The Jeremy Project
National Park Service units in Alaska and Massachusetts are collaborating with the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, NASA, the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office, and the Minerals Management Service to investigate the remains of a fleet of nineteenth century whaling ships that were crushed in the ice off of the coast of Alaska in 1871.
The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in Massachusetts was recently established to commemorate the history of whaling in the United States. One of its goals is to recognize the contribution of Alaska Natives to that history. To further accomplish this goal, the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow was designated an affiliated area of the park. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the liaison for the New Bedford/Barrow connection and facilitates cultural heritage, historical documentation, and educational exchange projects between the two sites.
The National Park Service will collaborate in the investigation of the whaling fleet site in hopes of acquiring scientific and historical data that will provide a better understanding of the whaling era in Alaska. The site where 31 ships sank in a single event has the potential to provide a massive amount of information about the nineteenth century commercial whaling industry in the Arctic.
Though the focus of the investigation will be on the submerged ships, there is a historical connection to Native Alaskans. Many Inupiat people were directly involved in the whaling industry, working with the Yankee whalers both on the ships and on shore and taking advantage of the rich trading opportunities provided by the fleet. When the ships were trapped in the ice the whaling crews abandoned them and made their way to shore some remaining in Native villages through the winter. As was common in that era, Native residents of the area both helped the stranded whalers and made use of the ship materials and contents.
The site will be investigated using a combination of technologies including side scan sonar provided by the Navy and stereoscopic video images from cameras mounted on an underwater robot provided by NASA. The National Park Service will use the field research produced by the on-site investigation to nominate the shipwreck site as a National Historic Landmark. National Historic Landmarks are places that possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States. Like national parks, Landmarks are the nation's real places of history. The National Park Service administers the Landmark program. There are more than 2,000 Landmark properties nationwide and 47 in Alaska. Landmarks are evaluated for their integrity or quality and for their role in national history. The National Park Service has already begun the historical research; it is hoped that the underwater mapping and site evaluation of the shipwreck site will provide the missing pieces of what is left of the fleet.
National Park Service contacts: Cyd Martin (907) 456-0396 and Linda Cook (907) 257-2658
This Quest Project Web page