From the 15th century until the middle of the 20th century the way to get from Europe to the Americas was via a waterborne route. The same was true of going from the Americas across the Pacific or even for trips within or between the two continents of the Americas themselves. The variety of vessels used – everything from 10 ton sail power to 25,000 ton steam – the uncertainty of weather information, the incompleteness of nautical charts and the improbability of rescue made this form of travel very high risk.
Images showing a shipwreck and people in a boat sailing toward the wreck. Illus. in: Bontekoe, Willem Ysbrandsz. Ovrnael ofte gedenckwaerdige beschrijvinghe vande Oost-Indische reyse…, Hoorn : Ghedruckt by I. Willemsz, 1646.
Yet travel they did – not by the thousands but by the tens of thousands – in search of better land, better opportunities, better lives and the fact that these people demonstrated the indomitable will to pursue that which was better is what gives the poignancy to the tragedies that occurred. We have illustrated this post with a series of prints from the Library of Congress that gives a sampling of some American shipwreck’s – not all of them are covered in the book but together with the book they give a greater appreciation of those who lived in peril on the sea.
Ships and shipwrecks of the Americas : a history based on underwater archaeology edited by George F. Bass New York, N.Y. : Thames and Hudson, 1988 Hardcover. 1st ed. 272 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 28 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Nova Scotia – loss of the steamship “Atlantic” – scenes and incidents during and after the wreck [4-1-1873] [3 cuts – “the fisherman Clancy and his daughter administering to … shipwrecked people; fishermen’s boats going to the wreck; … survivors at Halifax”]
SHIPWRECKS AT MILE ROCK SEWER OUTFALL, JANUARY 23, 1940. Department of Public Works, Map and Plan Room, photo #A 6271. – Mile Rock Tunnel, Under Forty-eighth Avenue from Cabrillo Street to San Francisco Bay at Point Lobos, San Francisco, San Francisco County, CA
Print shows a large ship capsized with hundreds of people on board; groups of rescue workers on rocks are pulling people out of the water from the crashing waves; others are holding a long rope extending from the ship and secured to a rock for passengers to use as a way to escape the vessel.
Disasters of 60 days : Wreck of Steamship Tennessee, Indian Cove, March 6th, 1853 ; Wreck & burning of the steamer Independence on the island of Margarita, Feby. 16th, 1853. 150 lives lost ; Collapse of flue on board Jenny Lind off San Francisquito, April 11th, 1853, 50 lives lost ; Wreck of propeller steamship S.S. Lewis, Duxburg Reef, April 9th, 1853 / / Lith. & pubh. by Britton & Rey, cr. California & Montgomery St., San Francisco.
The marine Redowa–Dedicated to the brave, energetic and whole souled Capt. Hiram Burt, of the Brig. Marine, who rescued from a watery grave a large number of the passengers of the ill-fated Central America
The loss of the Pennsylvania New York packet ship; the Lockwoods emigrant ship; the Saint Andrew packet ship; and the Victoria from Charleston, near Liverpool, during the hurricane […] Jany. 7th & 8th, 1839 / painted by Samuel Walters ; drawn on stone by T. Fairland.
The U.S. Steam Frigate Mississippi, Com..re M.C. Perry–Going out to the relief of the American steamer Hunter a French bark [her prize] and an American pilot boat wrecked on Green Island reef near Vera Cruize March 21st, 1847 / lith. of Sarony & Major ; executed by H. Walke Lt. U.S.N.