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The legend of the frozen Jenny
"I am the only one left alive"
Legends of ghost ships are common in mariner tales. They often tell of haunted wrecks drifting endlessly through the open seas, like The Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail forever with no end in sight. But in the chronicles of mariner stories and tales, another ship has carved her place in those legends, this time with a touch of truth to her. Her name is The Jenny.
In 1840, an old sea dog, Captain Brighton set sail on his whaling ship The Hope in the hopes of a good catch. Not too long after setting sail, they spotted a fine sperm whale. The ship kept pace with her prey, but through some bad luck, the men struggled to harpoon it.
The whale finally dipped under the water for the last time, and vanished, leaving the men bereft of their catch and now drifting in the arctic waters. Captain Brighton ordered the men to be vigil, the ice was treacherous for their wooden hull and he was in no mood for a cold death.
As they manoeuvred carefully through the waters, a sudden crack pulled their attention to a giant iceberg only a hundred feet or so away. Another crack and the ice splintered, sending giant chunks into the water. The ensuing waves rocked the ship and the Captain called for all hands-on deck turning the rudder quickly to prevent them from crashing into the nearby icebergs.
But his surprise was quickly replaced by shock when from out of the belly of the ice a ship came sailing through. She was a schooner, her sails and hull in good condition, albeit covered in a dusting of ice. On the deck stood her men, seemingly going about their business, and her name, barely visible on the hull was The Jenny. A sudden sense of unease rose within his crew they murmured and fretted and even one, in a state of complete terror cried, “Flying Dutchmen!”
Brighton would have none of it and silenced them. Despite his years on the sea, he was not a superstitious man. He ordered his ship closer to get a better look and perhaps help if it was required. As they drew nearer his heart sunk further as the true horror became apparent. All the men were dead, hanging on ropes or leaning over bannisters, frozen solid where they stood. His men became only more agitated, but Brighton stood firm.
A schooner is a ship defined by its masts. It should have at least two, and the forward is usually a little shorter.
Once they were lined up with the ship, the Captain stepped lightly onto her deck, feeling uneasy to stand amongst the dead so casually. He walked past the frozen crew, making his way to the Captain’s cabin.
Inside he found a small room where a lady lay sleeping, her frozen dog by her feet. He walked past and headed for the cabin at the far end. There he finally found the captain hunched over a book, his quill poised as if writing, his head bowed in concentration. Brighton reached out to touch him and jumped back when he realized the man, too, was frozen solid. Heart hammering in his chest, he carefully walked around and peered into the book:
“May 4, 1823. No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive.”
What Brighton did after discovering the captain is a bit of a mystery. Some stories claim he immediately called his men off the deck, released his own ship from the ill-fated Jenny and sailed away to leave the vessel in the waters. Another instead claims he took the time to give the men a proper burial and finally set fire to the ship to give her some peace. Whatever the captain did though, his Hope had brought not an ounce of it to the distressed Jenny, and only served to ingrain her frozen image into the old mariner legends.
Copyrighted© to the Absurd and Fantastical - use of material prohibited
Sources: Seafaring Lore & Legends, Peter D. Jeans
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