Benjamin Morrell

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Benjamin Morrell

Post  tungduong_9102 on Sat 6 Nov 2010 - 7:18

Benjamin Morrell (5 July 1795 – 1839) was an American sealing captain and explorer who between 1823 and 1831 made a series of voyages, mainly to the Southern Ocean and the Pacific Islands, which are recorded in a colourful memoir A Narrative of Four Voyages. Morrell's reputation among his peers was for untruth and fantasy, and claims in his partly ghost-written account, especially those relating to his Antarctic experiences, have been disputed by geographers and historians.

Morrell had an eventful early career, running away to sea at the age of 16 and being twice captured and imprisoned by the British during the War of 1812. He subsequently sailed before the mast for several years before being appointed as chief mate, and later as captain, of the New York sealer Wasp. In 1823 he took Wasp for an extended voyage into sub-Antarctic waters, and it was from this first voyage of a sequence of four that much of the controversy surrounding his reputation developed. Many of his claims—the first landing on Bouvet Island, a Weddell Sea penetration to 70°S, an extremely rapid passage of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km) at improbably high latitudes, and the discovery of a coastline he called New South Greenland—have been doubted or proved false. His subsequent three voyages, in different ships, were less contentious, although his descriptions of various incidents have been dismissed as fanciful or absurd.[2] His unreliability is also aggravated by his acknowledged habit of working the experiences of others into his narratives.

Although he has been a "stumbling-block to geographers,"[3] Morrell has been defended by writers and historians who, while deploring his style, have found explanations for his dubious claims and have accepted his basic honesty. His contemporaries were less generous to him; his reputation for untruth hampered his attempts to continue his career after the publication of his book, and he found it increasingly difficult to obtain employment. He is believed to have died in 1839, of a fever contracted in Mozambique while on the way back to the Pacific.

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