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Moby Dick basiert auf dem Leben von Kapitän George Pollard, dessen erstes Schiff – die Essex – durch einen Walangriff versenkt wurde, woraufhin er sich mit den Überlebenden in drei Booten flüchtete und in einer dreimonatigen Irrfahrt überlebte, indem er sich von seinem verhungerten Cousin ernährte (zur Erinnerung: Queequeg, der Blutsbruder Ismaels im Buch, ist Kannibale). George Pollards zweiter Walfänger – seine Pequod wenn man so will – wurde nun gefunden.
Traumatized by having eaten his young cousin, whom he had sworn to protect, and although he made some bad calls that contributed to the disaster, he was given command of another whaler, the Two Brothers, after his return to Nantucket. His luck did not change, sadly, and the Two Brothers hit a reef on French Frigate Shoals, northwest of Honolulu, and sank in February of 1823. That was the end of Captain Pollard’s career. He went back to Nantucket and spent the rest of his days as a night watchman.
The wreckage of his life would find a form of immortality, however, in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Melville met Owen Chase’s sun when they were both serving on different whalers in the early 1840s, and Chase lent him his father’s memoirs of the Essex tragedy. This account was a major inspiration for Moby Dick. Melville would seek Pollard out in the early 1850s after Moby Dick was published and they apparently had quite the meeting of the minds.
Now archaeologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries exploring the French Frigate Shoals area have found the wreck of the Two Brothers. Whaler shipwrecks are rarer than hen’s teeth, because most of them sank in high sees, not near the shore. This is in fact the first Nantucket whaler ever found.