Before it’s anything else, sailing is an act of faith. That’s why those who perish at sea have not a common death. And it’s such that few things better reflect the valor, the boldness, and the naivete of the sailor who makes it to the high sea but loses sight of the mainland (thus, it’s important to be a sailor). Once at sea, conditions can be terrible. Storms, shipwrecks, and marine beasts are but some of the calamities to be found out on the water. And that’s not even to mention the unknown lands (and their inhabitants) found on the far shore.

One book, Tragedy of the Seas; or Sorrow on the Ocean, Lake, and River (1841) by Charles Ellms, is dedicated exclusively to the tragic history that happened once upon the seas, rivers, and lakes. It’s a collection of stories of times gone by, and which recall the ocean’s ominous power. The 37 nautical catastrophes narrated in the book took place on bodies of water around the world between 1803 and 1840.

 tragedies2 

Within the 432 pages making up Ellms’ volume (dependent as he was on his stationer’s shop and on the writing of adventure books), we find the lamentable stories of ships which sank after colliding with coral reefs, or in hurricanes. There are stories of explorers who disappeared without a trace, of ships which exploded in the middle of the sea, or one terrible account of 116 passengers who died of hunger and cold on an 1837 ship bound for Mexico from Long Island and lost at sea for months.

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In the book’s introduction, the author states that the stories are true and unadorned, although some experts express no doubt that Ellms adorned, in one way or another, the events he registered. The suggestion puts Tragedy of the Seas somewhere between literature and a travel chronicle.

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One of these sources concerns his dramatization of accounts, and the position he took which reflect his clear suspicion, so typical of the 19th-century, in facing the inhabitants of non-European nations. Such a position portrays them as “savages” and “barbarians.” But the collection of stories also speaks of courage and resistance, as was the case of a man who swam 25 kilometers in icy water to save his own life, and that of the crew of a Japanese ship which floated through the waters of the Pacific for more than 11 months and survived.

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The illustrations in Ellms’ book, shining with ingenuity, allow us to witness the more sentimental side of a series of stories joined by two factors: tragedy and the sea. At last, the work is an epitaph to the memory of these ghosts who share similar tales and whose memory has been lost, almost completely, to time.

tragedies8
 

 

 

Images: Public Domain Review

Before it’s anything else, sailing is an act of faith. That’s why those who perish at sea have not a common death. And it’s such that few things better reflect the valor, the boldness, and the naivete of the sailor who makes it to the high sea but loses sight of the mainland (thus, it’s important to be a sailor). Once at sea, conditions can be terrible. Storms, shipwrecks, and marine beasts are but some of the calamities to be found out on the water. And that’s not even to mention the unknown lands (and their inhabitants) found on the far shore.

One book, Tragedy of the Seas; or Sorrow on the Ocean, Lake, and River (1841) by Charles Ellms, is dedicated exclusively to the tragic history that happened once upon the seas, rivers, and lakes. It’s a collection of stories of times gone by, and which recall the ocean’s ominous power. The 37 nautical catastrophes narrated in the book took place on bodies of water around the world between 1803 and 1840.

 tragedies2 

Within the 432 pages making up Ellms’ volume (dependent as he was on his stationer’s shop and on the writing of adventure books), we find the lamentable stories of ships which sank after colliding with coral reefs, or in hurricanes. There are stories of explorers who disappeared without a trace, of ships which exploded in the middle of the sea, or one terrible account of 116 passengers who died of hunger and cold on an 1837 ship bound for Mexico from Long Island and lost at sea for months.

tragedies3
tragedies4
In the book’s introduction, the author states that the stories are true and unadorned, although some experts express no doubt that Ellms adorned, in one way or another, the events he registered. The suggestion puts Tragedy of the Seas somewhere between literature and a travel chronicle.

tragedies5
tragedies6 

One of these sources concerns his dramatization of accounts, and the position he took which reflect his clear suspicion, so typical of the 19th-century, in facing the inhabitants of non-European nations. Such a position portrays them as “savages” and “barbarians.” But the collection of stories also speaks of courage and resistance, as was the case of a man who swam 25 kilometers in icy water to save his own life, and that of the crew of a Japanese ship which floated through the waters of the Pacific for more than 11 months and survived.

tragedies7
The illustrations in Ellms’ book, shining with ingenuity, allow us to witness the more sentimental side of a series of stories joined by two factors: tragedy and the sea. At last, the work is an epitaph to the memory of these ghosts who share similar tales and whose memory has been lost, almost completely, to time.

tragedies8
 

 

 

Images: Public Domain Review