Sea History 183 - Summer 2023

Page 68

Enoch Train— Donald McKay’s Best Customer

William Francis Gibbs’s Perfect Ship

Great Lakes Shipwreck Mystery Revealed

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32 Enoch Train
Donald McKay’s Best Customer by Vincent J. Miles


Naval Architect William Francis Gibbs “A



Cover: Packet Joshua Bates

Sailing from Newburyport 1844.

Painting by Roy Cross, 1983, courtesy Roy Cross Fine Art.

See article on pp. 32–38.

Fiddler’s Green
Stobart (1929–2023) by Burchenal Green 14
Dream Deferred Never Died” by Susan L. Gibbs 22 Ironton & Ohio A Wrecking Event Revealed on the Bottom of Lake Huron by Richard O’Regan 32 Enoch Train
McKay’s Best Customer by Vincent J. Miles 44 “Once you’ve seen one ship painting, you’ve seen them all!” What We Can Learn from a Closer Look at Ship Portraiture by Eric Ruff 44 10 40 4 Deck Log
Curator’s Corner
Historic Ships on a Lee Shore
Sea History for Kids
Ship Notes, Seaport & Museum News

Celebrating the Art, History, Science & Adventure of the Sea Since


The National Maritime Historical Society turns 60 this August!

As we approach this special milestone, brimming with both opportunity and challenge, we are ever reminded that our strength has always been in our members and readers. Your support of our mission and your love of history and the sea inspire us every day, and we hope you take pride in the enduring legacy of Sea History magazine and the advocacy, scholarship and educational programs made possible by your support.

With your help, NMHS is embarking on another year of initiatives to preserve maritime history, promote the maritime heritage community, and invite all to share in the adventures of seafaring.

You’ll see in the pages that follow that Sea History has a new look, with all the content you enjoy plus larger pictures and a more inviting visual style. Whether it’s maritime archaeology, sailing, ocean science, naval history, ship preservation, marine art, or tales of adventure and discovery, you can find it in the pages of Sea History. Every issue is also online —all 51 years and counting—including a hyperlinked index and a rich collection of learning tools for students of all ages.

You’re probably seeing more of us online and in your inboxes, as we work hard to meet the needs of today’s lifelong learners and keep the community apprised of the latest news in the maritime heritage field. If you’re not already getting Tuesday Tidings, A Cause in Motion, and Shelley Reid’s popular Sea History Today series, don’t delay—sign up for these free e-newsletters at www.

We’re more involved than ever in efforts to engage students in the pursuit of maritime scholarship. For National History Day, we’ve reinstituted the Teachers of Distinction Award at the national contest, along with our full lineup of state-level maritime project awards for middle and high school students. Most recently, we’ve launched a new initiative to produce educational videos for online learning.

We continue to promote our maritime history with educational and outreach events that share the lessons of our maritime past and all the richness and diversity of our seafaring present. This April, we hosted our 60th Annual Meeting at The Mariners’ Museum and USS Monitor Center in Newport News, Virginia, where our coverage of naval heritage, Civil War history, artifact conservation, ship preservation, and underwater archaeology highlighted a spectacular array of topics and careers in the maritime industry. And this May at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, we honored Congressman Joseph Courtney, the USS Constitution Museum, and Oyster Recovery Partnership— three driving forces in the maritime community—for their outstanding contributions to the field.

Patrons are already benefiting from the resources available to them at our Ronald L. Oswald Maritime Library, now online and on shelves and fully integrated with the Westchester, New York, Public Library System.

If you’ve seen the recent news on Ernestina-Morrissey’s participation in the 2023 Gulf Coast Tall Ships Challenge® this spring, following a seven–year restoration project, you’re probably as excited as we are that our documentary series featuring this historic schooner and National Historic Landmark will be due out this fall.

We continue to advocate on behalf of the entire maritime heritage community for Congress to increase funding for the Maritime Heritage Grant Program, because a rising tide lifts all boats.

And finally, big plans are in store for the Sail250 New York celebration of America’s 250th birthday in New York Harbor in July 2026.

We have wonderful opportunities waiting for us in the years ahead, and, as always, many real and important challenges. With support from our members and readers, we are able—and honored—to share them with you in these pages of Sea History.

NMHS is embarking on initiatives to preserve maritime history, promote the maritime heritage community, and invite all to share in the adventures of seafaring.


LEADERSHIP CIRCLE: Peter Aron, Guy E. C. Maitland, Ronald L. Oswald, William H. White

OFFICERS & TRUSTEES: Chairman, James A. Noone; Vice Chairman , Richardo R. Lopes; Vice Presidents: Jessica MacFarlane; Deirdre E. O’Regan, Wendy Paggiotta; Treasurer, William H. White; Secretary, Capt. Jeffrey McAllister; Trustees: Charles B. Anderson; Walter R. Brown; CAPT Patrick Burns, USN (Ret.); CAPT Sally McElwreath Callo, USN (Ret.); William S. Dudley; David Fowler; Karen Helmerson; VADM Al Konetzni, USN (Ret.); K. Denise Rucker Krepp; Guy E. C. Maitland; Salvatore Mercogliano; Michael Morrow; Richard Patrick O’Leary; Ronald L. Oswald; Timothy J. Runyan; Richard Scarano; Jean Wort

CHAIRMEN EMERITI: Walter R. Brown, Alan G. Choate, Guy E. C. Maitland, Ronald

L. Oswald; Howard Slotnick (1930–2020)

FOUNDER: Karl Kortum (1917–1996)

PRESIDENTS EMERITI: Burchenal Green, Peter Stanford (1927–2016)

OVERSEERS: Chairman , RADM David C. Brown, USMS (Ret.); RADM Joseph Callo, USN (Ret.); Christopher Culver; Richard du Moulin; Alan D. Hutchison; Gary Jobson; Sir Robin Knox-Johnston; John Lehman; Capt. James J. McNamara; Philip J. Shapiro; H. C. Bowen Smith; Philip J. Webster; Roberta Weisbrod

NMHS ADVISORS: John Ewald, Steven Hyman, J. Russell Jinishian, Gunnar Lundeberg, Conrad Milster, William Muller, Nancy Richardson


BOARD: Chairman, Timothy Runyan; Norman

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We’re more involved than ever in efforts to engage learners in the pursuit of maritime scholarship. Most recently, we’ve launched a new initiative to draw upon 51 years of Sea History magazine research to produce educational videos for online learning.

The National Maritime Historical Society Turns 60!

Celebrating the Art, History, Science & Adventure of the Sea Since 1963

Reaching 60 years of service is a significant milestone worthy of both celebration and reflection. It is also an opportunity to thank you, our members and readers, for your unwavering support of the National Maritime Historical Society. Your love of history and the sea inspires us every day, and we hope you take pride in the enduring legacy of Sea History magazine and the advocacy, scholarship and educational initiatives made possible by your generosity.

If you appreciate Sea History and the work we do to foster maritime education and advocacy, please help us maximize our impact by making an extra gift to our 60th anniversary campaign. With your support, NMHS is embarking on another year of programs and initiatives that preserve maritime history, promote the maritime heritage community, and invite all to share in the adventures of seafaring. No matter the size of your contribution, you’ll be playing an important role in sharing the lessons of our maritime past and all the richness and diversity of our seafaring present. Donate today at

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Historic Schooners Return to Sea

Thank you for your coverage of the three historic schooners that will be getting (or have received) maintenance and attention that has long been needed for them to stay afloat. All three [Coronet, Ernestina-Morrissey, and L. A. Dunton] have strong ties to Gloucester, Massachusetts, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary with events planned throughout the year. A highlight is the 39th Gloucester Schooner Festival on Labor Day weekend. What a thrill it may be a few years from now to have these three ships joining some of their sisters for the annual race.

Other schooners built on Cape Ann that are still sailing are the Grand Banks fishing vessels Adventure and American Eagle. Adventure is homeported in Gloucester. American Eagle is another Gloucester-built original that now operates as a Maine windjammer in Penobscot Bay and has made the trip to Gloucester for many years to participate in the schooner race. Among all the bad news we read about every

day, it is wonderful to hear about new life being breathed into these historic vessels.

From the editor: The 400th anniversary marks the 1623 arrival of the Dorchester Company at what is now Stage Fort Park; 2023 is also Gloucester’s 150th anniversary of being incorporated as a city in t he Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can find more information on the Gloucester 400 events at and the schooner festival at Of note is that the Essex-built schooner Roseway (1925) is also gearing up for a full restoration at the shipyard at Mystic Seaport. To support that effort, visit

As Coronet’ s former captain, let me thank you for a great update on her status. I was there as an honored guest

for her re-launch last December, and it was an awesome sight. Just a few more comments on her story. My Dad was captain before me, and he moved his family aboard her in 1955 when I was 12 years old. I grew up on Coronet. His father had been crew and later first officer on several transAtlantic voyages. He even met his future bride and later married her on board. I came along many years later, of course, but before I went ashore, logbook in hand in 1995, I had grown to love her and know her the way only a mariner can love and know a ship.

Her builder, Rufus Bush, and later owner Arthur Curtiss James accomplished much, establishing her reputation in good shape. But I think it only right to remind readers that the owner who cared for her the longest was the Christian mission and prayer organization known as The Kingdom. They bought her in 1905; we maintained her faithfully, sailed her in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, around Cape Horn on

LETTERS We Welcome Your Feedback! Email correspondence to 7
(at right) Schooner American Eagle , built in 1930 as the Andrew and Rosalie, is a National Historic Landmark. American Eagle is a regular participant in the annual Gloucester Schooner Festival. COURTESY MARITIME GLOUCESTER

her second world voyage, and in more recent years in New England waters, only releasing her to IYRS (International Yacht Restoration School) a full 90 years later. It was a hard decision to let her go, but it was necessary—her maintenance was getting beyond us. But those nine decades are the only reason she survived. I will never be able to express proper gratitude to the men and women who sailed her and cared for her during that time. It was at the cost of immense outlay of time, energy, and financial sacrifice—which they gladly offered because they, too, had come to love the vessel. I will never be able to properly thank Elizabeth Meyer and the late John Mecray for saving her. The Coronet story would have ended badly were it not for Elizabeth and IYRS. She deserves the greatest appreciation and recognition. Bob McNeil and Jeff Rutherford, too, deserve great thanks.

I would only add that Coronet’ s decrepit appearance in the photo in the article does not reflect the way we cared for her for those 90 years. She was kept

painted, in commission, and in trim (not “laid up”) all the years I knew her. We never let her look like she did in that photo, which was taken after she went to IYRS, but before they had begun work on her.

So today, I’m excited to see her afloat again, and it’s wonderful to have met the Pincus brothers and to learn of their goals and intentions. I expect to be sharing whatever I can of documentation and personal knowledge with

them as the restoration continues—until the day she sets out on yet another race!

Many cordial thanks to Sea History for bringing us up to date on the next great chapter for this great yacht. I am including photos of Coronet and of myself. The first (below) is of me creating a mainmast for Coronet, showing some of the tools we used. At this stage I’m standing near the masthead and in the process of fitting the ironwork. This was taken in July 1985, when Coronet was about to hit the century mark. Later that summer, we cruised her out of Gloucester under sail for several overnighters. The other photo shows her hauled out at Rocky Neck Marine Railway in 1994, one year before she went to IYRS. In the foreground are her two captains—myself and my father, Frank S. Murray, Coronet ’s captain from 1951 to 1987, who was visiting his old command as she was being prepared for the transfer to IYRS. Though necessary, it was hard to let her go; neither of us was especially happy that day.

It might be of further interest to relate how IYRS became interested in the ship. As my involvement in her maintenance grew steadily greater and the resources slimmer, I decided to

PHOTO BY NATHANIEL STEBBINS Capt. Tim Murray shaping a new mainmast for Coronet in 1985. COURTESY CAPTAIN TIM MURRAY Coronet racing off New York in 1893.

reach out for help to a wider pool and wrote an article titled “Coronet: Whither Away?” for WoodenBoat magazine, which was published in January 1980. It briefly recounted her story and frankly stated her present needs. Surely there must be someone “out there” who would care! And there was. Marine artist John Mecray, together with a few friends, read the piece; they came to look her over and were impressed by what they saw. One of them called her a “national treasure,” and the group practically begged us not to let her be destroyed or abandoned—or even heavily remodeled for another use. She needed to be restored.

Putting feet to their urging, they soon formed the Museum of Yachting in Newport, Rhode Island, with a view to publicizing and preserving her history, and then went on to form IYRS with the stated goal of taking on her

restoration. The rest, as they say, is history. But it was that WoodenBoat article that got the ball rolling. Today, more than 40 years later, it’s still rolling and in the best of all possible places—Mystic Seaport.

Again, warmest thanks for your interest. May your own efforts for our national maritime heritage be similarly rewarded!

Capt. Timothy Murray Dublin, New Hampshire

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Coronet former captains, Tim (left) and Frank Murray.

Fiddler’s Green

John Stobart (1929–2023)

In 1965 John Stobart took the overnight train from Toronto to New York City, carrying four paintings. These paintings had inspired the prestigious Kennedy Galleries to give him a solo exhibition to which they invited Peter Stanford, who was working to revitalize South Street Seaport.

Stanford and Stobart met, and Stobart became a regular at the seaport, where he met the great cast of characters who would be his lifelong friends, patrons, and fellow artists, including Captain Brian McAllister, Peter Aron, Oswald Brett, Bill Muller, Charles Raskob Robinson, Jakob Isbrandtsen, Terry Walton, Norma Stanford, Howard Hill, John Noble… well… the list is long and distinguished.

John Stobart went on to become an internationally respected master of the Golden Age of Sail, and of maritime

scenes, at sea and on land. He gained worldwide recognition for his attention to detail and his ability to capture the atmosphere and mood of historic ports. His exceptional paintings and limitededition prints are found in collections around the world.

With his Worldscapes outdoor painting video series on PBS (now available on YouTube), Stobart sought to inspire new generations of artists. He educated readers through his books on maritime painting, and the Stobart Foundation, established to encourage and support

10 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
(top) Decks Awash, Aboard the Cutty Sark, the Great Tea Race by John Stobart 24 x 36 inches, oil. (above) Portrait of John Stobart, 30 October 1971. PHOTO BY ROBERT F. LONGLEY

young artistic talent, continues to aid aspiring artists, especially those inspired by plein air painters’ history and traditions. He played a pivotal role in the founding of the American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA), and he was a delightful storyteller.

Throughout his career John received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the art world. He was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York and the Royal Society of Marine Artists, and he was honored with two awards from the National Maritime Historical Society. In 1986 he received the Robert G. Albion-James Monroe Award, presented to exceptional maritime historians, authors, artists, and educators, and in 2008 he was honored with the prestigious NMHS Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the maritime field.

Erin Urban, founding director of the Noble Maritime Collection, discovered an active correspondence between the two artists. Stobart joined the Noble Maritime Collection’s board of trustees and stayed on throughout his life, guiding and joking with Erin, helping to establish the fledgling museum’s reputation for excellence. He staged a major exhibition of his work there shortly after it opened, hiring a fast ferry to bring his Manhattan collectors to Staten Island for the reception. For the over-thirty years of his involvement as a trustee, the work he donated accented and enhanced the museum’s annual art auction. Erin recalls, “Like Noble, he was self-deprecating and attributed all his success to Sandy Heaphy, his agent, the brilliant and witty woman who kept him in line. In addition to managing all of his exhibitions and his gallery, she encouraged him to start

the Stobart Foundation. It is singularly devoted to supporting plein air painters and has enhanced the lives of artists who work outside, from life.”

American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA) founder and historian Charles Raskob Robinson is effusive in his praise for Stobart. “Through the ‘miracles of good fortune’ to which John often credited his success, he burst upon the American art scene from a successful career in London with a portfolio of exquisite marine works at a time when the market was dominated by ‘Western art.’ He was an instant success in New York and could not paint fast enough to meet the new-found demand.”

Robinson remembered that “John’s greatest contribution was his demand for excellence in art, his enthusiasm for artists struggling to advance their tal-

ents, skills, and careers, and his sincere interest in those fortunate enough to have known him. All of that said, John would be fast to criticize this accounting by noting that his loving and supportive companion and wife, Anne Fletcher, is the one he would have us celebrate.”

