Remembering the Pride of Baltimore

38 Photos

30 years ago Saturday a schooner known as the Pride of Baltimore sank in a storm 240 miles north of Puerto Rico. Four crew members died, including the ship’s captain. The remaining eight survived after floating on a leaky raft for five days until they were rescued by a Norwegian tanker. The ship had been built for the nation’s bicentennial and was constructed from wood, by hand, right on the Inner Harbor. For a city in a time of economic depression, the ship evoked the days of Baltimore’s primacy of the seas. Though questions would be raised later about whether a boar built to historical accuracy should have sailed across the ocean, the Pride of Baltimore traveled around the world as the city’s goodwill ambassador until a sudden, terrible storm brought it down. The news of its sinking shocked and saddened Baltimoreans, including then-Mayor William Schaefer, who was pictured with his hand over his eyes, “a study in grief” as The Sun caption read.

The Sun provided a harrowing account of the ship’s final moments:

“Although crew members were prepared to battle a storm, they couldn’t anticipate the ferocity of the white squall…. Designers of the Pride said it had the ability to right itself when knocked down by winds but that the ship apparently took on too much water to do so.

Officials said Captain Elsaessner and First Mate John “Sugar” Flanagan dove underwater and released two life rafts from their perch on deck. They said one life raft inflated automatically, then exploded when it became tangled in rigging. The second life raft inflated, but then also lost air, officials said. In the water, the eight surviving crew members, fighting gusting winds, heavy rains and high seas, used hand and foot pumps for six hours to reinflate their raft.

The survivors–cramped in the raft that was designed for six people and carrying food and water for six days–drifted in a northwesterly direction until they were spotted at 2 a.m. yesterday by crew members of the Toro Horton, the Norwegian tanker, which was en route to Venezuela.

Although they suffered cuts and sunburn, the survivors were otherwise reported in “good” condition.”

An earlier version of this post misstated the date of the Pride of Baltimore’s sinking.