Salvage Poetry: “The Shot Toker”

Here’s a fine piece of poetry about shipwreck and salvage that I ran across a few years back at the Mystic Seaport Library in Mystic, Connecticut. The faded, mimeographed sheet was in a file marked “company lore” in the Records of the Merritt-Chapman & Scott Corporation. It was incredibly difficult to decipher (U.P., for example, might actually be A.P.–as in Associated Press). But here it is, a paean, written between 1897 and 1922, to the wreckers of Merritt & Chapman Derrick & Wrecking Company. The image above depicts the lighter Resolute (left and referenced below) and derrick Commodore (right) salvaging an unidentified vessel. Enjoy!

The Shot Toker

When a rusty freighter from Calico

Piles up on the beach in a lonely place,

Or a shiny liner with lights aglow

Hits a berg and is crippled above Cape Race

When a barge deck-deep in New England coal

Breaks loose in the teeth of a Northeast gale

As the frost-bitten crew sees the storm bashed shoal

The U.P. generally carries this tale

“Hope for the lives of the crew is high

Merritt-Chapman wreckers are standing by.”


From Tas?pice to Diamond Shoals

From Hatteras to Halifax

Wherever treacherous water boils

Or for or gale or ice attacks

Freighter or liner, bark or scow

In ballast, laden to the rail

Down by the stern or stove in bow

Somewhere there’s always in the tale

That the U.P. carries inevitable.

“Merritt and Chapman are standing by.”


Rescues, Relief and Resolute

Derricks, caisson and salvage scows

Ready, awaiting the siren’s hoot

That calls them out when a proud ship bows

To the crushing blows of Atlantic gales.

And if I were a sailor by tempest whirled

I’d thank the Lord for the U.P.’s tales

That the newspapers carry around the world:

“The crew’s in the riggin, twixt sea and sky

But Merritt and Chapman are standing by.”



Filed under Notes from the Field, Source of the Week

4 responses to “Salvage Poetry: “The Shot Toker”

  1. Pingback: Shipwreck Poetry: ‘Patroling Barnegat’ | Ships on the Shore

  2. Pingback: Shipwreck Poem: ‘The Wreckers’ | Ships on the Shore

  3. Pingback: ‘The Wrecker’s Song’ (1837) | Ships on the Shore

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