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Palmer Photomosaic Project Header

In July, August, and September 2004, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the NOAA Maritime Archaeology Center staff documented the 5-masted coal schooner Paul Palmer to obtain a better understanding of the site's features. A total of 640 diver minutes were logged during this project to capture digital still and video imagery of the Paul Palmer. Divers obtained nearly complete video coverage of the site for management purposes and frame grabs from the video were made into a site photomosaic for public interpretation. This project was made possible through support from NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program and Maritime Archaeology Center.

The Paul Palmer s windlass is draped with trawl nets.
The Paul Palmer's windlass is draped with trawl nets. (Photo: NOAA/SBNMS)

George F. Welt built the schooner Paul Palmer in Maine in 1902. The Paul Palmer measured 276 feet in length, 44 feet in breadth, and had a 24-foot depth of hold. William F. Palmer had the schooner built to increase his company's carrying capacity in the New England-Chesapeake Bay coal trade. It operated successfully for William F. Palmer until J. S. Winslow and Company bought all of the Palmer schooners in 1911.

The Paul Palmer departed Rockport, Maine on Friday, 13 June 1913 without a cargo. Onboard were eleven crewmembers, Captain H. R. Allen, his wife, and a female guest. The lighthouse keeper at Highland Light observed the schooner on fire off Cape Cod on 15 June 1913. Unable to quench the blaze with the Palmer's own fire pump and the assistance of a tug, the crew abandoned ship and were picked up by a waiting fishing schooner. The Palmer burned to its waterline and then sank.

A diver examines the Paul Palmer's hull remains.
A diver examines the Paul Palmer's hull remains. (Photo: NOAA/SBNMS)

In 2000, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary located the remains of a large sailing vessel embedded in a flat sandy bottom at a depth less than 130 feet. The site measures 300 feet long by 40 feet wide with 5 feet of vertical relief. The vessel's wooden frames protrude from the sand around the perimeter of the site, while a large wooden keelson runs the length of the site. A large steam-powered windlass and chain pile sit at one end of the site indicating that it is the bow. Research on the site in 2002 determined that the historically recorded particulars of the Paul Palmer closely matched the sites' archaeological remains.

A considerable number and variety of marine animals inhabit the site. Longhorn sculpin, monkfish, sea ravens, and flounder dwell on the bottom around the site, while cod, cunner, and pollock hide under the overhanging portions of hull. Anemones, sponges, and mussels have affixed themselves to the schooner's hull presenting a beautiful garden-like image. Like many of the archaeological sites in the sanctuary, pieces of fishing nets and recreational fishing jigs are entangled in the wreck's structure.

The sanctuary is continuing its efforts to document the Paul Palmer and learn about the vessel's history. The Paul Palmer represents one of the largest of the coal carrying schooners at the beginning of the 20th century prior to the dominance of towed barges. Much can be learned about the role the coal schooners played in the growth of New England by using the Paul Palmer's history and archaeological remains as a case study in coastal coal transportation.

Additional Resources and Links

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

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Revised August 01, 2012 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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