Matthew P. Joy

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Matthew P. Joy

Birthplace: Hudson, Columbia County, New York, United States
Death: January 10, 1820 (26)
South Pacific Ocean (Starved to death while at sea.)
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. Levi Joy and Margaret Joy
Husband of Nancy Chase
Brother of Alexander Joy; Sarah Briggsrawson; Reuben Joy and Lydia Coffin

Occupation: Mariner, whaler & 2nd mate
Managed by: Richard Reese Buehler
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Matthew P. Joy

Matthew Joy This family was of Hudson. He was born on 10 February 1793. He married Nancy Slade, daughter of Benjamin Slade and Rhoda Coleman, in 1817. Matthew Joy died on 20 November 1820 at age 27; A. 27. Lost at sea in the Essex. (1)

Chase boat

On January 10, Matthew Joy died and on the following day the boat carrying Owen Chase, Richard Peterson, Isaac Cole, Benjamin Lawrence and Thomas Nickerson became separated from the others during a squall. Peterson died on January 18 and like Joy, was sewn in his clothes and buried at sea, as was the custom. (2)

from Wikipedia

Mathew was a seaman (Second Mate) aboard the ESSEX, a whaling vessel out of Nantucket, MS. It was captained by George Pollard who was only 29 yrs. old. First mate was Owen Chase.

The Essex set sail on the 12 August, 1819. Two days out from port, the Essex was 'knocked over' by a sudden squall. The ship lay completely on its side for several minutes before righting itself, and no permanent damage was done, but many of the crew took it as an ill omen. It was Owen Chase who persuaded them by a mixture of entreaty and bullying not to turn back.

The ship reached Cape Horn on 18 January, 1820, but it took a gruelling five weeks to navigate the treacherous waters. Even by the standards of the time, this was a difficult passage that must have had an effect on the morale of crew and officers alike.

Once in the South Pacific however, the Essex had an uneventful and prosperous voyage until 16 November. On that day, Owen Chase's whaleboat was struck by the tail fluke of a sperm whale and wrecked, leaving the Essex with only three serviceable whaleboats. On 20 November, The Essex sighted a school of whales, and all three boats set off in pursuit.

While he worked, Chase became aware of a huge whale, of some 85 feet in length, swimming in the water 100 feet away from the Essex. As he and the crew watched in alarm, the whale then proceeded to charge the Essex, and struck the bow of the vessel with sufficient force to knock some of the crew from their feet. The crew watched again in disbelief as the whale charged the ship a second time. This impact was hard enough to put a hole in the Essex below the water line. It is not clear why the whale attacked the Essex at all, though it seems likely that by pure chance.

Chase quickly realized that the ship was doomed. Within ten minutes, he and the eight men left the Essex on the whale-boat which was by now repaired, collecting what rations and supplies they could. By the time that they had collected their thoughts, the Essex had capsized. The whale was never seen again.

Pollard settled on a plan to sail south to the area of 'the variable winds' and then east on those winds, making landfall on the coast of either Chile or Peru. The twenty-one sailors set out in three smaller whaleboats (in this case, used as rescue boats which were carried aboard the Essex) with wholly inadequate supplies of food and fresh water, and landed on uninhabited Henderson Island, within the modern-day British territory of the Pitcairn Islands

They estimated that the journey would take them some 56 days. For a voyage of that length, the provisions they had been salvaged allowed for a daily ration of some ounces of bread, a biscuit weighing one pound and three ounces and half a pint of water per man per day. This represented something like one third of the minimum required food intake and only a half of the minimum water intake for a healthy adult.

On Henderson Island, the men gorged on birds, fish, and vegetation. They found a small freshwater spring. However, after one week, they had exhausted the island's natural resources, and concluded the island would not sustain them any longer. Most of the Essex crewmen got back into their whaleboats, but three men (William Wright, Seth Weeks, and Thomas Chapple) opted to stay behind on Henderson.

First, the crews were divided among the three whaleboats. Pollard and Joy took six men each, while Chase's boat had five crew assigned to it, this being felt sensible due to the fact that the boat was already damaged.

By 30 November, however, the boats had made some 480 miles progress and the provisions were holding out much as expected.

By this time, rations had been halved, and the men were severely starved and dehydrated. On 10 January, 1821, Matthew Joy was the first man to die. Chase maintained that Joy had been of a sickly constitution in any event, and that his death was as much due to that as the hardships of the voyage. His body was committed to the ocean the following day.

On 8 February, Isaac Cole died, 'in the most dreadful of agonies'. Rather than commit his body to the sea, Chase was moved to think the unpalatable, and proposed to his two remaining colleagues that the body be kept for food. Both Benjamin Lawrence and Thomas Nickerson readily agreed, knowing that their food supplies were perilously low.

The grisly supply of food lasted them until the 15 February, at which point all seemed lost. Nickerson had abandoned all hope of rescue when, on 18 February, the British brig, INDIAN rescued the near dead three men.

After the separation of Chase's boat in a heavy squall, the remaining two boats stayed together for some time. By the 14 January, however, Obed Hendrick's boat was entirely exhausted of supplies, and Pollard's boat finally ran out of food on the 21 January.

On 1 February, Pollard's boat ran out of food again. Faced with a long lingering death, members of the crew suggested the drawing of lots to see who should next be eaten, the unlucky candidate to first be shot by one of his companions. At first, Pollard rejected the idea out of hand, but eventually gave way to his crew. By a cruel irony, it was Pollard's 17-year-old cousin, Owen Coffin, who drew the shortest straw, and was shot by Charles Ramsdell, who drew the next shortest. On 11 February, Brazillai Ray also died.

For the remainder of their journey, Pollard and Ramsdell survived by gnawing on the bones of Coffin and Ray.

The whaling ship Dauphin finally rescued Pollard and Ramsdell, the sole survivors of their boat, on 23 February, 1821. Both men by that time were so completely dissociative that they did not even notice the Dauphin alongside them.

Pollard and Ramsdell and been 95 days in an open boat, Chase, Lawrence and Nickerson 90. They had traveled nearly 3500 miles since the wreck of the Essex some three months previously.


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Matthew P. Joy's Timeline

February 7, 1793
Hudson, Columbia County, New York, United States
January 10, 1820
Age 26
South Pacific Ocean