Freed from the Ice: The Last Entry of the Logbook of the Whaler Swan

April 2021

The whaling ships Swan and Isabella in the arctic, with polar bears and seals by John Ward of Hull (1798-1849)

Regular listeners will know that over the past few months we have been reading extracts from the logbook of the whaler Swan of Hull at the start of each episode (with the exception of the Iconic Ships and Great Sea Fights special series). The Swan became trapped in the ice off the west coast of Greenland in the autumn of 1836.

These readings come from a transcription of the logbook held in the archives of the Caird Library In the National Maritime Museum in London. – the transcription has been made especially for this podcast – you are the first people ever to hear these words read aloud. This podcast episode is, itself, a little piece of maritime history.

The episode presents the final entries in her log, in April 1837. Little is known about what happened next but it is clear from the log that they had very little time left. She was discovered by a fleet of whaleships. Ten sailors were put on board her to navigate her home, along with fresh provisions. From her original complement of between fifty and sixty men—including some men of a wrecked ship whom she had taken onboard in the previous summer—only seventeen men were alive when she reached Lerwick. She finally made it back to hull in July 1837, long after she had been given up for lost.