Maritime Heritage

Whaling and Whaling Shipwrecks in
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

The whaling industry transformed the Hawaiian Islands in the early 19th century. Vessels stopped in Honolulu ports for provisions and to recruit new whalers. At one time, Native Hawaiians comprised nearly one-fifth of the sailors in the Pacific-based American whaling fleet.

Sailors began to travel thousands of miles and for years at a time in search of new whaling grounds across the globe as whales became scarce from decades of overfishing. When the Japan whaling grounds were discovered around 1820, ships began sailing through the low-lying atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in search of "liquid gold" (whale oil) just beyond Kure Atoll.

At least ten whaling vessels were reported lost in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including the Parker, Gledstanes, the Two Brothers, and the Pearl and the Hermes. To date, five of these whaling ships have been located and investigated by NOAA maritime archaeologists.

Whaling Map

Click Here to view high resolution images from the Two Brothers shipwreck site.