Owen Coffin

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This article is about the Nantucket sailor. For the Connecticut governor, see Owen Vincent Coffin.

Owen Coffin (August 24, 1802 – February 2, 1821) was a teenaged sailor aboard the Nantucket whaler Essex when it set sail for the Pacific Ocean on a sperm whale-hunting expedition in August 1819, under the command of his cousin, George Pollard, Jr. In November the next year, a whale rammed and breached the hull of Essex in mid-Pacific, causing Essex to sink.[1]

The crew of Essex escaped in small whaleboats, with sufficient supplies for two months, but were not rescued within that time. During January 1821, the near-starved survivors began to eat the bodies of those who had died. When even this resource ran out, the four men remaining in Pollard's boat agreed to draw straws to decide which of them should be slaughtered, lest all four die of starvation. Coffin 'lost' the lottery, and was shot and eaten. The captain volunteered to take Coffin's place but Coffin refused, saying it was his 'right' to do so that the others might live.

Coffin was the son of Nancy (Bunker) and Hezekiah Coffin.[2]

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