Hancock Town Library presents ‘Oil, Ice, and Bone”

Published: 8/5/2022 3:54:06 PM

Hancock Town Library, 25 Main St., will present “Oil, Ice, and Bone: Arctic Whaler Nathaniel Ransom” with Helen Frink Thursday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Daniels Room.

In January 2016, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association announced the discovery of the wreckage of two sunken whale ships off the Alaskan coast. “Oil, Ice, and Bone” tells the story of these vessels and how they came to be lost in the greatest whaling disaster in American history.

Arctic whaler Nathaniel Ransom served as third mate of one of the ships abandoned in 1871. In 1860, as a 14-year-old, he followed his five older brothers into the dank forecastle of a whaling vessel. For 15 years he hunted 70-ton bowheads in Arctic waters for the many uses of "bone." Blades of flexible baleen from the whale’s jaw raised its value, even as petroleum gradually replaced whale oil as a source of lighting.

In 1871, Ransom survived the loss of 32 whaling vessels in the waters off Alaska's Icy Cape. He kept a journal, and held onto it as he and his shipmates jettisoned weapons and warm clothing to save their lives. Frink discovered her ancestor through his journals a century after his death.

Frink holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of New Hampshire and masters and doctoral degrees in German from the University of Chicago. She retired from Keene State College as professor emerita of modern languages in 2009.

This program is made possible by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities and is cosponsored by the Hancock Historical Society. This program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited so call the library at 603-525-4411 to reserve a place. Masks are preferred inside the building.


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