A Ship Date
By David Young
A group hoping to build a Marco Polo replica will quietly meet with city councillors tonight.
The group led by businessman Dick Oland asked for the closed-door meeting to discuss its plans to build a land-based replica of the famed sailing ship, says Mayor Shirley McAlary.
The mayor said she assumes the meeting was requested to discuss a new study of the project and to solicit the support of council.
"They've done a mini study to see if the land project is feasible," she said.
A replica of the Saint John-built Marco Polo, the world's fastest ship when it was built in the 1850s, has been billed as a potential tourism icon for the city. Because of that, for a dozen years or more, people have been trying to put together a plan to build the ship.
This spring, Marco Polo Group Inc. announced that it was revising a long-held dream of building a fully operational, floating ship and instead setting its sights on a full-scale model that would rest on land.
The advantage of a non-sailing version of the Marco Polo is that it reduces the costs and risks associated with the project, said Barry Ogden, one of the project's principal supporters over the years.
The land-based Marco Polo would cost an estimated $2.5-million to $3-million, which is much less than the $28-million, that a full-sized sailing version would cost and the $7-million needed to build a half-scale, sailing version of the ship.
Originally the Marco Polo group's members wanted to build the project as part of the federal government's millennium celebrations, and applied to the fund for cash. But the mayor said they had second thoughts.
"They withdrew [the application] because they didn't have the figures," Ms. McAlary said.
Now that the feasibility study is completed and the conclusions are said to be encouraging, the group is back looking for money.
"They want to re-submit it now," the mayor said.
She said that has caused some tension because Common Council has already submitted its own project for millennium funding - a $1.7- million plan to reconstruct the Lily Lake Pavilion.
Some have suggested that the two projects could be in competition for Saint John's share of funds.
While the mayor said she doesn't see the situation that way, she has no idea whether council will officially or financially support the Marco Polo project. "It's a nice design but I have no idea what council will do. "
Mr. Oland, who was a principal force in the creation of the New Brunswick Museum at Market Square a few years ago, declined to discuss the meeting or the group's study, saying that it would be premature.
Marco Polo Project Seeks Historical Details
We are seeking information on three events related to the Marco Polo.
First, in August of 1858, the Marco Polo's crew saved the passengers and crew of the ship Eastern City, which had burnt off the coast of South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope.
Second, in August of 1857, Samuel and Charles Napier (crew members) discovered the largest gold nugget in the world, weighing 145 pounds. They later had an audience with Queen Victoria. A replica of the nugget is in London.
Finally, Captain Amos Crosby (second captain) was awarded a medal by President Abraham Lincoln for saving a ship's crew and passengers off the U.S. coast.
Any information our readers may have on these events would be greatly appreciated.
The article below was published in the Times Globe, Monday, October 25/99