satisfying answer has been found for the odd name of the ship. The owners were John A. Parker and William H. Allen, both of New Bedford and Hanson Kelly of Wilmington, NC. It was used in trade between New Bedford and Europe from the start. If Wilmington and Liverpool were involved, it wasn't obvious. Kelly was president of the Wilmington branch of the State Bank of North Carolina. It doesn't appear to have been used for whaling until John Briggs took over the helm from Samuel Lumbard in 1821. WLP was then owned by William A. Parker and brothers William H. and Gideon Allen, all major New Bedford merchants. John sailed the ship through the 1820s before moving on to another. WLP was prominently mentioned in Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast," although after John had moved on. This is covered in John Briggs' biography.



John Briggs, master, voyage #1: (crew list) John Briggs took the ship out of New Bedford Harbor for the first time in April 1821, having been cleared for sailing by the 13th. He was reported at Bonavista, one of the Cape de Verdes islands, a typo leaving it ambiguous if he was arriving or leaving, "fm New Bedford for South Seas" on 31 May.(2) Whalers followed the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic Ocean, which took them to such traditional ports of call in the Azores and Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. They sailed around Cape Horn and were sighted in the Pacific Ocean in December. Depending on which newspaper you read, they had 15 or 400 barrels of oil.(3) There is another cryptic reference to the ship being on the "Lea Coast," which surely referred to the west coast of South America, with no oil.(3.5) Although Capt. Briggs may have sent a load of oil home with another ship, this was more likely an error. On 18 June 1822, the whaler Persia crossed paths with WLP northwest of Midway Island in the Pacific, which reported it had 300 barrels of oil.(4) WLP was very likely heading to the recently discovered (by Americans) whaling grounds off the coast of Japan. Another report says WLP was sighted in the Pacific before October 17th with 1300 barrels(4.25) and yet another that the ship was on the coast of California in December with 1200 barrels.(4.5) Clearly there is at least one mistake somewhere, probably the former reference. The latter is partly confirmed by a ship news report in The American Neptune that says WLP arrived at Santa Barbara, California, from the Sea of Japan on 10 November, but with 1900 barrels. That number is surely incorrect. A shipping news report in July 1823 says that they had 1400 barrels, no date or place given(5.5), but surely over the winter. One of the sources was the ship Lima, which is known to have been on the coast of California in March.(5.525) The ship was at "Hanarorar" (an occasional spelling of Honolulu) in March 1823 with 2000 barrels.(4.75) The next report found places the ship between Hawaii and the Sea of Japan far north of the Midway Islands at the end of June, and WLP left the coast of Japan on 1 August.(5.75) The ship was in the South Atlantic by the following November.(7.5) The crew encountered a privateered sloop off the north coast of Brazil in early December, from the Canary Islands heading for Venezuela, and gave them bread and water. WLP sailed into home port on 27 December. After heading for Japan with 300 barrels of oil, the voyage suddenly became very successful. 1700 barrels seem to have been made within less than a year while they were around Japan and in the South Pacific. The owners must have been very happy, as this clip from The Baltimore Patriot would suggest:



The New Bedford Mercury has an arrival notice and says 2500 barrels were on board. The Newport Mercury notes the arrival the following day and states the amount, 2600 barrels, was a record, which apparently was then repeated by the Patriot.(8) In his landmark book on whaling, Alexander Starbuck says that the captain of this voyage was "Richmond," which is erroneous.(9)

voyage #2: (crew list) Capt. Briggs went back to sea on WLP in April. This would be his only known non-whaling trip. He sailed out of New Bedford on 18 April 1824, "for the south for a freight.(10) He was in City Point, Hampton Roads, VA, by 9 May, and was there for a month on business. He was set to leave for Bremen on 9 June,(11) and sailed the 12th.(10.25) They were sighted off Plymouth, England, on 11 July(11.1) and reached Bremen probably on the 16.(11.2) It isn't noted in the Mercury what he brought back. He left on 6 August and was supposed to make a stop in Lisbon, but his arrival on the 22nd of September was "47 days from Bremen," suggesting he didn't.(12)

voyage #3: (crew list) W&LP resumed its whaling career and left home port again on 1 December 1824.(13) There are few reports of the ship in the next two years. The crew arrived in Valparaiso, Chile, on 15 May 1825.(14) After cruising off the coast of Chile and Peru, most likely, they arrived at the port of Payta, Peru, in November 1825. Just after they left Payta on 5 November, three men conspired to kill Capt. Briggs. They told the 3rd mate, who told the captain, and they were back in Payta the next day. It was decided that the mutineers would be taken to the American Consul at Guayaquil, Ecuador.(14.5) The newspapers may have reports not yet seen, but the next found picks up the ship in Hawaii in March or April 1826 with 1850 barrels of oil.(15) They sailed from the Society Islands for home on 5 October and got home on 8 March 1827 with 2700 barrels of oil.(16) The presence in Hawaii and the jump in barrels indicates they spent the summer of 1826 in the Sea of Japan, but refreshed at Tahiti on the way home rather than Oahu. New Bedford Port Records say that John brought home a passenger, Leonard Sistare, a US citizen.