Matthew Stackpole, historian for the restoration of the whaler Charles W. Morgan , described John Stobart so accurately. “The scope and quality of John’s work speaks eloquently of his talent, passion, and prodigious production. His incredibly detailed depiction of vessels and ports, even though literally capturing a moment in time, made them come to life in a way that was the opposite of static images. His passion for getting the details right was legendary, as I discovered when he contacted me about the proper way the “cutting 11
Long-time NMHS president Peter Stanford (left) and John Stobart checking out the 1901 barquentine Gazela during the ship’s visit to New York, c. 1985.
“John’s greatest contribution was his demand for excellence in art, his enthusiasm for artists struggling to advance their talents, skills, and careers, and his sincere interest in those fortunate enough to have known him.”
Charles Raskob Robinson, American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA)

in tackle” on a whaleship was rigged, and when he wanted to confirm the East-West direction at Brant Point Lighthouse on Nantucket, as he was painting a catboat sailing past it late in the day and wanted to get the light right. While I’m certain his work sometimes tortured him, I’m convinced it also gave him great joy, which would spontaneously bubble out of him when he talked about it. He gave us memorable portals into different times and scenes, but even more he was, for anyone lucky enough to know him, an example of a life well lived. Farewell, fair winds, and thank you John.”

As Robinson remarked, John Stobart was engaged, loving, giving, and well beloved by all who knew him.

It can be hard to be objective once you have known a man like John for a long time and have seen so much of his art and demonstrations over the years. A few years ago we were visiting the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, which was hosting an artists’ retreat while the ASMA 18th National Exhibition was on display there. ASMA president Nick Fox was in the gallery when he overheard a visitor transfixed by John’s painting of the 19th-century Manhattan waterfront. “I feel I could step into that painting, hear the crunch of snow under my boots and feel the warmth from the lantern as I passed under it,” she said. Ah, John Stobart, you are the best and you are truly missed. Fair winds, dear friend.

12 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
New York—The David Crockett Sailing from the East River by John Stobart (1968) 24 x 36 inches, oil. John Stobart at his easel.

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“New York, Lower South Street, c. 1885”


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Naval Architect William Francis Gibbs: “A Dream Deferred Never Died”

Eight-year-old Willie Gibbs stared out the window of the horse-drawn coach as it rumbled down Philadelphia’s cobblestone streets toward the banks of the Delaware River. It was 12 November 1894, and the Gibbs family was heading to the William Cramp & Sons shipyard to watch the launch of SS St. Louis, billed as the largest and most spectacular ship ever built in America.

Young Willie had been obsessing over every detail of SS St. Louis’ s design and construction. At 11,000 tons, she would be packed with new features and technological advances, including 1,200 electric light bulbs, flush toilets, advanced water-tight compartments, and 34 lifeboats—far more than the

ill-fated RMS Titanic, which would set sail two decades later.

Willie stood among the crowd of 40,000 and watched as Mrs. Grover Cleveland heaved a linen-wrapped bottle of champagne onto St. Louis’ s bow. He gazed in awe at the ship’s massive black and red hull and her two tall, slender, black smokestacks rimmed in white. He listened as President Cleveland lauded the fact that the ship was built “on American plans, by American mechanics, and of American materials.” At precisely 1:00 pm, a cannon boomed and the mighty ship slid into the Delaware River. Willie Gibbs was mesmerized.

Almost sixty years later, in October of 1953, 67-year-old William Francis Gibbs traveled back to Philadelphia to

receive the prestigious Franklin Medal, joining the ranks of previous recipients Niels Bohr, Thomas Edison, and Orville Wright. He was being honored as the designer of the renowned ocean liner SS United States, which had smashed the transAtlantic speed record using only two-thirds of her power on her triumphal maiden voyage the year before. A large crowd at the banquet applauded as Gibbs’s award citation was read out loud. After the clapping subsided, he rose from his chair and slowly walked toward the lectern. Gibbs took his position in front of the microphone, his gaunt 6-foot-2-inch frame hunched forward slightly. As he stood at the lectern and gazed out at the crowd, he didn’t pull out an acceptance speech or unfold notes from his lapel

14 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
A fleet of tugs and fireboats escorts SS United States upon her debut in New York on 23 June 1952.
William Francis Gibbs aboard his beloved SS United States.

pocket. He slowly began to speak. “I am moved tonight with a feeling of considerable emotion,” he said.

He then began describing all the obstacles he had overcome to galvanize support for SS United States. He spoke of his ship’s extraordinary “power of survival,” and how she was “entirely different from any of the ships of the

After the launch of SS St. Louis, young Willie became completely obsessed with ships. He would study ship design and marine engineering in advanced technical journals, such as Cassier’s Magazine, cover to cover, aided by a small dictionary to help him decipher unfamiliar vocabulary words. He enrolled at Harvard College in 1906, where he preferred drawing ships alone

past.” He had gone to obsessive extremes to make the ship fireproof, from attempting to cajole Steinway & Co. to fabricate aluminum pianos to demanding the use of aluminum shuffleboard pucks. From her hull’s compartmentation and sleek form to the configuration of her propellers to her unprecedented use of aluminum, her

in his dorm in Claverly Hall to attending classes. He took a leave of absence and journeyed back and forth to Europe aboard the Cunard Line’s RMS Lusitania and Mauretania. He then returned to college, but he left without a degree. Despite flunking out of Harvard, he began studying law at Columbia University in 1911, where he successfully graduated despite being preoccupied

safety and stability features were unprecedented.

“In this city I was born. In this city, many years ago, I was taken by my parents to see a great ship launched at the Cramp Yard,” he said. “That was my first view of a great ship and from that day forward I dedicated my life to ships. I have never regretted it.”

with the catastrophic sinking of RMS Titanic. He then practiced law in New York City for one miserable year. He hated his job and lived for the weekends, when he would travel to his parents’ home outside of Philadelphia and dream up new ship designs in a makeshift drafting room.

He had no investment capital, no personnel, and no relevant experience. Nevertheless, he had a large table and a Franklin stove for heat, and that was all he needed as he set out to design the “perfect ship,” one that would be the fastest, most powerful, and safest ship in the world.

Willie’s younger brother Freddie joined the quest. From the start, the brothers had a clear division of labor. Willie was the artist and engineer, and Freddie handled the finances. The ship that took shape on Willie’s drafting table in 1914 was 1,000 feet long, could carry 1,000 passengers, and would employ a 1,000-member crew. The ship would sprint between New York and Southampton at the unheard-of speed of 30 knots. The fact that propulsion

SS United States was fitted with four propellers (two 4-bladed and two 5-bladed). This configuration was selected for its superior hydrodynamic performance, and the design was overseen by the pioneering Gibbs & Cox engineer Elaine Kaplan. The propellers were manufactured from manganese bronze, each weighing 60,000 pounds.

16 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023

technologies did not yet exist to achieve such speed did not dissuade him.

Gibbs’s perfect ship took decades to emerge, despite persuading J. P. Morgan to provide initial funding and add him to the International Marine Company’s payroll. During WWI, Gibbs became the assistant to the chairman of the Shipping Control Committee of the General Staff of the US Army. After the war, he painstakingly supervised the conversion of the German superliner SS Vaterland into SS Leviathan.

Fast forward to World War II. As the conflict intensified, the Allies needed to launch ships faster than German submarines, mines, destroyers, kamikaze fighters, and destroyers could destroy them. In 1942, U-boat attacks destroyed twice as many merchant vessels as were built in the same period. The Gibbs firm revolutionized the shipbuilding process by pioneering new ship design techniques, with pre-assembled components and standardized plans.

was built in only four. Ultimately, 2,620 Gibbs-designed Liberty ships would carry seventy-five percent of all American wartime cargo to Europe and Asia.

aircraft carrier escorts, icebreakers, gasoline tankers, submarine and destroyer tenders, and convertible troop transports.

Gibbs-designed emergency cargo vessels—Liberty ships—were at the heart of war mobilization. These 441-foot-long “Ugly Ducklings” played critical roles in transporting troops, supplies, and matériel for the war effort. They were churned out on average in only forty-two days;

The Gibbs firm designed 5,466 vessels, or seventy-four percent of all American-built naval ships and 63 percent of all oceangoing American merchant ships during World War II, including a dizzying array of destroyers, landing ships for tanks, minesweepers, repair ships, light cruisers, rocket ships, army transports, destroyer escorts,

In appreciation for his role as the War Production Board’s Controller of Shipbuilding, Gibbs received a check for forty-nine cents from the US Treasurer in 1943 compensating him for his services. He never cashed it. In 1944, President Roosevelt’s War Shipping Administration unveiled a “bold and daring” plan for eleven top-of-the-line US passenger ships, and subsequent legislation authorized government financing of up to a third of these ships’ construction costs. Gibbs saw a political opening and seized it. He began secretly updating his early designs for his perfect ship, first conceived in his parents’ guest room back in 1914. He assembled a small team and they incorporated many of the marine engineering

In World War II, Gibbs designed 2,620 Liberty ships for the war effort, including USS Zebulon B. Vance, pictured here on the day of her launch, 6 December 1941. 17
William Francis (left) and Frederic Herbert Gibbs

and naval architecture innovations advanced during World War II to make her original design faster, safer, and stronger. He secretly directed $103,770.16 of the firm’s resources to perfecting the vessel’s specifications.

That same year, the British journal Shipping World reported, “It is a paradox that the United States, which does everything in a ‘big way,’ had never really gone in for a really large passenger ship.” William Francis Gibbs clipped the article and saved it in a special folder.

In April 1949—the year the Soviet Union tested an atomic bomb—the contract for “Hull 12201” was awarded to the Newport News Shipbuilding and

Dry Dock Company. She would ultimately become the flagship of United States Lines, as well as a crucial national security asset able to transform in a matter of days from luxury liner to military transport capable of carrying 14,000 troops over 10,000 miles without refueling.

In February 1951, Gibbs traveled to the Newport News Ship Building and Dry Dock Company to witness a 170-ton crane lift a 55-ton piece of metal into position. The keel of the United States was being laid, and there is no way he would have missed it.

“The trouble with Americans,” William Francis Gibbs snarled to a reporter from the New York Herald Tribune,

“is that they tell everything they know. There’s one man who would like very much to know more about this ship, and that’s Uncle Joe Stalin, and I’m not going to oblige him.”

As SS United States was being built, Gibbs became the ship’s “sentinel of secrecy.” He banned reporters, tourists, and politicians from engine rooms, the bridge, and even the first-class sun deck adjacent to the bridge. Throughout the thirty-month period of the ship’s construction, he would travel back and forth between New York City and Newport News and keep a steady vigil, like a lion protecting his lair. He would arrange for telegrams to be delivered to the homes of senior shipyard officials

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On her maiden voyage, SS United States shattered the transAtlantic speed record in both directions. She was the first American ship in 100 years to capture the coveted Blue Riband (awarded to the fastest transAtlantic ocean liner). Amazingly, she still holds the round-trip record more than 70 years later.

that warned of dire consequences if they said anything to anyone about the ship’s top-secret features. These would be delivered at midnight, for maximum effect.

After the ship’s triumphal delivery cruise on 23 June 1952, throngs of admirers, dock workers, and paparazzi gathered at the ship’s New York pier and gazed up at her gigantic red, white, and blue funnels. Dockworkers were leaving nothing to chance: Each inch of her massive hull below the waterline had been sandpapered by hand to eliminate the slightest chance of extra drag.

An American liner hadn’t won the race for the Blue Riband in a hundred years, not since a wooden-hulled sidewheel steamer named the Baltic traveled from Liverpool to New York in 1851 on a voyage that took nine and a half days. Expectations were sky high, with the public following along as the ship’s prospects were front page news. While a plucky horse named Seabiscuit had symbolized the nation’s embrace of the

underdog during the Great Depression, SS United States perfectly embodied postwar patriotism, technological invincibility, and industrial ascendancy.

SS United States departed from New York on her maiden voyage on 3 July 1952. Mr. and Mrs. William Francis Gibbs were on board, although Vera Gibbs saw very little of her husband because he spent most of his time up on the bridge or down in the engine rooms. On 7 July 1952, Gibbs requested a shipboard wake-up call at four o’clock in the morning. He knew that SS United States would soon smash the transAtlantic speed record, and he had no intention of sleeping through it. As he joined Commodore Manning on the bridge, the weather had deteriorated; the ship was heading straight into a gale. At the commodore’s insistence, some of the windows on the bridge had been left open, and rainy gusts of cold wind blew through the wheelhouse. Rivulets of water streamed down the panes of glass as the ship battled against

raging 45-mile-per-hour winds. Suddenly, the commodore uttered two words. “On it!”

At 5:16 am Greenwich Mean Time, the ship’s whistle sounded a single, mighty blast. SS United States had crossed the Atlantic in three days, ten hours, and forty minutes, at an average speed of 35.59 knots (41 miles per hour), a full ten hours faster than the previous record holder, RMS Queen Mary. William Francis Gibbs had fulfilled a lifelong quest: He had proven that the United States could prevail against Europe’s best.

When prodded by a reporter, Gibbs said simply, “I’ve dreamed of this for forty years.” Pressed to say more, he offered that the ship had given “a fine performance,” as if he’d just seen a wellstaged opera in which all the singers had hit their high notes and the orchestra had been sublime, succeeding in completely transporting the entire audience.

With the blast of the ship’s whistle, some of the passengers who had stayed up all night began chugging whiskey and champagne out of open bottles. Strangers clasped hands and formed a conga line on the enclosed Promenade Deck among red, white, and blue streamers and miniature American flags. The orchestra played the “StarSpangled Banner” and the ship’s theme song, as passengers belted out the lyrics:

The First Lady of the Sea. Endowed with her country’s traits, proud of her destiny, SS United States. She’s got New York’s style, California’s grace, the Midwest’s strength, and Texas space… She’s got freedom’s form and liberty’s face. 19
SS United States in dry dock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, 28 Nov. 1952. PHOTO BY MARCUS ROBBINS, COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

SS United States arrived in Le Havre, France, at 12:24 in the afternoon, eighteen hours ahead of schedule, and Gibbs and Commodore Manning began wading through reams of congratulatory radio wires. President Harry Truman’s message was succinct: “I congratulate you on your wonderful voyage.” Winston Churchill’s was brief and gracious: “Congratulations on your magnificent achievement.”

Press reports were euphoric, although none more gushing than the ship’s own Ocean Press, which claimed: “Not since the Phoenicians scooped out logs and converted them into boats to introduce a new mode of transportation has such a momentous occasion taken place on the seas as those aboard our new super liner SS United States.”

SS United States began a successful 17-year career, with William Francis

Gibbs her most obsessively dedicated admirer. Every time the liner’s whistle announced its departure from New York with her three long blasts, he’d grab his binoculars, head to the window of his waterfront office at 21 West Street and watch her glide toward the open ocean. Every day she was at sea, he’d call the ship’s captain and chief engineer to check on her mood and performance. He had computed elaborate calculations of exactly how much fuel she needed to walk, jog, and sprint in every kind of weather. He even took pictures of her to bed; she would be the last thing he saw before he closed his eyes at night.

On her scheduled arrival days in New York, Gibbs always woke up early. He’d set his alarm before dawn and instruct his chauffeur to drive him in his gray Cadillac from his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to

Brooklyn’s Shore Parkway so he could be the first to see his ship appear on the horizon. When he spotted her, sometimes he would stay in the car and watch her approach, and sometimes he would get out of the car and stand alone at the water’s edge, his fedora pulled down low, as if he were the first or last man on earth. From his vantage point on shore, he could see her whole. It was as if she had run all the way across the ocean just to be reunited with him. Then he would rush to the pier at West 46th Street and watch as tugs nestled her into her berth. Once all her lines were secured, he’d be first up the gangway to greet her captain, officers, and engineers, and ask about every detail of the voyage.

