Can’t be sure if it’s actually the first moving picture of a shipwreck, but it is the earliest I’ve come across. Filmed by the Edison Manufacturing Company on April 21, 1898, the grainy clip shows a flotilla of derricks surrounding the sunken battleship two months after it exploded in Havana Harbor. Many thanks to the Library of Congress for uploading it on YouTube!
Shot two years later by the Edison Company, “Launching a stranded schooner from the docks” is part of the firm’s Galveston Cyclone series, which documented the devastation of Galveston, Texas following the hurricane of September 8, 1900. The original entry for the clip in Edison’s film catalog is posted on American Memory:
During the terrific storm all of the light craft along the dock front was lifted out of the water and washed up into the streets, many of them being carried for miles inland. This subject shows a number of boatmen who have banded together to get their craft back into the water, a panoramic view being taken of the schooner as she glided sideways down the improvised ways, forming a very interesting subject. 60 feet. $9.00.
Know of any other early shipwreck films? Please share them!