I first read the amazing account of Rebecca Ann Johnson in the book Whale Hunt by Nelson Cole Haley and thought it to be just a yarn until I came across her name in other sources. Her reason for signing to the Christopher Mitchell, her background, the saving of the ship, her discovery, and her being put off at Paita, Peru, are documented in the papers included here. Whaling events are taken from actual encounters described in other sources. (See the Bibliography.)
It is very likely that Joseph Hussey was a practicing Quaker. The family name of Hussey is important as one of the original settlers of Nantucket; and, by 1710, the original families were all of the Society of Friends.
The ship Christopher Mitchell sailed from Nantucket on December 9, 1848. Upon its return, it listed the following crew. (George Johnson was not formally listed, possibly because she was put off as a woman.) Aside from the Captain and the Mates, the crew assignments are drawn from the crew manifest and news accounts. For purposes of First Fury, crewmen with a part in the story are assigned to the Mates as below. Aside from who served in the position of First, Second, and Third Mates, the character, roles, and actions of all characters are fictional and in no way should be construed to be factual depictions of those seamen.
Thomas Sullivan, Captain
William W. Wood, First Mate
Oliver B. Fish, Harpooner
James W. Denison
Gorham G. Andrews
Benjamin Clark, Second Mate
Job P. Rounswell, Harpooner
Thomas Hally (Tom)
William Plass, Third Mate
Joseph W. Hussey, Harpooner
James Taylor (Jamie)
Others not directly in the story
Charles F. Mitchell
William Henry Waitt
Normally a crew would have consisted of about 21 men. Of these, there would be 3 Mates, 3 harpooners, 3 idlers (cooper, cook, carpenter), and 12 common seamen of which some would probably be greenhands, those who had never been to sea before. On this list were no doubt replacements for injured sailors or deserters. Before reaching the hunting grounds, each Mate would choose a harpooner and four other crewmen. This contingent of six would man a twenty-four foot boat when attacking whales.
The story of Isaac Hussey is also true, though the relationship between Joseph and Isaac is not clear. In 1852, Captain Isaac B. Hussey, of Nantucket, commanded the ship "William Penn," of San Francisco, fitted out at Strong’s Island for a whaling cruise. While hiding on Strong’s Island (see First Fury), he apparently was allowed to command some ships or participate in some whaling cruises in the vicinity of the island. A mutiny by native sailors resulted in his death at the age of 43. “Mrs. Hussey spent all her money and means to seek his exoneration, but red tape had delayed the hearings.” He was cleared of all charges, but it was too late. Strong’s Island is now known as Kosrae and has a strong Christian influence, very probably due to Kanker’s (the chief’s son) being influenced by a few whalers encouraging him to bring missionaries to his island.
The book Whale Hunt by Nelson Cole Haley differs somewhat from the accounts in the following newspaper articles. The description of the encounter as told by Haley would have involved information from seamen and officers from the Christopher Mitchell just after Ann would have been found out. I use his account when it differs from these other sources.