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William Francis Gibbs died in 1967, two years before SS United States was withdrawn from service. At his
William Francis Gibbs gazes at his masterpiece, SS United States, in Newport News, Virginia. He would call the ship every day while she was at sea, and he would always be on hand to welcome her when she returned to her homeport of New York after each voyage.

funeral service, held on 11 September in New York City’s Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, the Reverend John O. Mellin spoke of Gibbs’s boyhood dream of designing the world’s greatest ocean liner. He said:

History is not always a respecter of ambition. A World War, a great depression, and a Second World War postponed the teen-age vision. Three score years passed before it reached fulfillment. As the days of the years stretched forth, his talent was dedicated to his country’s security in the designing of naval ships and to his country’s commerce in merchant ships. Yet, William Francis Gibbs, as in his college days, proved again that he was one in whom a dream deferred, never died…

Today, William Francis Gibbs’s “dream deferred” sits docked at Pier 82 in Philadelphia, not far from the Cramp & Sons shipyard where young Willie first saw the launch of a great ship. When speaking of SS United States, her designer would sometimes boast, “You can’t set her on fire, you can’t sink her, and you can’t catch her.” This claim turned out to be prophetic, since no one ever has.

William Francis Gibbs’s beloved ship has beaten the odds and remains proudly afloat, awaiting restoration. The ship was purchased in 2011 by the SS United States Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that has been building support for the ship’s preservation, educating the public about the ship’s storied history, and advancing plans for the vessel’s redevelopment. SS United States continues to embody the nation’s resilience, ambition, and sense of possibility. She also reminds us to never give up on our dreams.

About the SS United States Conservancy: As owners of “America’s Flagship,” SS United States, the Conservancy leads the effort to ensure that this enduring expression of American pride and innovation inspires for generations to come. Along with preserving the ship’s history, the Conservancy continues to work closely with RXR Realty, their partners, and a wide range of technical experts to advance the vessel’s revitalization as a mixed-use development in a major US port city. The organization has helped produce award-winning documentaries, built a major collection of art, archives, and artifacts from SS United States, and installed exhibitions at various venues, including New York’s Forbes Galleries and the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. Visit the Conservancy’s website at to donate, subscribe to their free e-newsletter, and learn more about how you can help.

Susan L. Gibbs is the SS United States Conservancy’s president and co-founder. She is the granddaughter of William Francis Gibbs, SS United States’s designer. She has presented widely on SS United States and maritime history, and her work has been featured in dozens of national and international media outlets. She has also worked for more than two decades in the philanthropic sector with a focus on global women’s issues. Gibbs is an alumna of Brown University and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. 21
SS United States at her berth along the Philadelphia waterfront. COURTESY SS UNITED STATES CONSERVANCY

Ironton and Ohio — A Wrecking Event Revealed on the Bottom of Lake Huron

It looks to be a blustery night on Lake Huron. It’s 26 September 1894— only four days into autumn—but on the northern reaches of the Great Lakes, summer tempests blend seamlessly into autumn gales. Nevertheless, fickle winds and rough waters do little more than occasionally slow the torrent of commerce that flows through Huron and her sister lakes. Despite danger and uncertainty, in the last fifty years North America’s inland seas have become the continent’s busiest highways.

Thousands of ships and boats of every size and description ply these

waters, fetching ore from the mines and grain from the fields that border the western lakes to the industries and markets to the east and south, returning with textiles, housewares, and machinery from eastern mills and factories. Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, Toronto, and Montreal are all ports whose growth and prosperity are rooted in Great Lakes trade. With the St. Lawrence River providing an outlet to the sea, goods from the middle of the continent make their way efficiently to the Atlantic Coast and beyond.

One of the floating packhorses of that commerce is the 202-foot wooden steamship Ohio. In mid-September, the Ohio departed Duluth, Minnesota, with a load of flour and feed grain from the recent harvest, bound for Ogdensburg, New York, a railhead on the St. Lawrence. There, Ohio’ s cargo will be transferred into rolling hoppers that will carry it to eastern markets.

At first, the weather was fair. The ship crossed Lake Superior, passed through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and traveled down the St. Mary’s River without incident. Once in Lake Huron, Ohio steamed southeast along the Michigan side in the corridor reserved for downbound traffic. When Presque Isle and Thunder Bay are abeam, the helmsman will alter course to the south toward the outlets that lead to Lakes Erie and Ontario.

On this leg, Ohio runs into headwinds and choppy seas just at the place where the captain hoped for calm water and good visibility. Huron’s waters off Presque Isle and Thunder Bay are called “shipwreck alley” for good reason. Hundreds of vessels have come to grief in a stretch of the lake made treacherous by rocks, reefs, and heavy traffic in tight quarters. Lighthouses dot the shoreline and the waters are well charted—but knowing exactly where on that chart you are is next to impossible when clouds or squalls obscure lights and landmarks. Adding to the hazards, there’s no moon this night to help a lookout spot trouble ahead— the waning crescent won’t rise until just before dawn.

The Ohio is making steady progress into the wind. Out of view ahead on a

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1915 map of the Great Lakes and travel routes across the region. Presque Isle, Michigan

reciprocal course is another steamer— an ore carrier with two schooner barges in tow. The northbound steamer is the 190-foot Charles J. Kershaw, which left Ashtabula, Ohio, four days earlier and is heading in ballast to Marquette, Michigan, on Lake Superior.

In the years leading up to 1894, steamships had supplanted sailing vessels as the principal transporters of cargo on the lakes. A steamer towing consorts is a typical arrangement. Commerce has grown too busy to tolerate the fickle winds that make keeping to

a schedule impossible for sailing ships. In addition, confining vessels whose courses are dictated by the wind to defined traffic lanes is akin to herding a school of swimming cats—equal parts dangerous and absurd. Propeller-driven vessels, ships that can chart a course in a straight line, often use sound—but otherwise obsolete—schooners as barges, towing them from port to port, moving far more cargo than a steamer could manage on its own.

However unromantic, the change makes economic sense. Sailing a threemasted schooner like the Ironton requires a large skilled crew, owners willing to entrust their profits to the vagaries of the weather, and customers patient enough to wait for deliveries that may or may not arrive on time. Every year, more and more vessels of the Great Lakes sailing fleet are repurposed as barges, creating a waterborne version of the railroads to which they deliver 23 GREAT LAKES MARITIME COLLECTION, ALPENA CTY. GEORGE N. FLETCHER PUBLIC LIBRARY
Schooner barge Lizzie A. Law was built in 1875 of similar construction to Ironton.
Starboard view of the Great Lakes grain carrier Ohio, a 202-foot wooden steamer built in 1873 in Huron, Ohio.

their cargoes on schedules designed to dovetail with train timetables.

Ships are not rolling stock, however. Towing a gaggle of ships linked by stout hawsers is nowhere near as easy as hitching them to one another like boxcars. Pushing into a headwind with the added drag of consort barges is tedious work, but a tailwind can pose even more of a problem. On water, there are no rails to keep your ducks in a row. With a wind astern, towed vessels yaw and meander, and slackened tow lines and scudding barges are the stuff of mariners’ nightmares. A towboat to the lee of its consorts must keep moving and keep its hawsers taut to maintain control. The stiff wind that night on Lake Huron is propelling the Kershaw and its consorts toward disaster.

As midnight approaches, all is well aboard both Ohio and Kershaw, as well as Kershaw ’s consorts Moonlight and

Ironton. The captains and crews are all veteran mariners, and, while the challenges of this transit are something to pay attention to, it is a routine passage.

Few disasters are the result of a single mishap. More often, a series of problems, mistakes, confusion—and just plain bad luck—can cascade into catastrophe. On the night of 26 September, just about everything that could go wrong goes wrong, and at the worst possible time. About six miles north of Presque Isle, Kershaw ’s engine fails— the first of a series of misfortunes. With their towboat stalled, the wind keeps the consorts Moonlight and Ironton moving forward. Ironton quickly runs afoul of the hawser tethering it to Moonlight. To prevent entanglement and a possible collision, Moonlight’ s crew casts Ironton loose. Suddenly, on a dark night in rough waters, Captain Peter Girard and his six crewmates

aboard Ironton scramble to control their suddenly independent vessel.

Captain Girard is a well-known and popular mariner. Although he’s not yet forty, he has nearly twenty-five years’ experience on the Great Lakes, having first shipped out as a teenager. His crew is experienced and capable. They quickly manage to haul in the towline, get three sails set, and fire up the ship’s small auxiliary donkey engine. Even so, Ironton, propelled by the wind from astern, veers off track. With no moonlight, the crewmen don’t know exactly where they are, nor that they are now in the paths of southbound ships. By the time they see the Ohio dead ahead, it’s too late.

With a gut-wrenching crash, punctuated by the snap of splintering timbers, Ironton strikes Ohio amidships near its boiler room, punching a twelvefoot gash in its wooden hull. Ironton’s bow is destroyed and its stem broken. Both vessels are mortally wounded. Ohio founders quickly. Sixteen members of the crew scramble into lifeboats and are soon rescued by Moonlight. Ohio’s first mate spends two hours clinging to a floating ladder before Kershaw plucks him from the water.

Ironically, its heavy cargo might be what saves Ohio’s crew—the ship founders so quickly that the other boats are still close by. Ironton is doomed as well, but with no cargo to weigh it down, it settles slowly and drifts at the surface for another hour. By then, rescue is no longer close at hand.

When Ironton’ s crew realizes the vessel cannot be saved, Captain Girard and his six-man crew put their yawlboat in the water and abandon ship. Once again, a fouled line proves their undoing. With the yawlboat still tethered to the Ironton, the small boat and the entire ship’s company are dragged down

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Newspaper headline from the Grand Rapids Press, September 1894.

with the sinking ship. Two of them, sailors William Wooley and William Parry, claw their way back to the surface, but the other five—including 39-year-old Captain Girard—are lost. Wooley and Parry are picked up by a passing steamer, SS Charles Hebard. It will be more than a century before either the ill-fated Ohio or Ironton is seen again.


Ohio and Ironton sank offshore in relatively deep water—well beyond the range of recreational divers. Although their approximate location was known from the survivors’ accounts, the wrecks were not located and identified for more than a century. While both were avidly sought by divers and maritime archaeologists, barely a fifth of the lakebed within the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) has been mapped by high-resolution scanners. Finding them, even with highresolution sonar, was akin to remotely sensing a needle in a haystack. Persistence and solid research, however, eventually paid off. In 2017, Ohio was found by a team from the Sanctuary.

In May of that year, maritime archaeologists from the Sanctuary conducting a multibeam sonar scan of the waters off Presque Isle identified two potential targets that might be wreck sites. They knew from the historical record that it was the area in which Ohio and Ironton had collided and sunk. They hoped they had finally found the final resting place of the ill-fated vessels.

As they followed up their findings that summer, the researchers positively identified one of them as Ohio. The other, however, turned out not to be Ironton but rather the Choctaw —a steelhulled steamer that sank after a collision in July 1915. Although the team was certain that Ironton was somewhere nearby, they did not find it. In the summer of 2019, Thunder Bay’s crew set

Fate of the other vessels Moonlight and Charles J. Kershaw

The steamer Charles J. Kershaw and schooner-barge Moonlight both survived the night of 26 September unscathed. Moonlight continued to be used as Kershaw’s towed consort, but almost exactly a year later their luck ran out. On 29 September 1895, the two, along with the schooner-barge Henry A. Kent, were caught in a gale near Marquette, Michigan. While trying to tow its consorts to the protected waters behind Marquette’s breakwater, the Kershaw’s steam pipe blew. With no power, it drifted onto a rock reef and broke apart. Amazingly, the immense waves saved the consorts by lifting both vessels over the reef and stranding them on a sandy beach. Both schooners were refloated and the Moonlight, considered one of the most beautiful of the Great Lakes ships, continued to haul iron ore until 1903, when it sank near the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. 25

out again. This time, they were armed with the latest in scanning technology and aided by a team from Ocean Exploration Trust—the research organization founded by underwater explorer Dr. Robert Ballard.

Having researched the weather and wind conditions on the night of the collision, the team defined an area to deploy the multibeam sonar where, it was hoped, they would find something on the lakebed that could be their ship. Since Ohio had gone down first, the researchers knew the direction the wind and waves would have pushed the Ironton, but there was no way to know how far the vessel had moved in the hour it drifted. There were many unknowns: How strong was the wind? How high in the water was the ship riding? How quickly did it fill with water? Were the Ironton’s sails still set? Was its donkey engine still running?

All these factors had to be evaluated to narrow down where in the haystack they might search for their needle. With the limited time the team had access to the expensive and tightly scheduled research equipment, archaeologists aboard Thunder Bay’s research vessel RV Storm and the pilots of the cutting-edge autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) called BEN (for Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator), scoured the lake bottom for the tell-tale images of a sunken ship. For days, they found nothing.

Finally, with their survey time nearly over and nothing to show for it, the team decided to think outside the box it had drawn and expand their search area. Could the strong winds of the fatal night have pushed Ironton

From a land-based computer lab in Rogers City, Michigan, two autonomous surface vehicle pilots from the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping operate ASV BEN.

farther than predicted? Perhaps its sails were still catching that wind. Maybe it stayed afloat longer than the survivors recollected. In an emergency, perception of time can be wildly inaccurate— sometimes minutes seem endless; other times, hours vanish in the blink of an eye. They decided to look outside the area they had been surveying—in the direction the Ironton would have drifted if the winds were stronger than estimated. That educated guess paid off. With their time almost exhausted, the

sonar finally returned an image from the lakebed of something that was unmistakably a ship—and one that matched what they knew of Ironton.

With hundreds of vessels believed to be in the area and many others whose final locations are unknown, the team understood that this shipwreck could certainly be one of those others. In August 2019, the researchers reached out to the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College, which agreed to send its ROV

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(right) Sonar image of Ironton.
Image of the schooner-barge Ironton as it sits on the lake floor today. This image is a point cloud extracted from water column returns from multibeam sonar.
Ironton’s wooden bowsprit (blanketed with quagga mussels) reaches into the clear blue of Lake Huron, a testament to the preservation possible in the cold, fresh water of the Great Lakes.

team out to the shipwreck site. As the ROV approached the wreck, its cameras returned images that removed all doubt. There, 129 years after its fatal plunge, sitting upright on the lakebed, its masts still erect, was Ironton!

Other than the damage to its bow, Ironton looks today like it is ready to load cargo. Its masts are intact and lines are still coiled on deck. The frigid freshwater has protected it remarkably well over the past century. It has preserved,

also, the evidence of the tragic story of the sailors who were lost when it went down. As the camera maneuvered around to the stern, there, still tied to the ship that dragged its crew to their deaths, was the yawl boat.

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Ironton sits on the bottom of Lake Huron, upright with all three masts still standing. In this view looking forward from the foreshrouds, an anchor rests on the starboard rail. Even some of the standing rigging is in place.
Ironton’s yawl boat still tied to the stern.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Established in 2000 as the first freshwater national marine sanctuary, the TBNMS was created to protect the historically significant shipwrecks on the bottom of Lake Huron’s notorious “Shipwreck Alley.” Originally defined as an area of 425 square miles, the Sanctuary was expanded in 2014 to more than ten times that size—4,285 square miles. It is the nation’s largest marine protected area focused on underwater cultural heritage sites. An estimated 200 shipwrecks lie within the protected area, but only about half of them have been identified. Submerged archaeological sites within TBNMS include a huge variety of the types of vessels that plied the Great Lakes—from the schooners and steamboats of the 19th century to the massive industrial bulk carriers of the 20th.

The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center (GLMHC) at the Sanctuary’s headquarters is free and open all year. Visitors can also see shipwrecks from a glass-bottom boat, or snorkel, dive, or paddle over the wreck sites. During the more than twenty years since it was designated as a National Marine Sanctuary, the GLMHC has become a popular local attraction and attracted tourists to the area. It is now an important contributor to the economy of northeastern Michigan. Visit the sanctuary at 29
Richard O’Regan is a writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker. He has worked with the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to tell the stories of many of the shipwrecks in Sanctuary waters.
The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Michigan, features a life-sized replica of a wooden sailing vessel in a room with exhibit panels and benches.

Essex Shipbuilding Museum

An experiment on the ways

The Curator’s Corner series in Sea History offers maritime museums the opportunity to feature historic photos from their collections that, while available to researchers upon request, rarely go on public display. Each issue we ask a museum curator to pick a particularly interesting, revealing, or representative photo from their archives and tell us about it. In this installment of Curator’s Corner, we are invited into the archives of the Essex Historical Society Shipbuilding Museum, which interprets the extraordinary history of this tiny New England village that built more two-masted wooden fishing schooners than any other place in the world. Enjoy!

