Rowland was frustrated that initial reports had provided so very little detail, for he pained for the families of the missing men.
When word came at last, the news was very discouraging: “Biggest disaster in the history of American whaling!” Forty ships had passed into the Chuchki Sea in the newly purchased Alaska Territory, when a freak weather event reversed the winds and pushed the ice pack back towards the east and crushed them in.
Louisa came in with a cup of tea and noticed the worried lines around her husband’s eyes. “Millions of dollars in oil lost… thirty three ships trapped… only seven ships escaped…” he read out loud. He continued running his finger down the column reading out the names of the lost.
Louisa spoke up at his sudden silence, “What is it dear?”
Rowland noticed his wife sitting across from him for the first time.
“Emily Morgan,” he announced sadly.
Louisa took her husband’s hand. “Your old ship... I’m sorry my dear, but you made the right choice to quit that business. You’ll always have your little reminder though, won’t you?”
He looked down at the back of his hand and gave a slight smile.
“Providentially though, not a single man was lost.”
Rowland arose, kissed his wife tenderly on the cheek and said goodbye for the day. He arrived a few minutes later at the front door of the dry goods store he’d opened in New York City exactly thirteen years earlier on October 28, 1858. As the door closed behind him, he turned over the sign in the window on which was printed, “R H Macy’s: OPEN for Business.”
Below it was a big red star, matching the faded tattoo on the back of his hand he'd gotten as a New Bedford whale-man.