Benjamin Morrell



Occupation 1

Sea Captain

Occupation 2

author/Narrative South Sea


Pacific Ocean


Heroic Age of Sail (1816-1865)








Sealing captain and explorer� In March 1812 he ran away to sea, sailing from New York on the ship Enterprise, captained by Alexander Cartwright, with a cargo of contraband flour. The cargo was sold at Cadiz, despite its being under bombardment by the French� During the return voyage, on the Banks of Newfoundland, the ship was captured by the British sloop Hazard, and the entire crew was confined in a prison ship at St. John's for about eight months.

Returning home and hearing of the American naval victories against the British in 1812-1813, he rejected his father's advice to improve his minimal education but instead, seeking glory, signed on to the American privateer Joel Barlow� After an unremarkable cruise, the Joel Barlow was captured by the British frigate Briton, and Morrell spent almost two years at Dartmoor prison. Subsequently, he made a number of deep-sea voyages as a sailor on commercial vessels, mostly to the Pacific, until Captain Josiah Macy took an interest in him and saw to it that he learned what he needed to know to qualify for officer rank�

By 1822 he had his first command, the schooner Wasp. That sealing voyage (1822-1824) was followed by three more, also in schooners: one in the Tartar(1824-1826), and two in the Antarctic (1828-1829, 1829-1831)--the last two focused largely on exploration�

Morrell's later travels produced no notable results. Though his commercial voyage to the Pacific in the schooner Margaret Oakley (begun in 1834) seems to have been promising, the vessel was blown onto the beach at Madagascar and wrecked. By report, the indefatigable Morrell sometime later fitted out a trading vessel in the West Indies and sailed for the Pacific by way of Mozambique--where he died of fever�

Record ID: 543