In this photo we see a partially built knockabout schooner, aptly named Knickerbocker, being built in 1912 at the A. D. Story yard in Essex, Massachusetts, to a Tom McManus design. The knockabout schooner was defined by having no bowsprit, and in this case no topmasts. McManus developed the design to reduce the risk of sailors being washed off the bowsprit, a.k.a. the “widow maker,” in heavy seas. The McManus design had been around for ten years by 1912. Knickerbocker was unlike her sister ships built at Essex in that she was designed with two engines and twin screws, in an era when most schooners were built and sailed with no engine at all. Of the ten schooners launched from Essex yards in 1912, Knickerbocker was the only one with engine power.

The whole idea of marine diesel engines only originated in 1903. Knickerbocker ’s Blanchard engines had four cylinders; they were eleven feet long and thirty inches wide, and weighed 8,000 pounds. Bore and stroke were each ten inches, and they would run at 320 rpm—the torque generated can only be imagined. Her shafts were three inches in diameter, driving 44-inch feathering propellors.

Knickerbocker and her sister ship Bay State were built for the New England Fish Co. of Portland, Maine, although she was destined from the get-go for the West Coast. Bay State remained in the Atlantic. Knickerbocker was launched in October 1912 and arrived in Seattle, Washington, the following June after a roughly 150-day transit from Boston. She had a brief fishing career and then became a freighter.

She passes out of the US registry after 1918, possibly sold to Canadian buyers.

The photo is scanned from a glass plate negative in the collection of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum (ESM), but its origin and photographer are unknown. The ESM was only formally organized as a museum in 1976, but its roots go back to the lifetime of work put in by Lewis H. Story (1873–1948), cousin of legendary shipbuilder A. D. Story. Lew Story was principally a designer (the 117-foot schooner Shepherd King, 1905, among others), although he also built vessels with his cousin, John Prince Story. He traveled widely to other New England shipbuilding centers, collecting information, especially noting changes in design philosophy and construction. He worked with Howard Chapelle in collecting shipbuilders’ half models for the Smithsonian. A number of the more significant half models are now at the ESM. Among other items for research at the ESM are a dozen binders containing Story’s handwritten notes about shipbuilding and any number of other topics. Given the date of Knickerbocker ’s launch, it is entirely possible that Story himself shot the photograph you see here.

Lew Story’s collecting was continued by A. D. Story’s son, Dana (1920–2005). Along with writing several books about Gloucester fishing schooners (Frame Up!, Growing up in a Shipyard, Hail, Columbia!) Dana Story was also a shipbuilder and photographer, and most of his photographs are available at the museum.

Charley Seavey is a research associate with the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum, located at 66 Main St., Essex, MA; Ph. 978 768-7541;

The knockabout schooner was defined by having no bowsprit, and in this case no topmasts. Thomas McManus developed the design to reduce the risk of sailors being washed off the bowsprit, a.k.a. the “widow maker,” in heavy seas. 31

Enoch Train—

Donald McKay’s Best Customer

More than 150 years after he completed the last of the clipper ships that made him famous, Donald McKay is still one of the most revered shipbuilders in history—the subject of multiple memorials, books, and articles. Most celebrations of his career, however, pay little or no attention to a Boston merchant who played a crucial role in his success. Enoch Train not only provided the funding for McKay to establish his own shipyard, but he also became his biggest customer. Beyond Train’s impact on McKay’s career, the experiences they shared during the decade they worked closely together are highly instructive about the final years of the golden age of sail.

The two men first met in 1844: Enoch Train needed new ships for a packet line he was starting between Boston and Liverpool, and McKay

had extensive experience building transAtlantic packet ships for lines operating out of New York. The word “packet” originally denoted vessels that carried packets of mail, but gradually

came to mean any vessel that, like mailboats, sailed on a regular schedule.

Train had been trading for many years with multiple countries in Europe, Africa, and South America, and so already had a small fleet of vessels, but they were general freighters that lacked the speed, sturdiness, and luxurious passenger cabins essential for transAtlantic packets. Acutely aware that he needed to add to his fleet, his first inclination might have been to commission them from the shipyards in nearby Medford that had built his other ships, but a chance meeting on the other side of the Atlantic led him to McKay instead. During an extended stay in England, while making arrangements for his new packet line, Train took a sightseeing break to visit Windsor Castle, where he attended a service at which Queen Victoria and her family were present. While touring the castle, he happened to meet a sea captain from Newburyport, the most northerly port in Massachusetts, whose own ship had been built there under McKay’s supervision. In due course their conversation turned to Train’s plans for upgrading his fleet, at which point the captain urged Train not to commit to any other shipbuilder without first visiting McKay in Newburyport. When Train returned to Boston and followed up on the captain’s advice, he and McKay established an instant rapport. Within an hour of meeting, they had struck a deal in which McKay would build Train a packet ship for his new line.

In this 1851 map of East Boston, Donald McKay’s shipyard is marked at the foot of Monmouth Street, on Border Street.

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Enoch Train NORMAN

At the time of this meeting, McKay had been in Newburyport for about four years, having previously spent a dozen years in New York as an apprentice and shipwright under two of the East River’s most prominent shipbuilders, Isaac Webb and Jacob Bell. During his time in Newburyport, he worked in three different shipyards—two of them as a partner—but had never had sole control of his own business. That changed, however, when he completed the Joshua Bates, the ship commissioned by Train during their first meeting. Train was so delighted with her that he insisted that McKay move to Boston and provided the funding for him to establish his own shipyard there (actually across the harbor in East Boston).

No sooner had the Joshua Bates joined his fleet than Train had an urgent need for another vessel; one of the freighters he had been using in his packet line was sunk by a fierce storm halfway across the Atlantic. He turned once again to McKay, becoming the first customer in his friend’s new yard by commissioning another packet ship, the Washington Irving. This was just the start. Over the next five years, Enoch Train added six more McKay-built ships to his packet line, making him by far the builder’s best customer. Including the Joshua Bates, McKay’s last ship built in Newburyport, eight of the nineteen vessels McKay completed between December 1844 and the end of 1850 were for Train. 33
A rare photograph of Donald McKay’s shipyard in East Boston, c. 1855. Donald McKay

Enoch Train’s need for so many new ships during this period was driven largely by tragedies, including a huge calamity seemingly unrelated to maritime activity, and by the loss of two of his ships at sea. The major tragedy was the Great Famine in Ireland that began when blight hit the potato crop in 1845, and continued until the early 1850s. Hundreds of thousands of poor starving people fled the country for America, many by crossing the Irish Sea to Liverpool and taking a packet ship across the Atlantic as steerage passengers. Between 1845 and 1850, Train’s westbound ships carried more than 20,000 such passengers to Boston, enabling his line to flourish despite the steamship service operated on the same route by the Cunard Line, which did not offer passage in steerage. Among the many thousand passengers who arrived in this country aboard Train’s ships was a man, unremarkable at the time, but hugely significant for America’s future. Patrick Kennedy sailed aboard the Washington Irving in 1849; he was the great-grandfather of John F., Robert, and Edward Kennedy.

The other misfortunes that affected Train’s business were much smaller, but still devastating. Two of the packet ships McKay built for him were lost at sea when barely a year old, in one case with heavy loss of life. The first to go down was the Anglo Saxon, wrecked in May 1847 after being driven onto rocks off the coast of Nova Scotia during a storm.

(top left) “The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks Liverpool,” printed in the 6 July 1850 edition of the Illustrated London News. More than 2 million people emigrated from Ireland during the Great Famine. (left) Train & Company poster showing the Staffordshire and listing the company’s ships, plus distances between Boston and ports serviced by the line.

34 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023

Fortunately, she was close enough to shore that all on board were saved. This loss led Train to commission another McKay ship—to be named Anglo American. Before he could start, the shipbuilder first had to finish another vessel that was already on the ways for Enoch Train, the Ocean Monarch, which, tragically, was the next Trainowned ship to be lost at sea. In August 1848, she caught fire off the coast of Wales, just a few hours after departing

Rescue of passengers of the Ocean Monarch by the Brazilian frigate Alfonzo by Samuel Walters.

Ocean Monarch was the fourth McKay ship built for Enoch Train. A year after her launch, she caught fire on the day she departed Liverpool. 178 passengers and crew perished. 35
Packet Washington Irving Departing Boston, c. 1840 by Roy Cross. This 751-ton ship was the second packet built by Donald McKay for Enoch Train and the first built in his new yard in East Boston. The Washington Irving was the ship aboard which Patrick Kennedy arrived in Boston in 1849.

Liverpool. The flames spread rapidly in the stiff breeze, and, despite the heroic efforts of rescuers from passing vessels, 178 of the approximately 380 people on board perished. McKay was again selected to build a replacement— Plymouth Rock. This time, however, the commission came not from Train himself but from two of his captains, who had agreed in advance to grant a longterm lease of their ship to the packet line. Train may have opted for this arrangement because he was financially strapped after paying for so many new ships in such a short period.

The last conventional packet ship McKay built for Train was the Daniel Webster, launched in October 1850 before a large crowd that was addressed by both Train and her namesake politician. His speech was apparently not the only thing on Train’s mind that day; he also seems to have been captivated by the unusual design of another new vessel taking shape in McKay’s yard, because a few weeks later he asked his

friend to build him a ship along the same lines. The partially completed vessel he had seen was the clipper ship Stag Hound, McKay’s first entry in the new class that had emerged in response to the California Gold Rush.

The vessel Train commissioned after seeing her was destined to become the most famous of all McKay’s creations, the clipper ship Flying Cloud

But by the time she set sail from New York in June 1851 for her record-shattering voyage to San Francisco, Train no longer owned her. While she was still on the stocks, he had accepted an offer to sell her for $90,000, which was $40,000 more than he was paying McKay to build her. He later said that accepting that offer was one of the greatest regrets of his life.

Train did, however, put his quick profit to good use, immediately ordering another clipper ship from McKay, the Staffordshire, launched in June 1851. Clearly enamored with this new class of extreme clipper, Train then commis-

sioned two more ships from McKay, which were completed in the spring of 1853: Star of Empire and Chariot of Fame. These were the only two ships McKay ever built that were identical to one another. Although all three of these new vessels were clippers, Train used them primarily as packet ships in his Liverpool line, with just one exception—a voyage to San Francisco by the Staffordshire in 1852 in the waning days of the Gold Rush. Like most ships making that voyage to the California coast, the Staffordshire continued sailing westward until she had completed a circumnavigation of the globe, arriving back in Boston in 1853. She then resumed her duties as a packet ship, and soon afterwards met with disaster. In December 1853 she was wrecked off the coast of Nova Scotia, barely a dozen miles from where the Anglo Saxon had met the same fate. In her case, though, many lives were lost: 148 of the 195 people on board were drowned, including her captain.

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Construction drawing for ships Chariot of Fame and Star of Empire, c. 1853. COURTESY PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM 37
The Daniel Webster of Boston Off Sandy Hook by John Stobart

For the next couple of years, Enoch Train and McKay went their separate ways, with McKay building ships on his own account and Train turning to other builders for the next three ships he commissioned. They reunited briefly in 1855 for an attempt to start a steamship line between Boston and Liverpool, but the venture never attracted the investment capital it required. That setback was followed by further reverses in 1856, when both of their businesses ran into trouble. Sailings from Boston to Liverpool by the Enoch Train transAtlantic line became increasingly erratic and were mainly performed by chartered vessels rather than his own ships, most of which had been diverted to the guano trade in South America.

In McKay’s case, his business became insolvent in the fall of 1856 and went into bankruptcy soon afterwards. Fortunately for him, the largest of his creditors persuaded most of the others to accept pennies on the dollar in settlement, allowing him to resume shipbuilding by the summer of 1857. By

then, perversely, the generous creditor who had arranged McKay’s escape from bankruptcy had become insolvent himself. His identity was a surprise—Enoch Train. Given his purchase of numerous ships from McKay, Train might have been expected to owe his shipbuilder money, rather than the other way around. Perhaps he had been lending his friend the large sums needed to pay for the multiple ships McKay had been building “on spec” in recent years.

Although Enoch Train was able to settle his debts by selling off assets, the various ventures he then undertook never enjoyed much success. Nor, for that matter, did McKay ever recapture the glory of his first decade in the shipyard that Train had made possible for him. The days of long-haul sailing ships as passenger carriers were over; both men died in relative obscurity, Train in 1868 and McKay in 1880.

For Donald McKay, that has not been the end of his story. As the years passed, wistful memories of the beauty and performance of his clipper ships—and especially of the Flying

Cloud (originally commissioned by Train)—have boosted the shipbuilder’s reputation to almost legendary status. In Boston, he is commemorated by multiple monuments, including a seventy-foot-tall obelisk on one side of the harbor and a massive bust and pavilion on the other. In contrast, Enoch Train, whose friendship, financial support and commissions were crucial to McKay’s career, has largely been forgotten. He surely deserves better, and not only for his role in McKay’s success. During the dozen years he was at its helm, his transAtlantic packet line transported close to 90,000 immigrants to Boston, most of them Ir ish—an influx that helped change the character of the city forever.

This article is based on the author’s recent book on Enoch Train, Transatlantic Train (reviewed in Sea History 182). A native of Liverpool who has lived in the Boston area for many years, Vincent Miles has published three books that connect these port cities in very different ways. Today, he leads and manages investments in young privately held biotech companies for a life-science venture capital firm. (www.

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Flying Cloud by John Stobart. The ship that got away... Enoch Train put in the order for the Flying Cloud but sold it before it was launched. While he made an easy $40,000 on the transaction, he later admitted that selling this vessel would be one of the greatest regrets of his life. THE STOBART FOUNDATION One of several monuments erected in Boston to honor Donald McKay.

WehonorJohnStobart’slifetimeof contributionstotheunderstandingand appreciationofourmaritimeheritage. Afounderofoursociety,Johnknewthat paintersarestorytellers,helpingussee maritimehistory.

HewasalsoanactivememberofNMHS, regularlycontributingandsharinghis workwith SeaHistory’sreaders.



John D. McKean Fireboat

Most people are unaware that New York City has more than 500 miles of waterfront. Manhattan Island alone has 26 miles, which included at one time well over 100 piers. These waterfront facilities were used for cargo vessels and passenger ships of all kinds. To protect this valuable waterfront and those that line the shores in the other four boroughs, the NYC Fire Department established the Floating Engine Division in the late 1800s, later renamed the Marine Division in 1905. The first fireboat was a steam salvage tug equipped with pumps and hoses, contracted in 1866 by the fire department.

Fireboats were later purpose-built, and one of the more notable was the John D. McKean, put into service in 1955. When the McKean was launched, it was considered the finest of her type in the world with a number of features that were considered state of the art for fireboat design. The John D. McKean participated in many calls over its nearly six decades of service, most notably the Staten Island ferry’s terminal fire in September 1991. This was followed by the terror attacks at the World Trade Center in September 2001, and the

fireboat’s participation in the rescue operation of US Airways flight 1549 in January 2009, a.k.a. the “Miracle on the Hudson.” The McKean was decommissioned in 2010 and replaced by the fireboat Three Forty Three, which honors the 343 NYC firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. The McKean was purchased at auction in 2016 by a restaurateur with a vision to connect the vessel to a restaurant that he was planning to open. When this option was no longer feasible, and recognizing its historical significance and wide following, in 2018 he donated the fireboat to a newly formed not-for-profit, Fireboat McKean Preservation Project Inc. (FMPP).

The FMPP’s goal is to preserve and restore the John D. McKean. Funding is needed to transform this historic fireboat into a fully operational vessel with the ability to travel the Hudson River corridor, thus creating educational, tourism, and economic development opportunities. Funding is also needed to hire professionals to make repairs on the fireboat that volunteers are not qualified to do.

Restoration work began in 2018 by dedicated volunteers, who so far have

devoted more than 25,000 hours to the restoration project. Once restored, the McKean will be set up to invite people of all ages to learn about its history as well as the history of fireboats in general, and invite young visitors to consider a career in the maritime industry. Visitors will be able to take in the breathtaking views of the Hudson and consider their own relationship to the river, its history, and its future.

The McKean fireboat is a tremendous historic asset to NYC and the Hudson River Valley communities; it is paramount that we safeguard this irreplaceable treasure. It was recently listed on the State Register for Historic Places, and NY State Park’s Preservation Office is working with FMPP to prepare the fireboat’s nomination for submission to the National Parks Service (NPS) with the intent that the vessel also be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once the NPS approves the John D. McKean’s nomination, the vessel will be one of only eight fireboats in the nation to be placed on this prestigious list.

