Union Historical Society will present a program on Remarkable Shipwrecks of New England at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6 in the sanctuary of People's United Methodist Church, Depot Street, Union.
Marine journalist and historian Jon Johansen of Winterport will discuss New England shipwrecks from the loss of the circus ship Royal Tar in 1836 to the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria in 1956.
Johansen relates that although only 46 people died out of more than 2,000 on board the Andrea Doria, earlier disasters offer horrible stories of rapid sinking, endurance and suffering. Often any women and children on board were abandoned to their fate, as in the 1904 sinking of the General Slocum in the Hudson River, N.Y., when 1,400 women and children perished.
While the lack of navigational aids contributed to marine disasters, the biggest hazard was the risk of hitting a submerged but still floating vessel which had been carrying a buoyant cargo such as lumber. There were hundreds of these in the Atlantic in the 1880s.
The modern equivalent is the partially submerged shipping container, but fortunately today's navigational and marine warning systems have drastically cut the number of shipwrecks.
Publisher of the Maine Coastal News for the past 24 years, Jon Johansen has a lifelong interest in shipwreck history, nurtured by his uncle Brad W. Luther, a shipwreck diver who documented wrecks in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.