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Document case used by Captain Samuel Harris of the whaler PHOEBE

Date: c 1842
Dimensions:
Overall: 327 x 536 x 350 mm, 6.1 kg
Medium: Wood, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Box
Object No: 00005554
Place Manufactured:United States

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    Description
    This whaling captain's initialed box belonged to Samuel Harris of the whaler PHOEBE of Nantucket of 1842. It was used to store personal property. As master of the American whale ship PHOEBE Samuel Harris visited Sydney and Hobart in 1846 to sell barrels of whale oil.
    SignificanceThe PHOEBE of Nantucket visited Hobart and Sydney in March/April 1846 with Samuel Harris as master. This document box, a personal item of Samuel Harris, helps to demonstrate the presence of American whalers in Australian waters in the 19th century.
    HistoryIn the 19th century American whalers sailed south to the rich Pacific whaling grounds in search of sperm whales. During the 1840s several hundred ships pursued whales off the coast of Australia. Many called into Australian ports for repairs or supplies after a voyage half-way around the world. Meeting a whaler was the first contact many colonists had with an American.

    Whaling master Samuel Harris cleared Nantucket on September 19, 1842. Some four years and three months later on December 24, 1846, Harris and his crew made port at Pernambuco with a badly leaking ship. The ship was condemned at Pernambuco and the crew forced to abandon its mission. Whale oil valued at about $5,200 was sold at Pernambuco and Sydney, Australia. Additional whale oil and sperm oil worth about $42,000 was transferred to another vessel for transportation to Nantucket. Although their ship was lost through condemnation, Harris and his crew had obtained a large haul of oil.

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