The destruction of a Scottish whaling ship “crushed to atoms” by Arctic pack ice over 150 years ago is being commemorated by an artist and historians.
Sarah Keast, a Dumfries and Galloway artist taking part in Spring Fling 2013 –Scotland’s premier visual art and craft open studios event – is creating a driftwood artwork recalling Abram, which was lost in 1862.
She has been commissioned, by retired Lancaster University lecturer Dr Rob David, to celebrate the publication of his book about the remarkable vessel.
Sarah said: “It’s a really dramatic story – Abram had sailed from Kirkcaldy, hiring extra crew in Shetland to hunt whales in the Arctic. The men faced horror and hardship and they thought of the whales simply as fish, rather than highly intelligent mammals.
“The ship was caught in a dreadful storm and crushed when the wind blew two huge sheets of ice together. Remarkably all the crew were rescued although they barely had time to escape onto the ice. It seems astonishing that anyone could have survived in those conditions.
|'Abram at Sea'|
Dr David said: “The Abram had a long career, carrying goods like sugar and rum to Lancaster and Liverpool from the West Indies before being sold to become a whaler – sailing out of Hull then being sold again and operating from Kirkcaldy. She was also hired by Lady Franklin to search for survivors of her husband’s doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage – one of the greatest ever polar disasters.
“Each year she would head to the Arctic, stopping at Shetland to recruit fishermen keen to earn extra money from whaling. The Shetland men were valued because they were expert oarsmen, ideal for the rowing boats sent out to harpoon the whales.
“Everything went wrong in 1862 when the weather was terrible and a total of eight British whaling ships were reported lost – including all three of the Kirkcaldy fleet.
|'Whale Dreaming' by Sarah Keast|
Sarah Keast, who is originally from Fife, hopes her artwork will be ready for Spring Fling and that visitors to the event will be able to see it at her studio in Moniaive near Thornhill when the event takes place from 25 to 27 May.