Help me salvage these numbers!

Truth be told, I’m not a numbers guy. This is inconvenient (to put it mildly) because numbers are important and they can help carry historical arguments. As the chapter about Captain T. A. Scott (left) moves along [see this post for more], I finally got down to tabulating what I know about the shipwrecks he salvaged, inspected or repaired between 1879 and 1902. (The dates are not random: salvage became his full-time occupation in 1879; in 1902, the Scott Company was incorporated and the Captain’s son, T. A. Scott Jr., took the helm.) I’m sure some jobs slipped through the cracks, but I’m confident this list is representative of Scott’s work during this period. It draws on extensive newspaper searches, archival material of the Scott Company and court records in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. It’s as good as I’m going to get for now.

Here’s what I take from the 200 wrecks: Schooners accounted for almost 2 of every 3 jobs Scott took between 1879 and 1902. November through April was the “busy” season, accounting for almost 2 of every 3 jobs. Finally, Scott averaged over 8 wrecks a season by my count but contemporaries put the number at beween 25 and 35 a year. I’m guessing the reality is somewhere between the two.

What else do these numbers say? Can you help me interpret them? Any thoughts are very much apprecated!




Filed under Dissertation Digest, Notes from the Field

6 responses to “Help me salvage these numbers!

  1. Tom

    Just a quick look at the numbers show that Steamers were the next to the most ‘popular’ wreck to salvage. And Scott was busiest in 1884, the year he salvaged, or attempted to salvage, the City of Columbus.
    Other data can be drawn from the numbers as to average number of wrecks per year, length of service of his business, number of ships that sank in that era, etc. Good for you to gather all this data!

  2. you should make graphs of everything. as many as possible. schooners over the given years (months as x axis), barges over the years, each year total (months as your x axis)- you will have hundreds of graphs- this is the way to go AND the way to analyze the data, where you can visualize interesting parallels & changes. Use excel – i could help you if you need it. I can also get Matt to look at this- he might have some interesting way to analyze your numbers. He is rain man like that 😀 You should then choose which are poignant and include them in your actual chapter about the analysis, and the rest should be in some index, as footnotes. It will seem like a lot of work but it will boost your credibility in mammoth-fold 🙂 Is April generally a very busy season? Does this month as the max make sense with other salvage work? You might have to examine other data to make claims about the numbers you have here, too. Good luck! You can also combine the graphs (using excel) and find some interesting data. but you have to start by actually making the graphs. Do that first.

    • Jamin Wells

      Many thanks — I’ve started making some graphs, but my excel skills date to the late 90s, so this new-fangled edition has been a pain. I hear you — lot’s of graphs! After that, I’m thinking it will be worthwhile to do some basic statistical analyses–re: significance? I’ll keep ya’ll updated!

  3. i’m sure it will be great !!! it will be very interesting really…it seems like there are some patterns, no? i really enjoyed reading about bayesian search theory stuff; however, that’s a different kind of predictability- that’s finding them AFTER they’ve sunk and have been reported. it’d be much easier to salvage ships if you could predict where, when, and why ahead of time with some scientific significance. and seeing that scott’s work was reported in several states, his search area must’ve been huge, so who knows what you can pull together from the stats you reach, if there’s a way of graphing particular areas discretely, go for it. then again, you probably already know which areas are more prone to shipwreck- i have no idea. just throwing this out there in case it’s helpful. your quote of the day the other day about marine salvage being so mysterious is so pertinent; marine salvage is not a science of predictability like immunology might be. it’ll be great to see what you come up with 🙂 happy graphing!

  4. Pingback: Dissertation mantras | Ships on the Shore

  5. Pingback: American marine salvage: from The Merritt, Chapman and Scott Corp. to TITAN Salvage | Ships on the Shore

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