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Wednesday, May 31, 2023



COMSTOCK, (Mrs. Henry):

The Whalemen's Shipping List of May 15, 1855 gave notice of the ‘loss of the W.T. Wheaton  - the whaling bk W.T. Wheaton, Capt. Comstock, left Honolulu [28 December 1854] just 2 months and 20 days  before her loss. She left well provisioned for a whaling voyage of six months. In nearing the coast the capt. determined to land at Vera Cruz and procure some fresh supplies. While on shore ... the wind entirely died away. On this account the mate was unable to keep the vessel free from the current, setting towards the shore ... the influence and strength of the swell rendered her anchors of no avail. About this time the capt. succeeded in reaching the bk, and although he made every exertion to save the vessel, he found it impossible to do so.

‘At this moment the boats were lowered, and the captain lady and child with all the crew left in them for the land. Had they remained a half hour longer all would have been lost. Capt. C. lady and child came near being drowned in landing. All their clothing, the ship’s chronometer and every other valuable they were compelled to leave. Before they reached the land the bk had gone ashore in the breakers near Santa Cruz. It is feared that she is a total loss. She had no oil on board.’ The Friend of June 15, 1855, includes Capt. Comstock, lady and child in the passenger list of the Frances Palmer, arrived at Honolulu from San Francisco.

The large Comstock family, where so many of the men were seafarers, is very hard to sort out.  Several were named Henry, commanding the following ships: Tenedos (two voyages), 1844 to 1850; William T. Wheaton, 1850-55; Neptune 1850-57; Louisa Beaton 1853 (Captain Henry Comstock died of ‘African fever’ on this voyage, 23 March 1854, and was buried on Ascension Island); Edward L. Frost (three voyages), 1854-58; Fortune, 1856-61; Metropolis, 1858; and Monticello, 1865-71.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser for December 11, 1856, lists Mrs. Comstock and two children boarding the Frances Palmer at Honolulu for San Francisco, and the same paper, December 3, 1857, lists the schooner E. L. Frost, Captain Comstock, heading for the whaling lagoon at Margarita Bay, so this could be the same Comstock who lost the William T. Wheaton. The Polynesian for March 20, 1858, then reported that Captain Comstock was switching from the R. L. Frost to the Metropolis.

But wait, there’s more. At the same time a Captain Henry Comstock commanded the whaling brig Agate (Polynesian, May 9, 1857) and a Captain Henry Comstock commanded the bark Fortune (Polynesian, December 17, 1859). It takes a lot of creative guesswork to tell one Captain Henry Comstock from another, which means that determining the identity of the wife who was stranded on the beach after the wreck of the W. T. Wheaton is probably impossible.

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