American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

HARRY MARTINGALE: OR, ADVENTURES OF A WHALEMAN IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN (1848). This melodramatic novel by an elusive Dr. Louis A. Baker (18??-18??) tells the story of Harry Martingale, a young man from the Pennsylvania hills who turns to the sea for adventure. On his second voyage, Harry is tricked into serving a year on a pirate* ship with storyteller Bill Longyarn but later finds a better position on a whaler, the Albatross, under Captain Hawser, where Harry works his way from foremast hand to first mate. On an early voyage the crew battles a notorious white- spotted whale, later killed by an English whaler. In Valparaiso Harry falls in love with Margita, a devout Catholic. Harry and some crew are abandoned on an island when the Albatross drifts away, but they are reunited in New York; on a later voyage a whale tows Harry and a whaleboat away from the Albatross, and the crew eventually makes its way to Payta (now Paita), Peru. There it rejoins the Albatross, which is later taken off Dominica by natives. Baker devotes a scant phrase to conveying the massacre of all the crew but Harry. Harry’s life is spared due to the intervention of the chief’s daughter; he eventually escapes in an open boat and is picked up at sea. After five years away from Margita, Harry finally returns to Chile, where he enters a church moments before Margita is about to join a convent, and they are happily reunited.

Though not a source for Herman Melville’s* Moby-Dick* (1851), Baker’s novel represents, as Howard Vincent suggests in The Trying-Out of Moby- Dick (1949), an outgrowth of whaling legend in the same vein.

Peter H. McCracken