The First Pacific War stricto sensu begins in 1820. In November, the whaleship ESSEX is sunk by a big male. It's the first recorded case of a successful attack by a spermwhale against a whaleship (boats were often destroyed since centuries as it was a classical result of the fortune of the hunt). This event is more than famous, and induces a deep trauma in the whole community of whalers (during their difficult trip in awful conditions, survivors are pushed to cannibalism, prealably discussed and organized amongst them).During the following years, many other ships are badly struck or even sunk by fighting sperm whales. Here are some of them : warship USS Peacock (1827), whalers Pusie Hall (1835), Lydia and Arabella (1836), Two Generals (1838), Nimrod (1848), Pocahontas (1850), Ann Alexander (1851) - the second most famous one -, the english Crusader (1852), and at least two others in 1859, Herald of the Morning, Emerald... In some other cases (Hector 1832, Parker Cook 1850), both ship and crew survive by miracle at the end of a nightmarish fight. And in october 1842, a steamer is badly struck and three whaleships come to help its crew are finally pushed to flee after that has been the hugest battle of this war, won by a lonesome fighter... Even in XXth century, at least three additional whaleships are sunk (american Kathleen in 1902, russian Enthusiast in 1947 (Commodore islands), norwegian Durei in 1963)...
Details for some of them to come.
Some fighting sperm whales become for their enemies "legendary whales", as true stories entered legend. For Kevin Hayes (in "Melville Folk Roots" 1999) : "The various legends share many motifs. Most mention the legendary whale appearance : not only was it noticeably larger than the average sperm whale, it had unique coloring or distinguishing marks. In legend, the whale was more often white than any other color, but some legendary whales were dark colored with other unusual features... Legendary whales had a terrific range and were often sighted in places far distant from their normal cruising grounds. Many legends tell how the great whale evaded capture. Encountering a legendary whale, much like sighting the Flying Dutchman, brought bad luck... "Moby Dick"... closely echoes the name of legend's fiercest whale Mocha Dick, but Melville borrowed elements from multiple stories he had heard from other whalemen. By not calling his whale Mocha Dick, he avoided any one - to - one association with a particular legendary whale."