The Lost Ships Of San Francisco

During the gold rush, the City Of San Francisco became something unique in the history of maritime commerce.  It became the roach motel of maritime commerce.  Ships sailed into the bay and never left.

In time the vessels were all bunched up in the bay waiting for crews that had disappeared into the hills.  Eventually there were 500 vessels of various sorts piled up in the bay, having met the fate of the Niantic, a whaling vessel turned passenger ship that went to San Francisco, later being turned into a hotel and warehouse.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niantic_(whaling_vessel)

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2013/aug/19/san-francisco-gold-rush-photography

http://historicaltimes.tumblr.com/image/124081070523

 

 

http://mua.apps.uri.edu/in_the_field/jd1.shtml

http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthewater/exhibition/2_4.html

Because the gold rush was such a powerful attractor of young men, looking to seek their fortunes, a ship would sail into the bay and the crew, being primarily young men would along with the passengers promptly take their pay and head for the hills, leaving the ship stranded. Of course captains and the ship owners would do just about anything to get a crew back, which is why to this day Shanghaiing means being forced to do something or being kidnapped.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghaiing

After a stint in the gold fields the sailors would come back to the Barbary Coast, a notorious red light district. And drink up. And become attached to ladies of low virtue. Becoming as a result a prime target.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_Coast,_San_Francisco

Once rendered incapable through one means of another, the poor seaman would be kidnapped by the crimps and find themselves at sea on their way to China and once they started a voyage, by law, the seaman was committed to finishing it, which would be back in NY or Boston after the ship made it’s tea run.

Still, only the ships with the greatest return could afford to pay the crimpers fees and slip out while the rest were stuck.  Which is why to this day, there are ships being dug up in San Francisco.

http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Ships_under_Financial_District

 

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3 comments

  1. MadRocketSci · April 1, 2016


    Once rendered incapable through one means of another, the poor seaman would be kidnapped by the crimps and find themselves at sea on their way to China and once they started a voyage, by law, the seaman was committed to finishing it, which would be back in NY or Boston after the ship made it’s tea run.

    One strange thing about naval history that always struck me as odd was the social heirarchy thing between officers and seamen. Sure, it has it’s parallels in any other post-medieval military (for similar organizational reasons), but it seems especially pronounced and exaggerated on sailing vessels: The officers are absolute lords and masters of the vessel, and the seamen are scum. They pretty much have no pay that lasts from voyage to voyage, and have no rights.

    I’m surprised you can run a ship like that: A ship is a complicated enterprise. Sailing is the old version of rocket-science: you need skilled people to do it. Actually, I’m surprised you can run *anything* like that more complicated than a slave plantation.

    So, the press gangs and shanghai-ing of history surprise me. What prevents legal action from being taken against these ship captains the moment they hit any civilized port?

    Like

    • MadRocketSci · April 1, 2016

      On reading some of the links, it looks like the crimpers had allies in the government who were paid off (or in some cases directly involved) to ignore their kidnapping. Press gangs, of course, were official state activities.

      Like

  2. penneyvanderbilt · April 1, 2016

    Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie.

    Like

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