For more information regarding the Fireboat McKean Preservation Project, go to

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A Haul of a Ship: Lilac Steams into Her 90th Year

The retired US Coast Guard Cutter Lilac, a historic US lighthouse tender, came out of the water for the first time in twenty years on 24 March 2023 at Caddell Dry Dock and Repair on Staten Island. Lilac was launched on 26 May 1933 at the Pusey and Jones Shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware, for the US Lighthouse Service and currently serves as a museum ship and educational platform in New York City. In celebration of her 90th year, Lilac made the trip down the Hudson River and across New York Harbor to undergo repair work at the shipyard. Once the ship was out of the water, work commenced with an inspection of her bottom, and since then her hull has been cleaned, inspected, and painted; steel repairs were commenced, and plans were made for future work.

Ultrasonic gauging determined that a worrisome spot on the port side near the bow, in what had been the dry stores part of the ship, had fallen well below minimum standards. Once that thin plate was cropped out, we found the sections of the frames behind it were

also corroded—enough to warrant replacement. At the stern, a leaky scuttle was causing corrosion in the lazarette, resulting in three small holes through the hull, as well as a hole through to the water tank below. Hull plating and damaged framing was cropped out, a

tricky job in a confined space working around the steering gear. Here, an insert has been welded into the largest hole, but temporary doublers were used for smaller holes because damage to structural components inside this space will need more attention.

The system of anodes installed in 2003 had been checked by divers in intervening years and was known to be nearly exhausted. A system of temporary anodes, hung over the side on brackets, was put in place four years ago to provide galvanic protection until dry docking could be scheduled. New anodes have now been installed on the hull in a system that combines a welded-on and bolted-on attachment that will allow servicing some of them underwater.

USCGC Lilac was built for the US Lighthouse Service, and served as a lighthouse tender for nearly 40 years before she was decommissioned in 1972. She was the last ship in the Coast Guard operating with reciprocating steam engines. 41
Replica bronze US Lighthouse Service emblems were recently installed on Lilac’s bow, cast from the original USLHS emblems. Volunteer Chief of Operations Luke Gayford checks final placement. PHOTO BY RICH PATERSON

(above) Several frames were corroded enough that they had to be cropped and new sections welded in. (below) Shell plate cropping at the forward dry stores area of the ship are nearly completed.

Other work in dry dock has included removing sea chest valves for overhaul, replacing failed deck scuppers, and blanking off through-hull penetrations. Frozen davits have been freed with the help of a shipyard crane. These davits will soon be put back into service to hold an ex-Coast Guard Motor Surf Boat (MSB) that was donated by Jim Paton.

While the ship was out of the water, replica US Lighthouse Service emblems were installed on the bow. These were newly cast in bronze at the Bedi Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn from the original USLHS emblems. The rare originals were donated to Lilac last year by descendants of the ship’s second captain, CWO Charles L. Lewis, and will be placed within a secure display aboard the ship.

Lilac was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and today operates as a pier-side museum during the summer. By press time, she will have re-opened for the 2023 season (on Memorial Day weekend) back at her berth at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 in Manhattan. Exhibits on the history of the ship are being expanded to feature stories from her nine decades of service. Special activities are planned as part of this celebratory year, including an exhibit opening in July at the

National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island that will feature the Delaware River and Bay lighthouses tended by Lilac. The museum will also honor the Lilac Preservation Project at its gala in August.

This dry docking was made possible by a lead gift from Gerald Weinstein, and work has been accomplished through hundreds of hours contributed by skilled volunteers, as well as donations of supplies and professional services. But there is lots more to do to keep this historic ship—the oldest

Coast Guard black hull and only steampowered US lighthouse tender—afloat and restore her for future operation on her original triple-expansion engines. Help celebrate her 90 years by adding your contribution—Lilac Preservation Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit; further information is available online at www.

Become a Part of Maritime History

Historic lighthouses are offered to qualifying entities under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, a federal historic preservation program with the U.S. Coast Guard, GSA and the National Park Service.

Available Lighthouses Include:

Gurnet Lighthouse, Plymouth, MA

Lynde Point Lighthouse, Old Saybrook, CT

Nobska Lighthouse, Woods Hole, MA

Warwick Neck Lighthouse, Warwick, RI

Little Mark Island and Monument, Harpswell, ME

For more information on the available 2023 lights, please contact the U.S. General Services Administration in Boston at (617) 565-5700

Or visit the GSA Lighthouse website:

42 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
Lilac being re-floated on April 24th after work in the dry dock was completed. Lynde Point Lighthouse Photo: B Salfity PHOTO BY RICH PATERSON DRY DOCK PHOTOS BY GERALD WEINSTEIN



Sit in the wardroom of a mighty battleship, touch a powerful torpedo on a submarine, or walk the deck of an aircraft carrier and stand where naval aviators have flown off into history. It’s all waiting for you when you visit one of the 175 ships of the Historic Naval Ships Association fleet.

For information on all our ships and museums, see the HNSA website or visit us on Facebook.

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Devoted to stories about engine-powered vessels, their crews, and their passengers, and published quarterly by SSHSA for more than 80 years.

• 88 pages • Full color

Email or call 1-401-463-3570 and we’ll send you a FREE copy and tell you how to subscribe.

Steam Ship h iStorical Society of a merica

National Historic Landmark & National Memorial to Coast Guardsmen who lost their lives during WWII through Vietnam. Awarded two Naval Presidential Unit Citations for her service during Vietnam.

Credited with sinking U-Boat 626 during convoy duty in the North Atlantic.

Don’t miss the opportunity to tour this ship, learn about its remarkable history, the recently completed underwater re-fit and the current work being done restoring her topsides.

USCGC INGHAM is located in Key West on the Truman Waterfront. You Can Visit ... You Can Help

The foundation seeks donations to continue restoration of this important vessel. Please send your tax-deductible contributions to:

USCGC INGHAM Memorial Museum

P. O. Box 186, Key West, Florida 33041

Phone: (305) 395-9554 • 43
i n f o @ s s h s a . o r g • w w w . s s h s a . o r g
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• •
Photo: Andy Newman
C M Y CM MY CY CMY K 2.25x4.5_HNSA_FleetCOL#1085.pdf 6/5/12 10:47:40 AM
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“Once you’ve seen one ship painting, you’ What We Can Learn from

ve seen them all!”

a Closer Look at Ship Portraiture

As the discussion of ship portraits in this article will feature the paintings in the collection of the Yarmouth County Museum in Nova Scotia, Canada, we will need to learn a little about the shipping of Yarmouth. The year 1879 saw the peak of the shipping industry in Yarmouth. In that year Yarmouth was the secondlargest port of registry in Canada, behind St. John, New Brunswick, but ahead of the larger ports of Montreal, Quebec, and Halifax. Yarmouth’s 437 vessels, with a total tonnage of 160,075 tons, helped to make Canada the fourth-largest shipping nation in the world, after Great Britain, the United States, and Norway. It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that the Yarmouth County Museum contains probably the third-largest collection of ship portraits in Canada.

A high percentage of Yarmouth’s fleet comprised large deep-sea squareriggers that, once they left port, rarely returned to their home port. The town was, at the time, slightly smaller than it is today (just over 7,000 people)—not big enough to warrant an extensive import/export trade utilizing all of its vessels. Instead, the vessels “tramped” in the North Atlantic trades and, later, along trade routes throughout the world. Vessels were built in and around Yarmouth and were owned by local businessmen and operated by local sea captains. Thus, the profits returned to Yarmouth, even if the vessels themselves seldom did.

All of these factors must be kept in mind when considering the subject of 45
Maria Stoneman on her beam ends Lat 36 Long 69.30 February 2nd 1876, signed “Ed Adam, Havre 1877,” oil on canvas, 41 x 50 ½ inches.

ship portraits. Ships were expensive to build and fit out, and when large amounts of money were invested, people wanted something to show for it. If the investment literally sailed over the horizon, what could they show their friends? How might they impress fellow businessmen? A photograph would do, but a large colorful painting of a ship hanging in the office or on a living-room wall was definitely preferable.

Shipowners were not the only people commissioning portraits, however. Often the captain would have a painting of his command, as would, infrequently, other members of the crew, although the latter were more likely, in later years, to purchase a photo of the painting.

Ship portraits are not usually considered to be great works of art and thus have often been dismissed out of hand. This should not be the case, however, as a great deal can be learned from them. While they may not be artistic masterpieces that evoke great feelings in the cultured mind, they were not meant to be. They were created to satisfy the businessman and the seaman.

Typically, a ship’s portrait was commissioned by the captain in a major seaport such as Liverpool, LeHavre, Antwerp, New York, or Hong Kong. If his eagle eye determined that the depiction was correct in every detail—including all the rigging—he would then agree to purchase the painting. He was not looking for an artist’s conception of his ship, he wanted a portrait of it. And that is generally what he got—a formal, often stiff, depiction of his vessel with all the details included.

This is where the real value of a ship portrait lies—especially to students of maritime history—for they can pore over the painting and discover a wealth of information. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” after all.

If the captain bought the painting on behalf of the owner, then the house flag of the owner usually would be flying from the main truck. A captain’s painting, on the other hand, often flew the ship’s name pennant from the same location. He—and possibly his family—might be shown on the poop deck, as shipowners frequently allowed their masters to take their families, or at least their wives and perhaps their youngest child, to sea. Many wives spent years at sea with their husbands and some children grew up hardly knowing a home which didn’t move.1

An owner would like a painting showing his vessel underway, with all sails drawing well and possibly approaching some well-known port, often with an attendant pilot cutter or an identifiable lighthouse in the background. A captain might, however, choose a picture showing the ship in a dreadful storm. He could then expound on the savage conditions shown in the painting and what action he was required to take. Indeed, in some cases,

we even read in the caption the date and latitude and longitude of the storm,2 sometimes accompanied by the phrase “from a sketch by the master.”3

Certain artists developed a reputation for their paintings of storm scenes, while others specialized in a pair of portraits featuring both fair and foul weather scenes. The Italian painter Luigi Roberto of Naples comes to mind for his foul-weather paintings depicting a vessel in rough waters but not in a specific storm. On the other hand, among the best-known storm-scene artists were Edouard Adam of LeHavre and H. Peterson and P. C. Holm of Altona (now a western suburb of Hamburg, Germany). Let’s take a look at some examples.

Maria Stoneman

The newspaper report of Maria Stoneman’s arrival at Dublin, Ireland, on 29 February 1876 states, in benign terms: “She had experienced heavy weather and lost mizzenmast and all attached.” The painting ( previous page) shows how

46 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023

utterly banal these words are. The storm could easily have meant the complete loss of the ship and her crew. It was a year later when Captain Aaron Webster Blauvelt of Tusket, Nova Scotia, put into LeHavre, France, and commissioned Edouard Adam to paint the scene—and a fast job of it he did as the Maria Stoneman arrived there on 2 February 1877 and left on the 18th of the same month.

In the painting ( previous page) we see the conditions as Captain Blauvelt would have described them to Adam: twelve of the crew (probably all of them) mustered aft on the windward side of the poop deck with two jibs and a reefed foresail set, the main lower topsail had been goose-winged but has now been hastily (and poorly) furled with a broken starboard topgallant yard and related gear. The mizzen mast, which likely still had a goose-winged topsail set, has gone completely overboard but, due to the waves still breaking over the port side of the poop deck, has not yet been cut 47
Close-up views of the Maria Stoneman portrait reveal all kinds of details that help tell the story of the ship’s near destruction in an 1876 storm at sea.

away and allowed to drift free of the ship to prevent injury to the hull. The port hand braces from the main yard are either broken or tangled with the mizzen mast. One of the boats is adrift and another from the forward skid may have been completely washed away. To ease the stress on the ship and her crew, an oil barrel has been sent over the port bow to, hopefully, provide some calming effect on the waves. Oftentimes a master might write a letter to the local papers at home to explain the situation but, it seems, not in this case. It’s interesting to note that Captain Blauvelt waited for a year before his ship arrived in LeHavre (after crossing the Atlantic four times) before commissioning the well-known Adam to paint this storm scene.


This painting shows the major event in the Somerset ’s passage from New York to Hull in 1876 / 1877 with a cargo of naphtha. “In distress, she limped into Falmouth on 28 November 1876— where repairs were made and this painting was executed.” What can be learned from the painting? As we can see, the brigantine is struggling, having already lost her bowsprit and jibboom, as well as her foremast above and including the foretopmast—the latter may have been chopped away by the crewmember with the ax shown clinging to the top of the foremast (see page 50 ). The spanker is blown out. It had remained set in spite of the hurricane-force winds to allow the vessel to lie-to with her stern forced downwind by the spanker, thereby keeping her bow to the seas and riding as easily as possible. Often times in this situation the fore lower topsail might be set in goose-wing

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38 …
Brigt’n “Somerset” Capt G. C. Haley, in a Hurricane Nov’r 8th 1876 Lat 40. Long 49 …
331. Tons Reg. Alexander K. Branden, Falmouth, England (signature indistinguishable: “A K B”), oil on canvas, 24 x 36 ¾ inches.

fashion to keep the vessel’s heading slightly out of the eye of the wind and so the seas hit the ship just to the side of the bow, rather than from directly ahead. In this view, all the toppled sails appear furled, so apparently that was not the case in this situation.

A close look at amidships (right) reveals an oil barrel in the water off the port beam, plus three more off the port quarter and astern. A sea anchor might also be streamed, the drag of which would also help keep the bow to the wind. This painting doesn’t show that this was the case.

As we look further aft (bottom), we can see more action being taken. Two sailors are holding Hattie, Captain Haley’s daughter, and are about to tie her to the mast—a safer option due to a flooded cabin. Family history confirms this action being taken. Nearer

A known method of easing the stress on a ship in stormy seas was to stream oil over the side. A thin film of oil at the surface was often enough to keep waves from breaking around the hull.

the stern, another crew member, with an ax in hand, is standing by the companionway to the cabin. We can see a woman’s head poking out of the cabin, presumably Mrs. Haley. (Hattie was the grandmother of the painting’s donor to the museum.)

A. W. Singleton

According to the caption of this fine descriptive painting (see page 52), this event took place on 9 February 1873. The barque A. W. Singleton was close to the end of her passage from Philadelphia to Hamburg, most likely with a load of case oil. She was anchored at the Downs, awaiting either a favorable wind or, possibly, a tug to help her complete the voyage. In a story handed down through the descendants of Captain Samuel

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A crewmember aloft cutting away broken and fouled rigging.

Messenger, the wind came up from a certain direction and, on the advice of the navigational reference books, such as Sailing Directions or English Channel Pilot, he slipped his anchor and put to sea. The vessels that did not heed this advice were driven onto the inhospitable shore. The donor of this painting still had in his possession (in 1988) a drawing of this wreckage.

According to the Yarmouth Herald, the Singleton was back at the Downs the following day, where she was supplied with replacement anchors and chains by the ship chandlers of Deal. Weather forecasts and results were confirmed in the Times (London). Lloyds

List of February 1873 indicates that “The A. W. Singleton, Messenger, from Philadelphia to Hamburg has taken the assistance of a local crew; she is reported to have slipped from both anchors and chains, has since been supplied from here with one anchor and 120

fathoms of chain and has proceeded ….” and “Deal—Feb 10 noon, the A. W. Singleton has been supplied with a second anchor and 120 fathoms of chain.”

Additional local crew taken onboard account for the large number of men observed aboard the Singleton, both on deck and in the rigging. In the foreground is a reefed-down Deal lugger (or galley), a substantial vessel of some 38 to 40 feet in length, with 12 ½-foot beam and a draft of 7 ½ feet. Luggers were used both to transport men and to recover slipped anchors or supply vessels with new or extra anchors and cables. The latter would have been quite a feat of seamanship, but these Deal boat handlers were practiced hands at that.

It is estimated that the A. W. Singleton’ s newly provided anchors might have weighed between a ton and a ton and a half. 120 fathoms of chain cables, even broken down into “shackle” lengths of

15 fathoms, would have added significant weight and could not have been easy to handle.

The painting shows only the action of the first day, when the ship was putting to sea for safety. We can see that all the crew, along with the additional men from Deal, are on deck—some 32 people—including five on the mainyard who have just loosed the gaskets in preparation to set the mainsail. Having finished their task, five others are climbing down the shrouds.

