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The steam whaler Navarch - tragedy in the Arctic

Northern Ships and Shipping

    Note that the article that follows uses three spellings of the ship's name - Navarch, Nevach, and Navach. The correct spelling is Navarch.

The Examiner, San Francisco, Saturday Morning, September 11, 1897.

    VICTORIA, September 10. - The steamship Cleveland, which arrived to-day from St. Michaels, brought news of the loss of the steam whaler Nevach in the Arctic some time prior to August 28th. Out of a complement of fifty men forty-two were lost, either drowned or frozen to death. Captain Whiteside, his wife, the first mate, the fourth mate and four seamen were saved. The news of the disaster was taken to St. Michaels by the revenue cutter Bear, which also brought to that port the survivors.

    On the afternoon of August 28th the Bear sighted the distress signals of the Nevach near Point Barrow, off the icy cape in the Arctic ocean. The vessel was in the ice several miles from the nearest point that could be reached by the Bear. After great difficulty the revenue cutter ascertained that there were men aboard the vessel and that they were still alive. Before darkness shut down it was ascertained that the men aboard the vessel were nine of the crew, who had refused to take to the boats when the ice pack closed in and crushed the vessel. They were so weak from exposure and lack of provisions that they could scarcely make themselves understood by motions and signals in reply to the queries of the Bear. As it was impossible to reach them or render them any assistance, the Bear was forced to sail away in search of the boats that had left the whaler when she was crushed between the ice floes.

    At Copper island Captain Whiteside and his wife and six companions were found. They had left the Nevach in the canvas boat and after great hardships had managed to reach the inhospitable shores of the ice-bound speck of land. There they sheltered themselves in improvised snow huts and with the small quantity of provisions still left from the stock with which the boat had been provisioned they managed to maintain life until the arrival of the Bear. Captain Whiteside told the Commander of the Bear that the Nevach had been in the ice pack two weeks before he deserted her. The ice had closed in without warning and had crushed the vessel so badly that from the first there was no hope that she could be floated should she be released by the opening of the ice.

    After it was decided to leave the vessel it required many days of toil to drag the boat over the ice to where it could be launched into open water. This work required the united efforts of the entire crew and was not accomplished without such damage to some of the boats that they were rendered almost unseaworthy.

    After the boats had been launched nine of the men refused to go in them, preferring take their chances of being rescued before the ice parted and allowed the vessel to sink to the bottom of the sea. The prayers and commands of the Captain were alike disobeyed and the entreaties of their companions were unavailing to dissuade them from adopting a course that seemed to be almost certain death.

    During the time required to haul the boats over the ice and launch them eleven of the men died from cold and exposure. The cold at that time was intense.

    Nearly all the men had their hands and feet frozen. Soon after the boats put off from the ice pack they were surrounded by the wind and the floating ice. One of the boats was capsized and its occupants were drowned within sight of their helpless companions.

    The second boat, containing the second mate and a dozen men, was in a leaky condition, and it is certain that she did not live long enough to enable her occupants to reach any land within the Arctic circle.

    The canvas boat commanded by the Captain of the Nevach narrowly escaped destruction from the floating ice hundreds of times during each day and night. When she finally reached Copper island her occupants were more dead than alive.

    When the Cleveland left St. Michaels there was some talk of sending out an expedition to search for the nine men who were left on board the wreck of the Nevach. It is hardly possible that this will be done, however, as all seafaring men agree in saying that it is certain that the men will have died of want and exposure long before they could be reached, even were it likely that the ice around the vessel has not already parted and allowed the wreck of the ship to sink. The information brought by the officers and passengers of the Cleveland, concerning the loss of the Nevach is necessarily meager, and it is all embraced in the account given above. The disaster is looked upon by seafaring men as the most serious one that has occurred in Arctic waters in recent years.


Sailors Who Shipped on the Whaler Wrecked in the North.

    The steamship Navach was owned by William Lewis, New Bedford, Mass., Lewis & Anderson, 26 East street this city being the agents and outfitters. She was of 494 tons register and was regarded as a crack whaler. She sailed from San Francisco on March 2d of this year and was one of the first to send in a shipment of whalebone. About 10,000 pounds was received by Lewis & Anderson from her on June 23d. Captain Whiteside is a native of New Bedford, where his wife and family now live. On his last trip Captain Whiteside was accompanied by his wife, who remained on board the Navach all winter with him. The complete list of the officers and crew shipped by James Laflin of this city is as follows:

    JOSEPH WHITESIDE, Captain; JAMES G. BELAIR, first mate; JOHN H. EGAN, second mate; ENOS N. DIAS, third mate; AMBROS P. READE, fourth mate; JOSEPH A. PETERS. boatheader; MANUEL CORREY, boatsteerer: JOHN SANTOS, boatsteerer; C. M. ANDROS, boatheader; MANUEL CORREY, boatsteerer: HARRY HOLMES, boatsteerer; W. W. WHITING, steward; JOHN HANNES, cook: P. O. ISACKSON, cooper and carpenter; JOHN SANDS, chief engineer; M. J. SCANLON, assistant engineer; CHARLES THRESHER, fireman; THOS. LORD, fireman; OLAF PETERSON, seaman; CHARLES NAMPACH, blacksmith; JOHN J. SILVA, seaman; FRANK GUTTNER, cabin boy; THEO BERNBAUM, seaman; N. W. JOHNSON, seaman; CHARLES STEWART, seaman; JOHN BRINKMAN, green hand; CHRIS SORENSON, sailmaker; JOSEPH SCOTT, seaman; S. JACKSON, seaman; JOSEPH PRYM, seaman; RUDOLPH URES, seaman; F. KAPPELL, green hand; JOSEPH SCHIESSER, seaman; JOHN STATER, green hand; MARTIN HINSBY, seaman; ALFRED MILLER, seaman; THEO SMITH, seaman; TOM COLLINS, seaman; IVAN ELT, seaman; JOHN SMITH, seaman; THOMAS LASOUX, seaman; MARCELLINO OSIDO, seaman; ALEXANDER SHAW, seaman; ALFRED WALTER, seaman; EDSON G. COCHRAN, steerage boy.

The steam whaler Navarch, 1897

The steam whaler Navarch