Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary Releases New Shipwreck Images on 104th Anniversary of Portland Loss
November 26, 2002

NOAA 02 R-444

Contact: Anne Smrcina, 781-545-8026 x204

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary has released three new side scan sonar images of the coastal steam ship Portland, which rests on the sea floor of the sanctuary. The ship sank November 27, 1898, during the infamous "Portland Gale of 1898" with the loss of all 192 passengers and crew.

The new images were created by a Klein Sonar Associates Model 5000. The Salem, N.H., company operated the equipment and provided ship time to the sanctuary for an October mission to the shipwreck site. The images clearly show the side-by-side smoke stacks and the diamond-shaped metal walking beam that provided power to the side paddle wheels.

The October mission was a follow-up to a late July/early August 2002 joint research mission, during which theStellwagen Bank Sanctuary and the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut mapped and shot video of the wreck. The video and side-scan images from the two missions provide visual documentation to earlier work by American Underwater Search and Survey. Although artifacts displaying the ship's name could not be found, a team of independent marine archaeologists confirmed the identification based on the evidence provided by the side-scan and video images. NOAA funds six research centers around the country through its National Undersea Research Program.

The location of the wreck within the sanctuary's boundaries provides protection unavailable in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing or injuring, or any attempt to move, remove, or injure any submerged cultural or historical resources, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Congress designated the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in 1992 as "an area of special national significance." Virtually the size of the state of Rhode Island, the sanctuary stretches between Cape Ann and Cape Cod in federal waters off of Massachusetts. The sanctuary is renowned as a major feeding area for marine mammals, particularly humpback whales, and supports an ecosystem of diverse wildlife.

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration, and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources. For more information about the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, please visit

NOAA's Ocean Service (NOS) manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOS balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards. To learn more about NOS and the National Marine Sanctuary Program, please visit



Three images of the wreck of the Portland by the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary using Klein Model 5000 side scan sonar. Images provided by Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

click here for:

side scan image showing smokestacks and walking beam 72 dpi

side scan image of ship from above 72 dpi

side scan image showing walking beam and entangling gear 72 dpi

Historic lithograph of Steamship Portland. Image provided courtesy of Maine Historical Society

72 dpi version



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