Two men on the starboard shrouds have placed themselves in a dangerous position, as experienced sailors would have known that they should climb only on the windward side, to both avoid the slack leeward shrouds and so that the strong wind would blow them onto—and not off—the standing rigging. There is no mistake on the part of the artists, as they have quite correctly shown the men holding onto the 51
Detail of personnel on the deck of the beleagured Somerset. (left) Two sailors are lashing the captain’s daughter to the mainmast. (right) A crewmember stands by with an ax to cut away fouled rigging that could endanger the ship.

shrouds (the vertical lines) rather than the ratlines (the horizontal lines). This is always done in case the ratline, which was made of smaller rope, parted; they would at least have a hold of something more solid.

There is a mystery to this story in that we do not know what happened to the A. W. Singleton between 10 and 28 February, when the ship finally arrived in Hamburg. Incidentally, while in Hamburg she was sold to Norwegian interests, thereby ending Yarmouth’s involvement with the vessel.

Mary Killam

To those who say, “Once you’ve seen one ship painting, you’ve seen them all!” we might offer to show them this portrait of the barque Mary Killam. It is a fairly unusual painting, with lots to commend it—the details are amazing. Being a watercolor, it has, faded

52 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
A. W. Singleton, S. E. Messenger Master after slipping from the Downs. Feb 9th 1873 from a sketch by the Master, signed “H. Petersen and P. C. Holm 1873,” oil on canvas, 22 ½ x 34 inches. Crew and extra hands setting sail.

somewhat since 1871, when it was painted by Jacob Spin of Amsterdam.

Spin’s style was unusual and somewhat old-fashioned for the time, in that he frequently painted more than one

view of the vessel in a single painting; this is the case with the Mary Killam as, in addition to the starboard beam view of the vessel in the foreground, we also see, at right, a port quarter view

of the same ship. It is interesting to note that, in the secondary view, the sails are set on a port tack, according to the wind conditions observed in the main view. 53
Mary Killam of Yarmouth. M. S. W. Butler. Commd. Duncenes 1871, [sic] signed “J. Spin. 1871 / Amsterdam,” watercolor, 20 x 27 ½ inches. Mary Killam’s crew on the main deck and foc’s’lehead.

Perhaps the most interesting feature in this painting is the large number of crew on deck, some 15 in total. They are all standing or talking in natural positions, either casually resting an arm on the rail or pointing to a distant vessel or, in the case of the figure standing on the forecastle, pointing at work to be done. One man, likely the ship’s master, Captain Butler, is chatting with his wife, Elizabeth (née Trask), who is holding their son, George Killam Butler, born the previous year.

If we look at the sails in the main picture we can see that several stunsails (studding sails) are set, including the main topgallant stunsails set both to windward and leeward, the fore topmast stunsail is set only on the windward side, (one set to leeward would have been blanketed by the large set of canvas on the mainmast as well as by the main topgallant staysail), and the fore stunsail on the port side, which one can just see, billowing out above the head of the white-capped sailor on the forecastle head. The windward clew (lower corner) of the mainsail has been hoisted up slightly to allow more wind into the main topmast staysail and the foresail. The fore topmast staysail (below the jib) is “shivering” from lack of wind. In this strong breeze the signal flags are

extended straight out. Incidentally, the signal flags are blowing in the correct direction for the wind conditions, while the ensign and the “answering pennant”3 are merely flapping about in the eddies behind the spanker. The sails are all depicted properly, given a wind coming off the vessel’s port quarter—and what a magnificent spread of canvas it is! The artist has given us more proof that he and his fellow ship portrait artists knew exactly what they were painting.

A close inspection of the individual sails reveals that all the lines crossing the sails are shown correctly, including buntlines and leech lines. Reef bands and reef points are shown, as are the gaskets, coiled and hanging from the jackstays along the head of each square sail, which are used to pass around the sail when it is furled. Even the sails are depicted with all the proper details— reef bands, reinforcement patches, tabling, and extra panels stitched on to prevent chafing.

In the painting, the barque is slightly heeled towards the viewer, allowing a better look at the deck layout. Of interest here is the fact that the poop deck extends forward to just ahead of the mainmast, which would allow for more cabin space for the afterguard.

Why would this be? Were there more officers onboard than the typical captain and first and second mates? In addition to the helmsman, there are four men in view on the poop deck—one might be a third mate.

The location noted on the bottom of the painting does pose a problem. Had not the location of “Duncenes” been provided in the caption, one might assume that it is the Cliffs of Dover in the background. The number of vessels in the distance suggests the busy shipping in the Channel, but we have not found “Duncenes” in any atlas. We might understand it to be a misspelling of the Dutch word for Dungeness—a flat area of shingle jutting out from the coast just west of Dover, where there has been a lighthouse for many years. In fact, there is a lighthouse shown, albeit faintly, on the extreme left of the painting. According to various volumes of English Channel Pilot, however, the Dungeness Light was painted red.4

The only distraction regarding this portrait is Spin’s use of white paint, whose pigment has not faded to the same extent as the other colors. Nevertheless, all in all, this is a fine descriptive painting of the Mary Killam.

To sum up, the more people understand about sailing ships—their

54 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
Crew manning the aft deck; Captain Butler with his family are forward of the main cabin.

operation, seamanship, and general nautical knowledge—the more they will see in ship portraits and the more they will admire and appreciate the work of the artists. When documents or stories of the specific vessel exist, particularly if they relate directly to the painting, such as a severe storm, then many more details can be searched for and understood.

If the reader is beginning to realize that a ship portrait is more than just a representation of a vessel, then this article has served its purpose. Each portrait demands that questions be asked about the ship to make it come alive. What ports did she visit? Who were her owners, masters, and crew? What took place aboard her: harsh treatment of the crew, for example, ceremonies, desertions, deaths, or even births? What ports did she visit, what storms did she encounter, and what eventually happened to her? If a painting could only tell the ship’s full story, what a collection of history we would have.

Eric Ruff, FCMA, is curator emeritus of the Yarmouth County Museum, where he served as director and curator between 1974 and 2005. Born in an English pub in 1945, he grew up near Birmingham and later, Hamilton, Ontario. He graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and in 1968 took part in a transAtlantic race in the yawl Pickle. As an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, he served aboard ships HMCS Saguenay and HMCS Nipigon from 1968 to 1971. Ruff was named a Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association in 2001. He is a member of the internationally renowned ensemble, the Yarmouth Shantymen.


1 The author, when he first became curator of the Yarmouth County Museum in 1974, had three volunteers who had been to sea in their father’s square-rigger, one of whom had spent most of her childhood aboard ships until the First World War made it too dangerous.

2 For example, “Barque ‘Mizpah’ in a hurricane, Feb. 13. 1880.

48,34. Long. 39,15. Captain M. Dowley.” 55
Lat. 3 The answering pennant flown below the ensign was used after the introduction of the Commercial Code to differentiate between this code and the older Marryat’s Code. 4 Hobbs, New British Channel Pilot, p. 11; Norie, Sailing Directions for the English Channel, p. 11; Reid, Reid’s Coaster’s Assistant & Seaman’s New Guide, p. 148.
In a similar portrait of the same vessel by Jacob Spin, the ship in the foreground is sailing on a starboard tack, with the viewer off its port beam.
Details of lower topsail and mainsail showing additional canvas bands and gaskets. Note also the shadows of other sails.

Maritime Careers

Author – Illustrator

(and part-time college professor)

When Rich King was growing up outside Philadelphia, he thought he might become a political cartoonist. He always loved to draw cartoons and write, and he has both artists and authors in his immediate family, so it seemed like a calling from a very young age. For a guy who has spent most of his adult life studying and teaching about the oceanic world, as well as sailing across the oceans for tens of thousands of miles, as a kid, he didn’t have much exposure to the ocean outside of a few day trips to the Jersey shore.

That all changed after college (he majored in psychology). Looking for a job as an English teacher, he went to a conference and made a fortuitous stop at a table where people were promoting a high

school semester-at-sea program. Soon, Rich was on the high seas and discovering the ocean in a way he had never known before. After eleven months crisscrossing the Pacific, he was hooked. Rich has been involved with sail training education and maritime studies ever since. He also went back to school, earning a PhD from the University of St. Andrews, focusing on writing and more study of literature of the sea.

Rich has had all sorts of jobs in and around the water, from working on a commercial lobster boat to crewing on sailing ships, to teaching college students maritime history and literature of the sea. These days he calls himself mostly an author and illustrator. He works most of the time from his home office, where he has settled into a regular routine of conducting research, reading,

writing, and drawing. Regular readers of Sea History’s Animals in Sea History feature recognize Rich as the creator of that content—both the written story and the fantastic illustrations. He has written six books and illustrated two children’s books; he mainly focuses his work on marine environmental history.

Rich still goes to sea. In addition to teaching college courses (on land) on maritime history and literature, he also teaches for a semester-at-sea program for the Sea Education Association (SEA). This summer, he’ll be sailing from Hawai’i to Fiji aboard SEA’s sailing research vessel Robert C. Seamans.

Going to sea always gives me plenty of ideas for new projects. I always learn something new, and it gives

Sea Education Association’s sailing research vessel Robert C. Seamans. Rich teaches a college semester at sea aboard this ship and has sailed onboard in waters around New Zealand and across the Pacific Ocean.

56 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
Richard J. King

me an opportunity to share what I’ve learned with the ship’s students and crewmembers. When we see a sperm whale or a mahi-mahi in the water or a frigatebird land aloft on the ship’s yard, or we collect a pyrosome in our plankton net, I turn to my Animals in Sea History column to offer a more historical perspective on what we are seeing and what those who experienced similar observations from the past had to say about it.

Rich spent most of his life on the East Coast, but after a move to California with his family a couple years ago, he is back sailing in the Pacific a lot. When he isn’t in the library researching a topic or teaching out at sea, he gets most of his work done at home.

I usually try to do my writing in the morning, when my attention span is longer. I try to turn off the internet for an hour or two to reduce distractions. I often save drawing for the afternoon, when I can spread out and listen to music—or podcasts about the New England Patriots. One of the advantages of working for myself is that I can schedule my days as I see fit. I’m learning to surf, so I often take a break in the middle of the day to go down to the beach, depending on the tide and ocean conditions. Or I’ll go for a run or walk our dog. When I am researching for a new book or article, I often interview scientists and other experts over Zoom or visit them out in the field.

Rich has a new book out based on the animals he has written about and illustrated for the last 17 years for Sea History called Ocean Bestiary: Meeting Marine Life from Abalone to Orca

to Zooplankton. He’ll be out at sea by the time you read this, but he’ll be back at his drafting table when he gets back, prepping his next article for Sea History. 57
PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF RICHARD J. KING Rich in his home office in Santa Cruz, California. Rich at sea off New Zealand listening with a hydrophone to dusky dolphins.


he earliest known written record of Maldives tuna is from the 1340s, left by the great Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta, who spent four years in the Maldives during his 30-year travel odyssey throughout Afro-Eurasia.

Ibn Battuta wrote: “The food of the natives consists of a fish… they call koulb al mâs. Its flesh is red; it has no grease, but its smell resembles that of mutton. When caught at the fishery, each fish is cut up into four pieces and then slightly cooked. It is then placed in baskets of coco leaves and suspended in the smoke. It is eaten when perfectly dry.” Battuta wrote that the tuna was then shipped to India, China, and Yemen.

The when, why, and how fishers from the Maldives archipelago,


located a few hundred miles southwest of the southern tip of India, caught and dried their tuna is a surprising and ancient story, especially considering that it never would have become known so broadly if it were not for a snail.

Dr. Shreya Yadav and her research team out of the University of Hawai’i recently explained that the first human settlers of the Maldives lived the same way as many early settlers of other atolls, where water is scarce and coconut palms and a few other plants are the only tenable crops. For protein, perhaps in addition to seabird eggs, the settlers likely first turned to local fish and shellfish found in the coral reefs near shore, then began to sail farther out to capture tuna in deeper waters.

Sometime before 850 CE, centuries before Ibn Battuta’s travels, visiting Arabian and other international traders found in the Maldives a convenient port when sailing within their rapidly expanding network in the Indian Ocean. These traders discovered that the Maldives were blessed with prolific populations of a small saltwater snail called cowry, which became the first truly global, cross-cultural currency.

Like the coins that later replaced them, cowry are small, they stay shiny, and their available population was finite and controllable for a full millennium. Cowry shells served as money throughout the Indian Ocean region, into Africa and the western Pacific Rim, and even into Europe. Fishers throughout the Maldives—

58 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
The money cowry (Monetaria moneta) crawling upside on a rock underwater.

especially women—raised and harvested cowries from constructed floats of wood and branches, an early aquaculture. As Ibn Battuta traveled throughout the Middle East and parts of India in the 1300s, he wrote of the use of cowry shells and how the people of the Maldives remained the major global supplier.

The regular commercial ship traffic in and out of the Maldives to retrieve cowries helped expand the tuna fishery because it provided trading pathways. Dried tuna can remain edible for months, even years if stored properly. As Ibn Battuta explained, Maldivians boiled the tuna in saltwater—usually skip-

jack and less often yellowfin tuna—and then smoked hunks for shipping and storage. Because the Indian Ocean is so affected by stormy monsoon seasons, when fishing is more difficult, tuna were especially prized because they could be dried and kept on hand until the weather was safe for venturing out on the ocean again. In the centuries before refrigeration or canning, not only did dried tuna from the Maldives become a staple in local recipes throughout the cities and towns around the rim of the Indian Ocean, but the preserved fish might have also been a regular food source at sea for sailors, supplementing their regular menu of salted meats and sea turtle. 59
Maldivian dollar bills feature images of the tuna fisheries.

Yadav and her research team explained that the fishers of the Maldives were able to capture tuna so successfully, in part, because they had a long history of building boats (using wood from coconut trees) in order to travel from island to island. They were also never more than a day trip from deep water because of the oceanography of their archipelago. The fishers of the Maldives baited their hooks with live smaller fish that they captured along the reefs on the way out, or the fishers simply chummed the water and brought in the tuna on baitless hooks. With communities focused on the offshore tuna fishery, a likely unintentional benefit in the Maldives was that people over the centuries had less environmental impact on local coral reefs.

Five hundred years after Ibn Battuta’s visit, the cowry trade began collapsing in the 19th century due to shell inflation (true story). Today, the low-lying archipelago is known more for tourism than fishing and for the imminent threat it faces from sea level rise. Yet with its snail-based currency long gone, the right to fish tuna has now become its own currency of sorts. In control of a huge ocean territory, the Maldives government earns income by selling the right to fish in its waters to other nations. Smaller Maldivian boats still fish primarily by pole and line, which eliminates bycatch and ensures the quality of the fish. As a result, the Indian Ocean tuna fisheries using this method have been certified as one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, fished in nearly the same way that the great traveler Ibn Battuta observed nearly 700 years ago.

For more Animals in Sea History see,, or the just-released book, Ocean Bestiary: Meeting Marine Life from Abalone to Orca to Zooplankton, a revised collection of over 17 years of this column!

