Portland (shipwreck)

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PORTLAND (Shipwreck and Remains)
SS Portland.jpg
Nearest city Gloucester, Massachusetts
Built 1889
Architect New England Shipbuilding Co.; et al.
Architectural style No Style Listed
Governing body Federal
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP January 13, 2005

The Portland is a shipwreck lying 460 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean near Gloucester, Massachusetts. The S.S. Portland was built by New England Shipbuilding Co. in 1889. The ship gained world fame when it brought the first miners out from the Klondike gold rush fields in Canada, arriving in Seattle, Washington on July 17, 1897 with over a ton of gold in its cargo, which ignited the 1897-98 gold rush. It sank in the Portland Gale of 1898 off of Cape Ann, killing all 192 people aboard.[2] The shipwreck site was located in 1989 by John Fish and Arnold Carr of American Underwater Search and Survey. The find was confirmed in 2002 by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expedition that used ROV's to photograph the wreck.[3] The wreck was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.[4] The site was visited by divers in 2008.

Divers explore The Portland wreckage[edit]

Portland in an 1895 drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton.

In 2008, five Massachusetts scuba divers became the first to reach the steamship, also known as the "Titanic of New England".[5] The divers spoke about their three successful dives 460 feet below the ocean's surface, relating that they found no human remains, however, they indicated that they did not explore below the deck because of the danger.[5] Their dives were 10–15 minutes in length, used in exploring the site before returning to the surface.[5] It was noted that the divers "were unable to retrieve artifacts" due to rules in place at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.[5]

Another drawing of Portland by Samuel Ward Stanton.

Purported site visit during WWII[edit]

The wreck of the Portland was located, and reportedly visited, in the last week of June 1945. A dive commissioned by noted author Edward Rowe Snow (who is also known as the Lighthouse Santa) supposedly occurred during the last week of June through the first week of July during the last year of the war. Snow supposedly recorded the affidavit of diver Al George, from Malden, Massachusetts, in pages 178-180 of his book Strange Tales from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras. According to the supposed affidavit, George found the site by traveling to a location discovered by Captain Charles G. Carver of Rockland, Maine. The site is roughly identified as follows: "Highland Light bears 175 degrees true at a distance of 4.5 miles; the Pilgrim Monument, 6.25 miles away has a bearing of 210 degrees; Race Point Coast Guard Station, bearing 255 degrees, is seven miles distant."

According to diver George, recovery of artifacts would be cost-prohibitive, and nearly impossible given the status of the wreck. Even acknowledging the likely presence of uncut diamonds in the purser's safe, George assessed the chances of recovery as a losing financial proposition, based in part on how deeply entrenched in the sand the wreck was, and how widely dispersed the impact with the bottom had spread bits and pieces of the ship.

As the site is located within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary,[5] the accuracy of the entire account is highly questionable.

See also[edit]


Portland at sea by Antonio Jacobsen.
  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ Other estimates are 99 lost-see The San Francisco Call November 30, 1898 or 105 lost-see [1]
  3. ^ "Location of the Portland Wreck confirmed by NOAA". NOAA. 29 August 2008. 
  4. ^ "Shipwreck in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Added to National Register of Historic Places". NOAA. 17 February 2005. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Divers reach steamship that sank off Mass. in 1898". Associated Press/KVUE.COM. October 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-07. [dead link]

External links[edit]