Schooner Paul Palmer

A bpainting of a large white ship with 5 masts at a dock
A postcard depicts the five-masted coal schooner Paul Palmer. Art: courtesy LARC

Ship Stats

A black and white scan of the seafloor revieling a shipwreck
A side-scan sonar image shows the flat profile for the coal schooner. Photo: NOAA/SBNMS

Depth: 80 feet

Length: 276.1 feet Breadth: 44.2 feet
Depth of Hold: 24.4 feet

Built: 1902 wooden, five-masted schooner, George F. Welt, Waldoboro, Maine

Cargo Capacity: 3,500 tons (average)

Port of Registry: USA

Owner: William F. Palmer (original); J.S. Winslow and Company, Portland, Maine (1911)

Date Lost: June 15, 1913

Crew: 11 + 2 passengers

Sunk By: Fire Survivors: 13 of 13

Data Collected on Site: Scuba surveys, photography, video

Significance: Called the unlucky "hoodoo" schooner, Paul Palmer set sail on the last leg of its last trip on Friday, June 13, 1913. A fire on board eventually led to its sinking, close to Cape Cod on Stellwagen Bank. This wreck is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Present Day

A diver observes part of a shipwreck
A diver observes Paul Palmer's stern timbers. Very little resembles the original vessel. Photo: NOAA/SBNMS

Its shallow depth allows for sanctuary divers to document the wreck of Paul Palmer, although years of fishing activity have significantly disturbed the site. Another of the great coal schooners, like Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary, this vessel has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dive missions to the wreck have brought back photos of lush invertebrate growth on the remaining timbers. Additional missions have been made to remove entangling nets and lines on parts of the wreck, including its windlass.

A news paper clipping with the headline 'fire drives women and crew to boats' and a photo of a 5 masted ship
The ship was deemed unlucky. It departed on its final voyage on Friday, July 13, 1913. Fortunately, all passengers and crew survived its sinking. Image: Boston Globe, 8-17-1913

Historical Background

Paul Palmer departed Rockport, Maine on Friday, June 13, 1913 without a cargo. Onboard were 11 crew members, Captain H. R. Allen, his wife, and a female guest. The lighthouse keeper at Highland Light observed the schooner on fire off Race Point on June 15, 1913. Unable to quench the blaze with Palmer's own fire pump and the assistance of a tug, the crew abandoned ship and were picked up by a waiting fishing schooner. Palmer burned to its waterline and then sank.

In its first years, the ship was part of a fleet of coal schooners owned and managed by William F. Palmer and built by George L. Welt of Waldoboro, Maine. The 15 ships all had white hulls and were known as the "Great White Fleet."

After William F. Palmer's death in 1909, fleet management was passed to J.S. Winslow and Company. The hulls of all of the "Great White Fleet" were painted black after the transfer.

Over the course of its 12-year career, Paul Palmer carried an estimated 280,000 tons of coal in 80 cargos.

Several fish hide under part of a shipwreck covered in marine growth
Atlantic cod swim under a section of Paul Palmer's hull. The biological community of the shipwreck has changed over time. Photo: NOAA/SBNMS
a sunfish swims past divers examening a shipwreck
Divers exploring the remains of the Paul Palmer were joined by a curious ocean sunfish. Photo: NOAA/SBNMS
Several brown and white fish swim near part of a ship wreck
Divers have seen large numbers of sculpin around the wreck, which sits at about 85 feet below the surface. View Virtual Reality images of the wreck Photo: NOAA/SBNMS