1839The Blizzard of 1839 inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Wreck of the Hesperus”.Events & Anniversaries, Economy and Industry, Maritime & Fishing Industry, Natural Disasters

Reef of Norman’s Woe, Gloucester, Mass, Sawyer Free Library, NOBLE Digital Heritage, https://omeka-s.noblenet.org/s/gloucester/item/4731.
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On Sunday, December 15, 1839, a great storm descended quite suddenly. Since the preceding day was mild and clear, many vessels had left Eastern ports for southern destinations, but when the storm commenced they sought shelter in Gloucester Harbor. Unfortunately, rather than the more sheltered inner harbor, they anchored just North of Ten Pound Island and Ten Pound Ledge, where they were right in the teeth of the gale. A Wiscasset, ME schooner, the Favorite, smashed on Norman’s Woe, and the remains of a woman tied to a mast washed ashore near Magnolia. The massive storm destroyed another 19 boats along the northeast coast with a total of 40 lives lost.

In “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” Longfellow conflated the stories of the shipwreck on Norman’s Woe, with that of the Hesperus, which was docked in Boston Harbor during the storm. While damaged, the ship did not sink. Hesperus was also the name of a ship that captured the public imagination for its gross mistreatment of 165 passengers bound from Calcutta to work as indentured servants in Guyana the previous year. It is not known whether these ships were one and the same.

Longfellow’s poem has become a hallmark of American literature and brought tourists to Cape Ann to see Norman’s Woe.

Babson, John James, and Samuel Chandler. History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Anne, Including the Town of Rockport. Gloucester [Mass.] Procter brothers, 1860, http://archive.org/details/historytownglou00changoog Harris, Gordon. “Wreck of the Hesperus, Dec.15, 1839.” Historic Ipswich, 3 Jan. 2021, https://historicipswich.org/2021/01/03/wreck-of-the-hesperus-1839/. Awful Calamities : Or, The Shipwrecks of December 1839, Being a Full Account of the Dreadful Hurricanes of Dec. 15, 21 & 27, on the Coast of Massachusetts...Comprising Also a Particular Relation of the Shipwreck of the Following Vessels: Barque Lloyd, Brigs Pocahontas, Rideout and J. Palmer, and Schs. Deposite, Catharine Nichols and Miller. And Also of the Dreadful Disasters at Gloucester. Boston : Press of J. Hose, 1840, http://archive.org/details/awfulcalamitieso00bostrich
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