“Sea History for Kids” is sponsored by the Henry L. & Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation

60 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
Maldivian fishers hooking skipjack tuna off the stern of their boats. 61 Ocean Bestiary Meeting Marine Life from Abalone to Orca to Zooplankton Wri en and i ustrated by Richard J. King “King’s writing style is delightful and wi y; he is a natural storyte er. Readers wi also love his i ustrations, which have the power to put smiles on faces. Highly recommended.” Library Journal Cloth $22.50 Uc25162 Sea History third page The University of Chicago Press


The world-voyaging barque Picton Castle is underway for her 8th world voyage! After months of delays beyond anyone’s control (the winch at the shipyard where the ship was hauled out last fall broke, and it took until this spring to get it fixed and get the ship back in the water), the ship, her captain, the professional crew, and her complement of trainees got off the dock in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, on 10 May, outward bound for points south. Picton Castle’ s master, Captain Daniel D. Moreland wrote: “We are outward bound again, headed south for an island passage into the Caribbean Sea and across Panama. We are looking forward to seeing the Southern Cross again, and more. Onward, southward, westward—many blue-water miles to sail, islands and lands to see and draw from before we return to these seabound coasts.” Moreland explained that the experience of sailing around the world under sail goes beyond teaching young mariners how to sail a square-rigged ship on the high seas, that it provides an opportunity to learn about other cultures and to learn how to become a better global citizen. A phrase oft-repeated onboard tells it

all: “We cannot change the wind, but we adjust the sails!” (You can follow the ship’s voyage over the next 15 months and inquire about joining the ship for upcoming legs of the world voyage at … This year, Gloucester, Massachusetts, marks its 400 th anniversary with a year-long celebration. First up is the Gloucester Maritime Rendezvous, a weekend full of on-the-water and land-based activities. The harbor will come alive with

iconic vessels celebrating the seaport’s schooner history, with Bluenose II, Columbia, Pride of Baltimore II, and When and If joining local schooners Adventure, Ardelle, Thomas E. Lannon, and Isabella for deck tours, ticketed sails, and charter opportunities. The dory race between Gloucester rowers and their Canadian counterparts will take place on 8 July. August has been declared by the state of Massachusetts as Fisherman’s Heritage Month. Events

62 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
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PHOTO BY SUSAN CORKUM GREEK Barque Picton Castle departing Lunenburg, NS, 10 May 2023.

are planned all month, but not to be missed is the Fisherman’s Heritage Festival on 12–13 August. Finally, the culminating event of the summer will be the 39th Annual Gloucester Schooner Festival, 31 August through 3 September, and Maritime Heritage Day on 4 September. Founded in 2000 to transform the site of the oldest continuously operated marine railway in the country to a museum and maritime heritage and education center, Maritime Gloucester works to inspire visitors to value marine science, maritime heritage, and environmental stewardship through hands-on educational experiences. ( ; www. ... South Street Seaport Museum has announced it will be offering excursions aboard the recently restored 1930 tugboat W. O. Decker in New York Harbor this summer. Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, the

Decker is the last surviving New Yorkbuilt wooden tugboat. This 75-minute boat ride allows passengers to take in stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governors Island, and the Battery. W. O. Decker departs from Pier 16 (Fulton and South Streets) in Manhattan on Saturdays and Sundays through September. (Information at … 63 CHESAPEAKE BAY MARITIME MUSEUM Your Chesapeake adventure begins here! 213 N. Talbot St., St. Michaels, MD | 410-745-2916 |
Gloucester Schooner Festival PHOTO BY CHARLEY SEAVEY W. O. Decker

Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum has rebranded and changed its name to Maritime Museum Louisiana, effective this past January. “Our name change more accurately reflects our mission of bringing Louisiana’s unique maritime history to life,” explained Jim MacPherson, the museum’s executive director. “The old name didn’t accurately reflect the goal of preserving the whole of Louisiana’s rich maritime history and tradition.” Built on the former site of the Jahncke Shipyard, which built six wooden ships for the US Navy in World War II, the museum features a reproduction of the Civil War-era experimental submarine Pioneer and the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse and Lightkeeper’s Cottage. Its annual fall Wooden Boat Festival draws over 30,000 visitors. (MML, 133 Mabel Drive, Madisonville, ) … The Maritime Museum of San Diego’s proposal for a redevelopment of its campus has been approved by the Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners; it will now be subjected to environmental review. The museum is seeking to construct a new two-story 14,000-squarefoot building to house galleries, an

educational theater, a café, a museum store, public access terraces, a dock-anddine space for recreational boaters, administrative offices, and back-of-house functions. The proposed structure would be built on a pile-supported pier at the museum’s current location along the San Diego waterfront. Additionally, the proposal includes reconfiguring the dock area and mooring locations of the museum’s fleet of vessels to create a more visually enticing venue and to safeguard the vessels from tide and weather events. The estimated price tag on the project is $28 million, with funding coming from state grants, private financing and fundraising. During the next stage of the process, the proposal will undergo environmental review, while details on funding, a lease agreement, and other issues are worked out. In other MMSD news, restoration has been completed on the 1902 sailboat Butcher Boy. Built to deliver fresh provisions to larger vessels too big to enter San Diego Bay, Butcher Boy was designed for speed. The vessel has been recognized as the region’s oldest workboat—and oldest racing yacht. She has been part of the MMSD collection since 1972. The Maritime Museum of San Diego was founded in 1948; today it is

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the home of one of the country’s largest collections of historic vessels. (1492 North Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA; … The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, recently acquired the manuscript journal Yacht Cleopatra’s Barge on a Voyage of Pleasure, Vol. 1, that was kept by George Crowninshield Jr. in 1817—the last year of his life. Bound in red Morocco boards with gilt stamping, the journal includes

22 watercolor, pen-and-ink, and pencil illustrations by an unknown artist of harbors, towns, and landscapes encountered during the famous yacht’s inaugural voyage in 1816–1817. Accompanying the journal is a letter book containing copies of passports, letters of credit, letters of introduction, and recommendations that Crowninshield and his passengers used at various ports. Cleopatra’s Barge was launched in Salem on 21 October 1816 and set sail on the

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is to spend at least half of the day outdoors. Children will explore the flora and fauna of the Chesapeake Bay both in the water (wearing life jackets and under close adult supervision), on the shore, and via resources like a life-sized model of an oyster reef. The themes of maritime heritage and environmental literacy will be incorporated into every lesson. (AMM, 723 Second Street, Annapolis MD; … The wreck of the Montevideo Maru , which sank after being torpedoed on 1 July 1942 by USS Sturgeon , has been located off the coast of the Philippines at a depth of over 4,000 meters. Unbeknownst to the Allied forces at the time, the ship was carrying approximately 1,060 prisoners of war and civilians, including at approximately 979 Australian troops and civilians, making it the worst maritime disaster in Australia’s history. The mission to locate the wreck was the culmination of five years of planning by the partnership between Silentworld Foundation,

vessel, we hope to bring closure to the many families devastated by this terrible disaster.” The team has stated that the wreckage of the ship will not be disturbed, and no artifacts or remains will be removed. The Montevideo Maru, a freighter requisitioned by the Japanese

navy, was carrying military personnel and civilians taken prisoner after the invasion of the town of Rabaul, on the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain, in New Guinea. The ship was en route to Hainan without any markings identifying it as carrying POWs, when it was

an Australian organization dedicated to supporting and promoting Australasian maritime archaeology, history, culture, and heritage; the Dutch deepsea survey company Fugro; and the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, with support from the Australian Department of Defence. The team aboard the hydrographic survey vessel Fugro Equator began its search on 12 April and located the wreck site 12 days later, verifying the ship’s identity by analysis of the data several days later. “The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in international military and maritime history,” said John Mullen, director of the Silentworld Foundation. “Today, by finding the

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sunk by the Sturgeon. The full story of the ship and the deaths of the men on board was not fully known in Australia until after the war. ... On 27 April the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum announced its intention to acquire two properties contiguous to its waterfront campus, including the current home of the Crab Claw Restaurant. The terms of the sale call for the restaurant to continue doing business under its ownership for the 2023

season. The site dates as far back as a mention of a pier in the 1877 Lake, Griffing, & Stevenson Atlas of Talbot & Dorchester Counties; the town’s steamboat wharf stood on the site by the 1890s. Business on that site started in the 1950s as a clam and oyster shucking house. In 1965, owners Bill and Sylvia Jones converted it into The Crab Claw. ( ; 213 North Talbot Street, St. Michaels, MD; www.cbmm. org ) … The Hermione-La Fayette Association has launched an appeal for €6.5 million (just over $7 million) to repair the hull of L’Hermione, a replica of the ship that carried the Marquis de La Fayette to America to support the revolutionaries Carpenters performing routine maintenance discovered severe damage caused by a wood-destroying fungus; approximately 7% of the total surface area of the

70 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
The Crab Claw Restaurant, adjacent to the CBMM campus. L’Hermione WIKIPEDIA COMMONS CBMM

ship was affected, and it was concluded that, in this compromised state, the ship was not safe to sail. The association has spent €3.5 million (about $3.8 million) to evaluate the areas infected and on initial repairs, including the application of copper sheeting to strengthen the

affected planks enough to get the vessel to dry dock. The original Hermione was built over a five-month period in 1779–1780 in Rochefort, France. In 1997 the dry dock and facilities at Rochefort were restored in order to build a replica on site, using the plans of a sister-ship from

Battle of Buchan Ness— Epitaph for an Exceptional Ship

On 30 March, the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation (KNF) opened a new permanent exhibit that highlights the original Kalmar Nyckel’ s last voyage and battle in 1652. The exhibit, Battle of Buchan Ness—Epitaph for an Exceptional Ship, tells the story of the original Kalmar Nyckel’ s demise fighting for the Dutch against an English fleet off the coast of Scotland on 22 July 1652. The Battle of Buchan Ness was the first official engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War, a contest fought over global trading empires, fishing rights, and control of the seas around the British Isles (for more about the battle, see Sea History 171). The centerpiece of the exhibit is a newly commissioned oil painting by award-winning marine artist Patrick O’Brien. The image is also reproduced in a gorgeous wall-sized lightbox measuring 24 feet by 9½ feet. “It’s ironic that the final voyage is the best-documented event of the original ship’s entire 25-year career, but there are no paintings or illustrations of the battle. We know the battle was a swirling three-hour slugfest with a fleet of 66 English warships attacking 15 Dutch escorts that were guarding 600 Dutch fishing boats. The ab sence of imagery turned out to be an advantage,” said Sam Heed, KNF’s senior historian and director of education. “It gave us the opportunity to create a modern interpretation of the battle, which we thought would be essential for an under standing of the ship’s last chapter. But to do the battle justice, we needed an extraordinary talent, an artist capable of repre senting such a majestic and complicated scene involving so many ships. We selected Patrick O’Brien—and the results have been phenomenal.” See the new exhibit at KNF’s Copeland Maritime Center in Wilmington, Delaware, and explore the rich maritime, colonial, and industrial history of the Delaware Valley. You can also sail aboard the modern recreation (built in 1997) of Kalmar Nyckel, the official Tall Ship of Delaware. The ship will visit Norfolk and Yorktown, Virginia, in June, and head to the North Fork of Long Island, New York, and New England in August. She will also voyage to Bristol, Pennsylvania, in September and Sultana’ s Downrigging fes tival in Chestertown, Maryland, in late October. (Visit Kal or call the KNF office, 302 429-7447, for the full schedule.)

the era that had been seized and documented by the Royal Navy. The ship was launched in 2012 and sailed across the Atlantic, visiting ports along the East Coast in 2015 to celebrate the relationship between France and the United States.

Artist Patrick O’Brien giving his remarks at the unveiling of the new exhibit. KNF

Clotilda : The History and Archaeology of the Last Slave Ship by James P. Delgado, Deborah E. Marx, Kyle Lent, Joseph Grinnan, and Alexander DeCaro (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2023, 323pp, maps, illus, gloss, biblio, index, isbn 978-0-8173-2151-2; $39.95hc)

Given the distinguished scientific team who produced Clotilda: The History and Archaeology of the Last Slave Ship, one might expect a volume dense with technical detail, therefore making for a potentially dry read. Nothing could be further from the truth. The authors have created a wonderfully engaging book that, while telling the story of the vessel’s rediscovery and identification with great precision, brilliantly conveys the drama and intrigue of this schooner’s dark story.

Exceptionally well-chosen illustrations complement the text and provide essential historic context. For example,

in the opening chapter, the authors have inserted a little-known but fascinating demographic map that conveys the location and density of the enslaved population of the United States on the eve of the Civil War, county by county, based on the returns of the 1860 census. This map reveals clearly how most enslaved labor was clustered around southern river systems and tidal waterways that provided essential fluvial transport for heavy plantation-produced agricultural goods. This map demonstrates at a glance the great economic importance of the rivers that feed Mobile Bay in Alabama, and the reason why demand for the enslaved laborers smuggled aboard the schooner Clotilda was so high in that region.

Based on extraordinary firsthand experience with maritime archival resources and marine archaeology, this work illuminatingly describes the methods and tools used throughout the

Shipwrecked and RESCUED

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complicated process of finding and identifying the Clotilda shipwreck. How this otherwise unremarkable vessel rose to prominence through an extraordinary plot to illegally transport enslaved people from West Africa to Mobile Bay in 1860 is the subject of the opening and penultimate chapters of this longawaited, much anticipated volume. In tracing this process, the reader gains a rich and intimate knowledge of the maritime culture of the Deep South during the slavery era.

The authors’ jointly written, intriguing, highly innovative analysis has resulted in a subtle, layered story, providing a comprehensive exploration of the history of maritime trade in the antebellum Gulf of Mexico, as well as a much-needed window into the lives of enslaved individuals and the society that held them in the southern US just prior to the Civil War. Delgado and his colleagues have produced a first-rate read, with thorough scholarly apparatus that illuminates the central but oftneglected dimension of the maritime experiences within slave trade systems, and it would be equally appreciated by both specialists and general students of slavery and American history. Readers

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This edition opens with an account of Clotilda’s final voyage, in which the authors set up the dramatic context of the clandestine attempt to import enslaved people in violation of federal law, half a century after such abominable traffic had been banned. Delgado and company discuss the devious steps that the Clotilda operators took as preparation for undertaking this audacious illegal voyage. By implication, the authors tacitly criticize contemporary federal authorities in Mobile, under whose noses this outrageous crime was allowed to happen.

The core of the book contains seven main chapters which, taken together, provide a fascinating view into the world Clotilda and her crew navigated. The book opens with a practical discussion of Mobile’s long development as a maritime hub, situated on a protected bay near the mouth of a complex but extensive fluvial system that provided access to some of the most valuable and productive agricultural lands of the Southeast. Written as a cautionary tale, the next chapter examines the “Twelvemile Island Wreck” to warn about the perils of amateurs’ misidentifying shipwrecks prematurely. Delgado and his team go on to give a highly detailed account of the ship graveyard they found in the backwaters north of Mobile, where the Clotilda had been scuttled and burned to obscure the evidence of her owner’s crimes. To provide context, the authors explore the characteristics and commercial role of American schooners operating in the antebellum Gulf of Mexico and Clotilda’s role within it. The final section details the archaeological work on—and findings from—the Clotilda wreck site.

A large selection of informative black-and-white illustrations and color

figures complement the text, including maps, images of archival documents, items salvaged from the Clotilda wreck site, and contemporary photographs of key persons involved in the schooner’s story—all of which draw the reader into the world described in the book. Additionally, a thorough glossary of nautical terms is included as an essential tool to assist modern landbound readers in navigating some of the text’s archaic and arcane maritime terminology. Making a historical and technical text

accessible to students or general readers in the twenty-first century is one of the most difficult tasks for any author, yet this team of writers had a clear facility with this specialized vocabulary, alternating between the highly esoteric terms of professional mariners and the profoundly colloquial vernacular expressions they often use. Their effort has given us a powerful, timely, and thought-provoking book.


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Preserving history, artifacts, and architecture of the Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Coast Guard

Audubon at Sea: The Coastal and Transatlantic Adventures of John James Audubon edited by Christopher Irmscher and Richard J. King (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2022, 334pp, notes, color plates, index, isbn 978-0-226-75667-7; $30hc)

Drawn directly from Audubon’s writings, Audubon at Sea captures the essence of the man in two ways: Early in the book we witness the unedited journal writing so indicative of the time, with dashes instead of periods at the ends of sentences, excessive capitalization, and superscripted “d’s” to indicate past tense verbs. Later we get the edited, published versions of his work. If you struggle with his 1830s-style journaling, never fear; it’s over quickly.

Of greater fascination are his descriptions of his voyages. Audubon was a hustler, to say the least. When he wanted to explore an area of the coast, he sent letters of introduction to govern-

ment agencies in the region. As such, his journals are surprisingly full of tales of revenue cutters and naval ships, odd details about officers and sailors of whom we otherwise know little. His lone transAtlantic journal recounts a long journey from New Orleans to England, sketches of the men with whom he sailed, and descriptive passages on the foods they ate, how they passed their time, and, of course, the wildlife they observed (and often killed).

Not all chapters in the book have to do with being at sea. In some cases, we are treated to “ornithological biographies” of birds he never met face-toface. We do, however, join him in the Florida Keys, New England, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Of prime importance in this book are the chapter notes. The names of all the wildlife witnessed by Audubon in this book have changed. When he notes that a Rice Bunting lands on the Delos in

the Gulf of Mexico, most modern-day birders will be left scratching their heads. The authors carefully identify all such points of confusion and provide us with the modern names (in this case, a Bobolink), ensuring we do not leave a chapter without knowing what Audubon actually encountered.

