Category Archives: Announcement

We’re Back! Shipwrecks, Coastal Landscapes, and “Watery Graves”

yAfter lying dormant for two years, Ships on the Shore is back!

I feel a little rusty coming out of the blocks but time has come to turn that dissertation I blabbered about for two years into a proper book. Ships on the Shore was central to successfully researching, writing, and defending my dissertation so I have high hopes that this blog and you dear reader will help me once again.

Ships on the Shore will document turning a concise dissertation into a publishable (fingers-crossed published) work of history. If you choose to follow us–and I hope you do–expect tales of shipwrecks past and present. Expect news of research finds big and small. Expect a little bit of grousing (if only because I have to work for a living now — long gone are those sweet fellowship-funded days). And expect–hopefully–a bit of celebrating as we complete the book and navigate the publishing process.

Please, please, please post comments or send me an email! Your thoughts, comments, insights, and suggestions are so much more helpful than I can express. If you like what you read, share Ships on the Shore with others. For those of you who sent a message since 2011 — I’ll be reaching out to you very soon. I’m truly looking forward to connecting.

But enough about me and you — let’s talk shipwreck.

The first wreck back had to be a good one and this 1835 shipwreck has it all — mystery, salvage, a snow storm, whale oil, and  “not a soul” escaping “a watery grave.”

xMelanchohly Wreck.–The schr. Herald at this port of Saturday, picked up, between Montaug and Point Judith, 5 casks of sperm oil, bearing the mark of the guager at Warren; the sloop Traveller also picked up one cask, and several other vessels, saw fragments of the wreck, a mattrass, and a part of the quarter deck of a vessel, between Watch Hill and Point Judith. About 1000 barrels of oil, of which this was supposed to be a part, was shipped last week at Warren, on board two sloops for New York. As they both left Newport on Tuesday last, it was impossible to judge which of them had been wrecked, until yesterday afternoon, when a gentleman arrived from Warren, and on inspecting the casks, unhesitatingly pronounced them the cargo of the sloop Eloisa, Capt. Smith, one of the above vessels. It is supposed she struck on Fisher’s Island Reef, during the snow storm on Wednesday night, and in all human probability, not a soul escaped a watery grave. -Providence Journal of Monday.”

Incidentally, it was wrecks like this that made New London, Connecticut a prime spot for salvage master T.A. Scott to set up shop in the 1870s. Scott was a remarkable character — for more start here.

~Article transcribed from the April 8, 1835 edition of the Barnstable Patriot is graciously made available by the lovely Sturgis Library located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.




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Upcoming shipwreck talk: ‘Shipwrecks, Beach Balls, and the Feds: Or, How the ‘Shore’ Came to Be”

Please excuse this shameless self promotion (I blush as I type). But if you happen to find yourself in the mid-Atlantic tomorrow, I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Delaware. All are welcome. Bring a lunch and come hear a couple of shipwreck stories. For more click here.

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Late-Summer Sabbatical

Ships on the Shore will be on a vacation of sorts for the six weeks. There may be a post or two, but it’s high time I get squared away for the next academic year (planning on finishing and defending my dissertation!).

Have a fantastic August and we’ll see you back here in September.


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Bury that wreck!

Talking shipwreck archaeology out in the real world can be tough. Some want to tear apart wrecks looking for silver and gold. Another wants to bring up every scrap of iron and wood for their mantle. Public resources for proper preservation seem to dwindle every year (not that there was that much to begin with). At the end of the day, they always ask: “So what do you want us to do, just leave it down there?” Well… yes.

After excavating and scientifically recording the 1850 wreck of Clarence in Victoria’s Port Philip Bay, Australian maritime archaeologists are “reinterring” the wreck. Why? The prohibitive cost of proper preservation and storage of artifacts. The technique is not unknown elsewhere, it’s apparently the first time it will be used in Australian waters. For more, read this fascinating article by Australian Geographic.

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Canadian Shipwreck Play: ‘Oil and Water’

Trolling through old shipwreck news this morning I cam across this review of Oil & Water, “a stylish, music-filled melodrama” recently performed at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Calgary. Written by Robert Chafe and directed by Jillian Keiley, Oil &Water apparetly memorized audiences at the festival.

Here’s the description from the play’s website:

Oil and Water is Artistic Fraud’s theatrical retelling of the incredible true story of Lanier Phillips. Shipwrecked aboard the USS Truxton in 1942, Mr. Phillips was the only African-American survivor. What happened to this son of the racially segregated south at the hands of the residents of the nearby town of St. Lawrence, NL forever altered his world. Featuring an a capella score that blends the Newfoundland folk tradition with African-American gospel, this legendary story still resonates powerfully almost 70 years later.

Here’s a bit more about the shipwreck scene:

Let’s look at the shipwreck sequence itself. Phillips and his crew, being tossed around amidst the chaos on his sinking ship, is intercut with Violet in Newfoundland, calmly doing the laundry in the washtub. All the while, the chorus in the back sings an ever-mounting a capella rendition of “Wade in the Water”.

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Filed under Announcement, Shipwreck culture