- Canada has the longest coastline in the world
and exports most of her productswe are a maritime country.
- Canada had the 3rd or 4th largest tall ship
fleet in the world50% were built in New Brunswick with Saint John as its
- Launched at Marsh Creek, now spanned by a small
bridge called the Marco Polo bridge, the most used bridge in Saint
- James Smith, builder of the Marco Polo,
revolutionized the way tall ships were designed and constructed; in modern
terms it would be like crossing a 747 with a Concorde. He combined the
broad-beamed timber drougher with the sleek lines of a clipper ship
- The Marco Polo's unique design, superb
construction and legendary prowess promoted Canadian shipbuilding around the
world, after her records Canada Saint John became one of the
world's foremost shipbuilders.
- Captain William Thomas of Saint John was the
first captain to sail the Marco Polo. He received his papers in 1850 at the
young age of 26 from the Saint John Board of Trade. A copy of this document is
on display at the Saint John Board of Trade office.
- Captain James Clarke a native Saint Johner who
became one of the few to command The Marco Polo (1855-1858.)
A three-masted medium clipper
ship built of wood by James Smith at Saint John, News Brunswick, 1851, for his
own use. Her registered dimensions were: 184'1"×36'3"×29'4" and a
tonnage of 1625 RT.
Her half-model is preserved in
the collections of the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, VA. Stammers also
reproduces what appears to be a set of blueprint lines of the ship without
giving a source for these.
Weekly Chronicle · Saint John, New
Brunswick · April 18, 1851
"Yesterday a large ship built
and owned by Mr. Smith at Courtenay Bay was launched from his building yard. On
clearing the ways, her keel struck the sand and she fell over on her side.
Several persons were severely injured by the chains, etc. which fetched way and
run down to leeward on the deck."
The Morning News · Saint John, New
Brunswick · April 21, 1851
Accident - Yesterday a large
ship built and owned by Mr. Smith at Courtenay Bay was launched from his
building yard. On clearing the ways, her keel struck the sand and she fell over
on her side. Several persons were severely injured by the chains, etc. which
fetched way and run down to leeward on the deck. Chronicle.
April 23, 1851
The new ship built by Mr. James
Smith, Courtenay Bay which fell over on launching, we are glad to find is now
in our harbour, apparently none the worse for her fall.
The New Brunswick Courier· April 19,
A large and elegant vessel
called the MARCO POLO was launched on Thursday morning last from the building
yard of Mr. James Smith at Courtenay Bay. He is also the owner. She has three
complete decks, measures 1625 tons, and her length aloft is upwards of 184
feet. We presume that although not quite the largest that has been built in the
Province this splendid ship is probably the longest that has been built in the
Province. She is named after the celebrated Venetian traveller who discovered
the coast of Malabar.
We regret to learn that after
this fine vessel had got clear of her ways in launching, she touched the bank
of the creek and the wind blowing fresh at the time, went over on her beam
ends, in consequence of which, some of the persons on board were hurt. One boy
saved himself by jumping overboard and swimming ashore. The vessel, we
understand, was not injured.
- 1851 April
Launched at Marsh Creek near Saint John, New Brunswick. Due to her size she
grounded at the opposite shore of the creek where she remained for two
Sailed on her maiden voyage from New Brunswick [?] with a cargo of timber to
Liverpool in 15 days.
- 1852 Sailed
from Mobile, AL, to Liverpool in 35 days.
- 1852 June
Bought by James Baines, Liverpool, for the Black Ball Line of Australia
Packets. Rebuilt to be used in the passenger trade. Rebolted with yellow metal
bolts and coppered.
- 1852 Under
the command of Captain James Nicol Forbes she made the voyage from Liverpool to
Port Phillips Head in 76 days on the18th of September.An epidemic of measles
among the children aboard caused 52 deaths during the voyage. After three weeks
she returned to London in another 76 days, arriving on Boxing Day. This was the
first recorded round trip in less than six months, or to be exact 5 months 21
- 1853 March 13
Left Liverpool for Melbourne where she arrived after 75 days at
- 1854 [?]
Under the command of Captain Charles McDonald she made her third roundtrip in
72 days out to Australia and 78 days back to England.
- 1858 August
Saved the passengers and crew of the emigrant ship Eastern City which
had burnt at sea near the Cape of Good Hope.
- 1858 September 7
Left Australia for Liverpool with 46.881 ounces of gold onboard [ILN
Collided with an iceberg South of Cape Horn and arrived in Valparaiso leaking
badly. After repairs she continued to Liverpool where she arrived 183 days out
- 1867 After
having completed the journey Melbourne to Liverpool in 76 days she failed to
pass the passenger survey and was put on the general cargo trade.
- 1871 Sold
to Wilson & Blain, South Shields, and put in the coal and timber trade.
Reduced to barque rig.
- 1881 Sold
to Bell & Lawes, South Shields.
- 1882 Sold
to Capt. Bull, Christiania.
- 1883 June 27
A fire broke out on the barque Marco Polo lying at the ballast ground,
Quebec, but was brought under control before much damage was done.
- 1883 July 19
Sailed after having loaded a cargo of deals.
- 1883 July 22
Sprang a leak in the St Lawrence and when the pumps could not hold back
the water Captain Bull decided to run ashore. The Marco Polo was
grounded near Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, three chains from the shore. The
masts were cut away to save the ship from being worked asunder.
- 1883 August
The wreck was sold at auction for £ 600 [Stammers has 500] and the cargo
for £ 5500. The steering gear and stove were removed from the wreck and
put on the new barque Charles E. Lefargey of Charlottetown, Prince
Edward Island. A subsequent gale broke up the ship before the cargo was
- National Film Board of Canada produced a 1 hour
film on the Marco Polo called Marco Polo Queen of the Seas and is avaiable at
- The Marco Polo Suite is a complement of music
composed about the Marco Polo, which makes it the only ship in the world to
have a complete album of song about it.
- A Federal Monument dedicated to it in Saint
- The wreck site of the Marco Polo is a federally
protected site, one of only 2 in the country.(Click
here to view wreck site.)
- An essay by famous writer Lucy Maude Montgomery
" Anne of Green Gables" fame, was written about the Marco Polo's last days.
- The Marco Polo has a popular high school
musical written about it.
- There is a CBC radio play about the Marco
- The bridge over the Marsh Creek in Saint John,
N.B. was renamed in honour of the ship.
- Models and replicas too numerous to mention are
done on the Marco Polo.
- And last but not least, the Marco Polo is
remembered every year by the people of Saint John by a float in the city's
- Log of a voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne
National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, Maritime Records
Centre, Liverpool, England.
- Bowen, Frank C.: The Marco Polo.
Shipping Wonders of the World, pp 1214-1218, ill.
- Chapelle, H.I.: The Search for Speed under
Sail. New York, 1967.
- Greenhill, Basil: Salvage from the Wreck of
the Marco Polo. The Mariner's Mirror Vol. 49, London, 1963. p 145.
- MacGregor, D.R.: Fast Sailing
Ships.Nautical Publishing, 1973.
- Stammers, Michael K.: The Passage
Makers. Teredo Books, Brighton, 1978.
- Wallace, Frederick William: Wooden Ships and
Iron Men. London, 1924.
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