Everyone of us has probably been confronted with the mythic story of Moby Dick, don’t we? I clearly remember the animation movie that I saw in the late ‘80’s, when I was around 6 or 7 featuring this white sperm whale attacking his antagonist Captain Ahab and winning against the human being. Based on a true story, the story of Captain George Pollard Jr. and the vessel Essex, it was only a question of time until this novel, written by Herman Melville, would have inspired one of the most impressive writing instruments of 2020. Follow me in the exceptional story of the Montegrappa “Victory of the Whale”.
Nantucket, a little port in Massachusetts, August 12th 1819. The crew of the Essex was ready to depart for a long trip to the bountiful whaling grounds off the west coast of South America. The crew numbered 21 men in total. Captain Pollard and his First Mate Owen Chase are giving the order to set sail and depart. The Essex rounded Cape Horn in January 1820 after a transit of five weeks and after a stop at the Galapagos Islands to restock their food supllies and repair the vessel after an accident happened a couple of months before. Interesting fact, during a week at anchor, they captured 300 Galápagos giant tortoises to supplement the ship’s food stores. They believed the tortoises were capable of living for a year without eating or drinking water (though in fact the tortoises slowly starved). The sailors considered the tortoises delicious and extremely nutritious. So they planned to butcher them at sea as needed. How cruel! However, nature was about to take her revanche. In fact, after finding the area’s population of whales exhausted, the crew encountered other whalers who told them of a vast newly discovered hunting ground, known as the “offshore ground”, located between 5 and 10 degrees south latitude and between 105 and 125 degrees west longitude, about 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km) to the south and west. This was an immense distance from known shores for the whalers, and the crew had heard rumors that cannibals populated the many islands of the South Pacific.
The offshore ground
When Essex finally reached the promised fishing grounds thousands of miles west of the coast of South America, the crew was unable to find any whales for days. Tension mounted among the officers of Essex, especially between Pollard and Chase. When they finally found a whale on November 16, it surfaced directly beneath Chase’s boat, with the result that the boat was “dashed … literally in pieces”. So let’s say, the mood of the crew wasn’t exactly the best. But the best has yet to come. Chase was repairing the damaged whaleboat on board the Essex when the crew sighted an abnormally large sperm whale bull (reportedly about 26m in length) acting strangely. It lay motionless on the surface facing the ship and then began to swim towards the vessel, picking up speed by shallow diving. The whale rammed Essex, rocking her from side to side, and then dived under her, surfacing close on the ship’s starboard side. As its head lay alongside the bow and the tail by the stern, it was motionless and appeared to be stunned. Chase prepared to harpoon it from the deck when he realized that its tail was only inches from the rudder, which the whale could easily destroy if provoked by an attempt to kill it. Fearing to leave the ship stuck thousands of miles from land with no way to steer it, Chase hesitated. The whale recovered, swam several hundred yards forward of the ship, and turned to face the ship’s bow. The whale crushed the bow, driving the vessel backwards, and then finally disengaged its head from the shattered timbers and swam off, never to be seen again, leaving Essex quickly going down by the bow. Chase and the remaining sailors frantically tried to add rigging to the only remaining whaleboat, while the steward William Bond ran below to gather the captain’s sea chest and whatever navigational aids he could find. Only 11 men remained, and this was a kind of beginning of the Victories of the whales. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks. And even though it’s obvious that this cruel activity is not sustainable, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, the United States and the Danish dependencies of the Faroe Islands and Greenland continue to hunt in the 21st century.
Save the oceans!
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was founded in 1977 by Captain Paul Watson on a philosophy of direct-action activism to defend, conserve and protect the ocean environment. Montegrappa supports Sea Shepherd’s defense of marine life. Proceeds from all purchases directly support the volunteer organization’s fearless mission. Following her sinking, the Essex’s twenty-strong crew found themselves stranded more than 1,200 nautical miles from land. When their ordeal ended, only eleven remained. Victory of the Whale’s circling sea of turquoise celluloid evokes their terrifying plight.
A new Montegrappa Limited Edition marks a symbolic moment of resistance to mankind’s plundering of the oceans. This first collaboration with Sea Shepherd uses repurposed materials and historical records to highlight the continued struggle to halt illegal whaling.
For example, the signature elements are cast from the propeller of Sea Shepherd’s former flagship, M/Y Steve Irwin. Recovered materials provide a tactile connection to years of frontline activism. As well the handcrafted mahogany and bronze evoke the Essex’s hull, harpoons and whaleboats, while a black band flies Sea Shepherd’s rejigged Jolly Roger flag: a last line of defense between whale and whaler. For the bicentenary of the Essex sinking, 200 fountain pens (2’875€) and 200 rollerballs (2’275€) are referencing to this tragic event and an individual numbering is etched in bronze alongside the Victory of the Whale legend. Don’t be misled by the traditional build and vintage appearance. They mask the presence of advanced writing engineering. Fountain pens are equipped with Montegrappa’s patented piston-fill to perfectly manage ink flow. Each handmade writing instrument is stowed in a handsome wooden chest. A whale-shaped title plaque underscores the gravity of a survival story rich in modern symbolism.
All in all a magnificent writing instrument that is showing all the manufacturing capabilities of Montegrappa’s artisans and is contributing to an important cause. By the way, if you liked our hint to listen to some music during the article, suggested for the Montblanc Great Characters Edition Elvis Presley, then… start this post again and before start reading, load the song of Camilla “Victory of the Whale” from your favorite streaming app. Enjoy the read.