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The Maritime log #25 - Fishing Was a Dangerous Occupation on the North Shore

October 22, 2018

The Maritime Log by Dyke Hendrickson

Fishing Was a Dangerous Occupation on the North Shore

by Dyke Hendrickson
Custom House Maritime Museum Outreach Historian

October marks the month of one of the worst fishing disasters in Newburyport history.

On Oct. 5, 1851, scores of vessels from the North Shore were fishing off Prince Edward’s Island.

A storm later to be called the Yankee Gale roared in expectedly, and 18 vessels from Newburyport were lost. More than 20 local fishermen were never seen again.

Historians say fishing was always a major vocation in the city, but it was somewhat of a last resort.

If a young man were educated and/or had noticeable potential, he likely would join the crew of a trade ship. Or he would go into banking or the import/export field.

Those with dim prospects were often funneled into commercial fishing.

Girls and women were not part of fishing or international trade, unless they were a wife or daughter of a captain. Then they could be a passenger.

Newburyport never really had a whaling fleet. Several investors sent out three whaling ships in about 1832 but the venture was unprofitable and the whaling experiment was ended.

The number of fishing vessels in Newburyport in 1853 was 90, employing 985 men, according to historian E. Vale Smith, who wrote a history of the city in 1854.

Shown here is the memorial for lost fishermen (in the modern era) on the Peter Matthews Boardwalk in Newburyport.


If your organization would like me to speak at an event, please get in touch. I can be reached at

Thanks. Dyke Hendrickson

Dyke Hendrickson, Outreach Historian, The Maritime Log

The Maritime Log by Dyke Hendrickson

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