Manhattan (1843 ship)

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The Manhattan was a United States whaling ship under Captain Mercator Cooper that made the first authorized visit of an American ship to Tokyo Bay, in 1845.

Events in Japan[edit]

The Manhattan left the whaling port Sag Harbor, New York on November 9, 1843.

On March 14–15, 1845, its crew rescued 22 shipwrecked Japanese sailors in the Bonin Islands. The first 11 sailors were found on an island. The next day 11 more sailors were found on a foundering Japanese boat (along with a detailed navigation map of Japan).[1][2]

The Manhattan set sail for Tokyo to repatriate the sailors. Outside Tokyo Bay four of the survivors took a Japanese boat with a message that Cooper wanted to deliver the remainder to the harbor.[3] The Japanese normally wanted to avoid contact with outsiders because of their culture of Sakoku. However, on April 18, 1845, an emissary from the emperor gave the ship permission to proceed. "About three hundred Japanese boats with about 15 men in each took the ship in tow", according to Cooper's log. "They took all our arms out to keep till we left. There were several of the nobility came on board to see the ship. They appeared very friendly."

The Japanese examined his ship and took particular note of Pyrrhus Concer, a crewman from Southampton, Long Island, who was the only African American on board, and of a Shinnecock Native American named Eleazar. They were the first dark skinned men the Japanese had seen and they wanted to touch their skin.

The Japanese refused payment for provisions and gave the ship water, 20 sacks of rice, two sacks of wheat, a box of flour, 11 sacks of sweet potatoes, 50 fowl, two cords of wood, radishes and 10 pounds of tea. They thanked the Manhattan's crew for returning the shipwrecked sailors and told them to never return. On April 21 the 300 boats towed the Manhattan 12 to 20 miles out to sea.


Cooper took with him the map that charted the islands of Japan that had been found on the disabled Japanese ship. He was to turn it over to the United States government when the ship returned to Sag Harbor on October 14, 1846. News of Cooper's encounter was extensively publicized in the United States. Matthew Perry was said to have used the map on his visit to Japan with four U.S. warships on July 8, 1853.

Monuments to the event are across from Cooper's home at 81 Windmill Lane in Southampton, in Southampton Cemetery, and in Tokyo.[4]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ A Cold Welcome in Japan; When an LI ship sailed into Tokyo's bay, it was met with curiosity and hostility, by Bill Bleyer, Newsday - Long Island Our Story
  2. ^ Newsday, January 30, 2011, p. G6, specifies Bonin Islands. The Rotarian of May 1974, however, says the ship was near the Izu Islands, which are much closer to Tokyo Bay.
  3. ^ The cited Newsday article says four shipwreck survivors went ashore to deliver the message. However the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State thesis Commodore Perry’s 1853 Japanese Expedition: How Whaling Influenced the Event that Revolutionized Japan, by Terry Burcin, says that Cooper went ashore with two of the shipwrecked Japanese and explored the coast and then returned to his ship to await word.
  4. ^ The Rotarian, May 1974

External links[edit]