voyage #4: (crew list) Left New Bedford about 31 August 1827.(17) Reported as "hauled off, nearly ready to sail" on the 14th and the 24th, and cleared by the 31st.(17.1) WLP was noted as being at Payta on 17 January 1828 with 70 barrels.(17.25) The ship "touched at Oahu" on 5 April 1828 with 100 bbls,(17.5) but it must have been there earlier. A diary notes that the ship "arrived yesterday [13 March], 6 1/2 months out. Today Capt. Briggs sold his lumber by her to Mr. Hunnewell for $100 per M.; conclude it is for the mission." (17.6) "The mission" refers to the settlement of Christian missionaries on Oahu, who had been there for about 7 years. John Avery Parker, primary owner of WLP, shipped more lumber and other goods on the ship the next trip (although with a different captain), described as "from 30 to 40 tons of lumber, provisions, etc., [Parker] is said to have exibited great liberality on the occasion." (17.7)The crew had 170 barrels of oil somewhere in the Pacific by 16 June 1828, surely in the Sea of Japan, since they were reported there on 10 July with 300 barrels.(18) The ship was at Maui in the Fall of 1828 with 1200 barrels.(19) They returned to the Sea of Japan in 1829, where they were reported with 2200 barrels on 30 August.(20) West of the Galapagos Islands on 15 January, they had 2600.(20.5) They sailed out of Talcahuano on 28 March 1830 and arrived in New Bedford on 24 June with 2800 barrels.(21)     



1. Ship Registers of New Bedford, Massachusetts, vol. I (Boston:1940), p. 333.
2. Baltimore Patriot (hereafter BP), 10 August 1822, p. 3.
3. The former from New Bedford Mercury (hereafter NBM), 19 April 1822, p. 3, the latter from The National Advocate, same date.
3.5. The National Advocate, 26 July 1822.
4. NBM, 21 February 1823, p. 3.
4.25. Ibid, 4 April 1823, p. 3.
4.5. Ibid, 22 August 1823, p. 3.
4.75. The National Advocate (Boston), 26 August 1823, p. 3. The ship making this report of sightings came home from the Society Islands in March 1823.
5.5 Ibid, 11 July 1823, p. 3.
5.525. Ibid, 4 July 1823, p. 3, reported sighted on 20 March by Capt. Swain of the ship Constitution.
5.75. NBM, 2 January 1824, p. 3, 148 days from Sea of Japan, and 9 January 1824, p. 3.
7.5. Ibid, second issue cited.
8. NBM, 2 Jan 1824, p. 3; The Newport Mercury, 3 Jan 1824, p. 3; The Baltimore Patriot, 10 Jan 1824, p. 2.
9. Alexander Starbuck, The History of the American Whale Fishery... etc.
10. NBM, 23 April 1824, p. 3, bound for City Point (VA); Joseph R. Anthony, Life in New Bedford a Hundred Years Ago: A Chronicle of the Social, Religious and Commercial History of the Period as Recorded in a Diary Kept by Joseph R. Anthony, (Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford:1925), p. 97.
10.25. National Advocate, 18 June 1824.
11. BP, 11 May 1824, p. 2; 18 June 1824, p. 3.
11.1. NBM, 3 September 1824, p. 3.
11.2. Lloyd's List for that year indicates this, but only part of the pertinent page has been seen. The ship was definately there by the 24th (NBM, 17 September 1824, p. 3).
12. NBM, issues 17 September (to leave abt. 5 August for Lisbon) and 24 September 1824, p. 3.
13. Ibid, 3 December 1824, p. 3.
14. Ibid, 30 September 1825, p. 3, reported by ship Fortune as having just arrived when it left port on that day.
14.5. NBM, 19 May 1826, p. 3. This may have been reported by Capt. Chace of Constitution, which arrived in Nantucket on 15 May. No ship had arrived from the Pacific Ocean in New Bedford since the last paper issued. Alternatively, whaleship Jones, Capt. Smith, arrived in New London, also on the 15th, from the Brazil Banks with many reports of speaking to other whalers. It's likely some were in the Pacific at the time, and not in the South Atlantic. Following the Jones report was an item about Lloyd's office in Lima sending an account of all whalers touching there in 1825, and the mutiny notice was next. The latter may have been part of the Lloyd's notice. Capt. Smith may have brought these reports.
15. NBM, 3 November 1826, p. 3.
16. Ibid, 17 February and 9 March 1827, p. 3.
17. NBM, 24 and 31 August 1827, p. 3.
17.1. Ibid, 14, 24 and 31 August 1827, p. 3.
17.25. Aurora & Pennsylvania Gazette, 21 June 1828, p. 3.
17.5. NBM, 28 November 1828, p. 3.
17.6 All About Hawaii; The Recognized Book of Authentic Information on Hawaii, Combined with Thrum's Hawaiian Annual Travel Book, p. 82.
17.7. NBM, 17 September 1830, p. 2.
18. NBM, 13 February 1829, p. 3, report of 10 February by Capt. Wood of ship Comm. Decator; 13 March 1829, p. 3, report of ship Pacific, Capt. Baker. Ships usually made stop-overs at Hawaii in the Spring and Fall and their way to and from the Sea of Japan.
19. Ibid, 15 May 1829, p. 3, report of 11 May by Capt. Smith of ship Hope. He left Hawaii (surely Oahu) for Chile on 2 November, so likely had spoken to W&LP before reaching Oahu, perhaps in September.
20. Ibid, 19 March 1830, p. 3, report of 12 March by Capt. McKennie of ship Minerva Smythe.
20.5. The New York Speculator, issue of 11 June 1830.
21. NBM, 25 June 1830, p. 3.


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