Audubon delights in telling stories of not only the wildlife, but the people he encountered on his many journeys. We meet eggers, wreckers, turtlers, cod fishers, revenue cutter sailors, lighthouse keepers, and even a pirate, though the story he spins about him may have been pulled directly from a popular pamphlet recently published. Audubon was, if nothing else, a salesman extraordinaire.

Port Newark and the Origins of Container Shipping

by Angus Kress Gillespie (Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2022, 265pp, illus, notes, index, isbn 978-19788-1871-2; $33.95hc)

This is an excellent book that goes into interesting and granular detail on the development of container shipping

74 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023

from the perspective of New Jersey. Previous books by Angus Kress Gillespie, a Rutgers University professor, include a seminal book on the New Jersey Turnpike and books related to the development of the World Trade Center towers, as well as the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. These works cover the history of many of the catalysts that have played such a key role in New Jersey’s commerce and economic growth.

Containerization changed the world in more ways than most people realize. The phrase maritime supply chain became ubiquitous during the pandemic, reflecting the increase in the public’s knowledge of the massive worldwide conveyance system that operates mostly out of sight. As you read this, some 5,000 container ships are moving $7 trillion worth of goods between hundreds of points across the globe as part of a system so efficient that commodities can be carried from halfway around the world for a fraction of their value. This cost efficiency erased most of the previous barriers to trade; as a result international commerce has blossomed. Hundreds of millions of people have been brought out of poverty due to trade made possible by container shipping. All economies have benefited in one way or another. In the postwar period that broadly correlated with the beginning of moving cargo in boxes, the annual value of US trade increased by a factor of 800. If you were to pinpoint the date in which globalization started, there is no better date than 26 April 1956, the maiden voyage of the Ideal-X, the world’s first successful commercial containership.

Because most railroad freight was ultimately destined for New York and rates were no more for that destination than New Jersey, initially New Jersey did not develop much port commerce—even though it was a natural staging area. In some ways, the desire to grow its port activity probably played

a role in making New Jersey officials open to and supportive of the new concept. When Malcom McLean, the transport entrepreneur who invented the modern intermodal shipping container, spoke with me about those early days, he repeatedly highlighted the strong support of Lyle King, the maritime director of the port author-

ity, as well as Austin Tobin, then-executive director of the Port of New York Authority. It was also prescient that the port authority had just expanded its range with the development of the Port Elizabeth marine terminal on the New Jersey side. As container shipping took hold, it was McLean’s Sea-Land that would put most of that terminal to use, and it was Lyle King who would come to him years later to ask if the port authority could put a model of a planned development called the World Trade Center in the lobby of the Sea-Land headquarters to get maximum exposure to the individuals involved in the business.

With vivid details provided by Charlie Cushing and Ron Katims, McLean’s key lieutenants responsible for configuring ships and terminals, respectively, the book takes you back to how this revolutionary new system came about. While Gillespie covers the advent of containerization well, the focus of his book is on Port Newark, and covers a broad array of other maritime segments and services that would intersect with container shipping and Port

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Newark. With detailed accounts of what pilots, tugboats, dockworkers, and truckers do, the book provides a comprehensive explanation of everything involved in getting a ship and its cargo in and out of Port Newark.

Gillespie covers the early stages of containerization and port development extraordinarily well. The only minor quibble I have is related to the derivation of the names of four early ships: SS Azalea City, SS Bienville, SS Raphael Semmes and SS Beauregard. Gillespie writes that the first vessel must have been named for Valdosta, Georgia, as

that city had adopted the title “Azalea City” in 1947. What he did not know is that it was also the unofficial name for Mobile, Alabama, the home of Waterman Steamship. McLean bought that company to launch SeaLand, and he lived in Mobile for a couple of years. The other three ship names are also prominently featured in the history of Mobile. The author would of course have no way of knowing this trivia, so it is indeed a minor concern.

While New Jersey was initially a stepchild of New York in the port business, with the initiative and foresight

of people like Lyle King, the advent of containerization laid the groundwork for it to flip the table. It would take more than fifteen years after the sailing of the Ideal X before the Port of New York Authority was officially changed in 1972 to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Today, nearly all of the container cargo moving in or from the New York area actually moves through New Jersey terminals. The only noteworthy terminal in New York City is on Staten Island, which in practicality is more aligned with New Jersey than it is with New York.

With the last couple of years full of news accounts related to container ships waiting for berths, blocking canals, and running aground, many people were introduced to an industry they knew little about. Angus Kress Gillespie’s Port Newark and the Origins of Container Shipping is an ideal way for novice and insider alike to learn more about the origins of an industry that literally keeps the world economy moving. It’s a very enjoyable read.

A Practical Guide to Maritime Archaeology–With a Focus on the MidAtlantic Region by John D. Broadwater, (Special Publication No. 48, Archaeological Society of Virginia, Charles City, 2023, 146pp, illus, isbn 978-097635-851-0; $30pb)

This triple-expansion epic is set in 1913 Shanghai, where four cultures are about to collide: China, Korea, Japan, and the US. The point of collision is three tons of Japanese gold ingots meant to undermine an already collapsing China.

“ The Abalone Ukulele is a masterclass in historical fiction. With painstaking research and a gift for story spinning, Crossland brings to brilliant life a sprawling epic of greed, gold, and redemption.”

—Joseph A. Williams, author of Seventeen Fathoms Deep and The Sunken Gold



Dr. John Broadwater’s new book is a much-welcomed publication for anyone interested in the fundamentals and essentials of maritime archaeology, whether a novice or skilled professional in this field. I wish I had had this book three-and-a-half decades ago, when I first became involved with this specialized discipline.

Though the book focuses on maritime archaeology in the mid-Atlantic region (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina), the informative

76 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
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publication is quite relevant for anyone interested in researching, studying, and conducting professional fieldwork on submerged cultural sites, such as sunken vessels, planes, wharves, and other submerged heritage features.

The book is magnificently laid out and wonderfully illustrated. It first describes the various types of underwater archaeology—marine, maritime, and nautical—and the differences between each, and the author is quick to point out that treasure hunting is not maritime archaeology. Moreover, early in the book there is an excellent primer on each of the four mid-Atlantic states’ underwater archaeology programs.

Broadwater describes the various environments in which avocational and professional archaeologists might conduct their fieldwork in the waterways of this region and explains the working conditions, such as offshore diving in the Atlantic, brown-water diving or snorkeling in bays and rivers, and even underwater sites where archaeological recording is done mainly by feel. The author likewise points out concerns that should be addressed to practice safe diving when doing maritime archaeology.

There is a section in the book on a subject often overlooked by novices: how to undertake proper archival research before getting in the water; it is called, appropriately, the “Joys of Archival Research.” Broadwater goes on to address the numerous laws pertaining to historic preservation of underwater sites—things like what permits might be required, and where and how to acquire them. He points out that recreational divers interested in maritime archaeology should also seek out a professional in the field to provide guidance and suggestions.

There is a full chapter on “research design” and how to draft that all-important document. The research design is the necessary work plan, something

that should not be overlooked on any archaeology project, whether conducted in the waters of the mid-Atlantic region, or elsewhere in the United States. This explanation includes the various types of surveying that might have to be undertaken on a field study, with a fair amount of attention given to site mapping, the very “heart” of any fieldwork for an underwater or maritime archaeological endeavor.

Other helpful topics include how to analyze the results of your project’s data collection, how to produce the obligatory project report, and to whom to disseminate these results. Tips on topics like management and administration of maritime archaeology projects, ethics of proper excavation, the conservation and curation of artifacts, and dealing with human remains will be particularly useful for those embarking

on maritime archaeological surveys and field work.

I consider one of the most important parts of this book to be its lengthy appendices. Nowhere will you find such a comprehensive source for the material needed by anyone practicing maritime archaeology: a detailed reading list, resources and contacts, a directory of professional organizations and museums in the field, an outline of how to set up a research design, a step-by-step methodology on recording vessels and shipwrecks, and what I found to be of special importance to anyone in this field—data recording forms. In addition, the reader will find appendices that include a section on state, federal, and international laws for anyone involved in maritime archaeology, and even several pages devoted to unexploded ordnance (UXO) that might

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be encountered on some projects, and what to do should such military artifacts be observed.

Simply put, Dr. Broadwater’s new book is an absolute must for anyone interested in practicing maritime archaeology, whether a “newbie” or a longtime university-trained archaeologist. Don’t just buy one copy of

A Practical Guide to Maritime Archaeology for your home or office library— purchase two! The second copy is to carry on your boat or in your vehicle, and to share with your colleagues. This publication is sure to become a classic in the field.

Tugboats and Shipyards: The Russells of New York Harbor, 1844–1962 by Hilary Russell Jr. (self-published, 2019, 157pp, illus, index, isbn 978-0-57854116-7; $34pb)

Tugboats and Shipyards tells the 118-year story of a family business that began with “the smallest tug in New York harbor with the shortest tow” and, through innovation, luck, and hard work, grew into a marine transportation empire with offices on Madison Avenue, as told by Hilary Russell Jr, a descendant of the Russell maritime family on which this story is based.


The genealogy of the Russell family is used to guide the reader through this story, augmented by diaries, newspapers, and even police records to describe the near-frontier mentality of the New York waterfront in the 1800s. As the business evolves from operating small second-hand wooden sailing lighters to manufacturing and running modern steel tugboats, the picture of an ambitious company that produces its own tugs in its own shipyards unfolds. The pre-World War II Russell empire develops along Newtown Creek, the border between Queens and Brooklyn, and the author reveals the increasing opulence generated by its successful business. As readers follow the family’s move from Queens to Westchester County—and its later expansion to the Erie Canal and as far south as New Orleans—they will notice that the family stories stop being about fights on the Brooklyn docks, stray cannon balls, police chases, and the dangers of icy waters and become more the descriptions of lavish weddings in the society pages of New York newspapers.

Of course, the author includes plenty of stories of Russell-built tugs, barges, trawlers, and sub chasers—tales and images that will be enjoyed by all historic workboat enthusiasts. Of particular interest are the patents and innovations of the Russell company.

78 SEA HISTORY 183 | SUMMER 2023
“...An absolutely splendid read.”
Craig L. Symonds, Professor Emeritus of History, U.S. Naval Academy
a story, and how well told!”
Eric C. Rust, Professor of History, Baylor University Available on and at
“…Real, relevant, and deeply meaningful to anyone who has set sail and headed into harm’s way.”
— James Stavridis, Ph.D., Admiral, US Navy (Retired)

Hilary Russell Jr. chronicles the many far-flung research trips he made to carry out his exhaustive search of archives and city, state, and federal records to uncover the rich, but hitherto untold, history of the company. He includes interviews with retired Russell employees, Moran executives, and New York maritime historians.

The Russell empire comes to an end in 1962, the result of an over-concentration on moving oil barges to the neglect of other towing work, in a volatile and ever-changing market. In the end, the company was bought out by McAllister Towing. This is not the end of the story, however; the author includes an afterword with short biographies of Russell family members after the company’s dissolution.

Personally, I am particularly thankful to the author for filling in the missing pieces of the story of the last Russellboat built at Hunters Point and the last operating wooden tugboat in New York, the Russell 1. Launched in 1930, this Queens native craft is a product of the Great Depression. It was built to be highly maneuverable to make up tows in the narrow confines of Newtown Creek. After sixteen years in this service, Russell 1 was sold to the Decker Towing Company in 1946 and renamed W. O. Decker

The Decker retired from full-time towing service in the late 1980s and now operates as the only tugboat in New York Harbor that is US Coast Guard certified for passenger service. Owned by South Street Seaport Museum, the tug now offers tours of New York Harbor starting from its home port in lower Manhattan. Even after 93 years of service, you can still make out the name “Russell Drydock Company” cast into W. O. Decker ’s forward towing bitt.


Adventurers: The Improbable Rise of the East India Company: 1550–1650 by David Howarth (Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2023, 480pp, illus, maps, notes, index, isbn 978-030025-072-5; $35hc)

All Hands on Deck: A Modern-Day High Seas Adventure to the Far Side of the World by Will Sofrin (Abrams Books, New York, 2023, 272pp, illus, isbn 9781-41976-706-7; $28hc)

Armada: The Spanish Enterprise and England’s Deliverance in 1588 by Colin Martin and Geoffrey Parker (Yale University Press, 2023, 768pp, illus, notes, index, isbn 978-0-30025-986-5; $40hc)

The Boxer Rebellion: Bluejackets and Marines in China, 1900–1901 by Emily Abdow (Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC, 2023, 134pp, illus, notes, biblio, isbn 978-1-943604-83-8; pdf is free, available for download on the NHHC website, under “Publications”)

China as a Twenty-First Century Naval Power: Theory, Practice, and Implications by Michael McDevitt (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2023, 320pp, illus, maps, tables, isbn 978-1-55750-113-4; $37.95pb)

Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: An Ambitious and Uncertain Course edited by Andrew S. Erickson (Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2023, 376pp, isbn 978-1-68247-900-1; $39.95pb)

The Curse of the Somers: The Secret History behind the US Navy’s Most Infamous Mutiny by James P. Delgado (Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2023, 288pp, illus, notes, biblio, index; isbn 978-0-19757-522-2; $24.95hc)

The Fighting Coast Guard: America’s Maritime Guardians at War in the Twentieth Century edited by Mark A. Snell (University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2022, 424pp, illus, gloss, appen, index, isbn 978-0-7006-3394-4; $34.95hc)

Hard Aground: The Wreck of the USS Tennessee and the Rise of the US Navy by Andrew C. A. Jampoler (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2023, 301pp, illus, notes, biblio, index, isbn 978-0-8173-6108-2; $34.95pb)

I Am Fighting for the Union: The Civil War Letters of Naval Officer Henry Willis Wells edited by Robert M. Browning Jr. (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2023, 335pp, illus, biblio, notes, index, isbn 978-0-81736105-1; $34.95pb)

Rear Admiral Schley: An Extraordinary Life at Sea and on Shore by Robert A. Jones (Texas A & M University Press, College Station, 2023, 316pp, illus, biblio, notes, index, appen, isbn 978-1-64843-123-4; $80hc)

The Ship Beneath the Ice: The Discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance by Mensun Bound (Mariner Books, New York, 2023, 403pp, map, illus, appen, biblio, isbn 978-0-06329-740-1; $35hc)

New York

Combat Divers: An Illustrated History of Special Forces Divers by Michael G. Welham (Osprey Publishing, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2023, 304pp, illus, biblio, index, isbn 978-1-4728-5600-5; $40hc)

The Sinking of the Steamboat Lexington on Long Island Sound by Bill Bleyer (The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2023, 206pp, illus, biblio, notes, index, isbn 978-1-4671-5028-6; $23.99pb) 79


OSWEGO — “oldest US freshwater port”

Open daily 1–5 pm

Offering dockside tours of vessels

May thru October

West 1st Street Pier, Oswego, NY


Beaufort Naval Armorers

Beaufort Naval Armorers

Beaufort Naval Armorers




Finely Crafted Marine Grade Working Replicas

Finely Crafted Marine Grade Working Replicas

Finely Crafted Marine Grade Working Replicas

Morehead City, NC USA 252-726-5470

Morehead City, NC USA 252-726-5470

Morehead City, NC USA 252-726-5470

Anne T. Converse Photography

Neith, 1996, Cover photograph

Wood, Wind and Water

A Story of the Opera House Cup

Race of Nantucket

Photographs by Anne T. Converse

Text by Carolyn M. Ford

Live vicariously through the pictures and tales of classic wooden yacht owners who lovingly restore and race these gems of the sea.

“An outstanding presentation deserves ongoing recommendation for both art and nautical collections.”

10”x12” Hardbound book; 132 pages, 85 full page color photographs; Price $45.00 For more information contact: Anne T. Converse Phone: 508-728-6210



We’reonamissiontosaveAmerica’s visualmaritimeheritage.

Manymuseumsandprivatecollectors lacktheresourcestoimageworksto culturalheritagestandards. tolearnhowwe’redoingthatworkfor them.

Yourdonationtodaywillequipand fundimagingprogramsatcollections aroundthecountry.


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