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A Great Mariner Who Disappeared in 1909: Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum Sailing Alone Around the World

Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum Sails Alone Around the World

Born in 1844 in Canada to a shoe cobbler and his wife, Joshua was one of eleven children. Only educated to the third grade, his skill in the open waters as a mariner was where he achieved his fame.

With so many kids around the house, Joshua sought solitude where ever he could. He attempted to run away from home several times. Finally, at age 14, he succeeded and signed on as a cabin boy and cook on a fishing schooner. He returned home in 1860 when his mother died but left for good soon after—signing on at Halifax as a seaman on a ship to Dublin. He knew he had found his calling. Wasting no time, he began studying for the Board of Trade. He took the test and soon received his Certificate qualifying as Second Mate. His skill was quickly realized, and he was promoted to Chief Mate. By the age of eighteen, he had crossed Cape Horn twice.

By 1865 he settled in San Francisco, becoming an American citizen and spent time salmon fishing and fur trading. It was apparent he was meant to be at sea, and in 1869 he got his first command on a barque, Washington that he sailed across the Pacific to Australia and back home via Alaska.

For the next thirteen years working out of San Francisco, he was master of eight vessels. The first four were; Washington, the Constitution, the Benjamin Aymar, and the Amethyst.

Sometime in 1870, while docked at Sydney, he met Virginia Walker and married soon after. Virginia sailed with him throughout their marriage. During the next thirteen years, they had seven children, all born at sea or in foreign ports. Only four children survived childhood.

Joshua and Virginia Slocum

Joshua and Virginia Slocum

Joshua and Virginia Slocum

First Ship of His Own, Slocum's Pato

The ShipPato

The ShipPato

Slocum's Ship Pato

Left stranded in the Philippines after the owner of the Aymar sold the ship from under him, Slocum Used native workers building a boat. He was given the Pato as partial payment for his work. This would be the first ship of the owned himself. He and the family returned to San Francisco, where he sold the Pato and became a correspondent for the San Francisco Bee.

In 1884, while sailing the Aquidneck, his wife took ill and died. She is buried in Argentina. Slocum sailed to Masscheuttes to leave his three youngest children with his sister. He kept his oldest son, Louis, with him as his first mate.

Problems on the Sea

In 1866, at the age of 42, Slocum married his 24-year-old cousin, Henrietta Elliott. They took to the sea but had severe problems. First, they were attacked by pirates, and during the attack, Slocum shot and killed a pirate. He was tried and acquitted, but as they now continued their journey, they encountered a hurricane, cholera and, smallpox. Three of his crew died of cholera. The shipwrecked in Brazil, and Slocum had to build a ship to sail home. He named the boat Liberdade. It was a 35 foot, and by the time they docked in Boston in 1899, they had sailed 5500 miles. His wife, Henrietta, would never sail again.

Fighting Pirates

Slocum Fighting Pirates

Slocum Fighting Pirates

Slocum's Books

Slocum had always wanted to be a writer, and now was the perfect time for him to pen his adventures. His first book, Voyage of the Liberdade, was published in 1890, his second book, Voyage of the Destroyer, published in 1893 and, his third book Sailing Alone Around the World, published in 1899, became a best seller and won him worldwide fame. He received reviews of praise and was invited to speak at the Pan American Exposition of 1901. He took his boat, the Spray up the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York to the Exposition.

His latest book covered an adventure of three years, 45,000 miles in his 35 foot the Spray. During the Exposition, Slocum sold a 48vpage booklet for .25 called the Sloop Spray Souvenir.

It was Slocum's third book,Sailing Alone Around the World, that brought him fame and fortune.

Pan Am Exposition

Pan Am Exposition

Pan Am Exposition

Pan Am Emblem

Pan Am Emblem

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Slocum Buys A Farm

Slocum was making enough from his books and lectures he was able to buy a small farm in West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. But, after a year and a half, he was restless to be at sea again. He began making plans to explore the Orinoco, the Rio Nego and, the Amazon Rivers in South America.

So, on November 14, 1909, Slocum set sail along the east coast of North America, stopping in Miami for supplies. He was never seen again. Many believed a steamship somehow ran over him in his small boat, the Spray. Others thought the Bermuda Triangle entrapped him. And mariners thought him to be such an experienced sailor; it would have to be a major disaster that caused him to be lost. As good a mariner he was, Slocum never learned to swim. He knew that his skills as a mariner were making him obsolete with steamships taking over. It makes one wonder what happened to him. It would take fourteen years before he was declared legally dead.

Slocum's Boat the Spray

The Spray

The Spray

Honors for Slocum

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Schoolhouse Museum

The Slocum River in Dartmouth, Massachusetts is named in his honor

Slocum was inducted in the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011

His famous quote was "The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails."

The National Geographical Society places Joshua Slocum along with Dr. David Livingston, Charles Lindberg and, Sir Galahad as greatest adventurers.


Rosina S Khan on April 16, 2020:

Fran, did you receive the feed for the new episode Part-5 of my series, "Keily, the Bookworm"? Maybe not. Here is the link:

Would you like to read the above article (Part-5) of my series and leave your feedback in the comments section of the article?

Meanwhile I will read your new article that you published today and leave feedback.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on April 15, 2020:

Thank you all for your comments! I appreciate it.

Doug West from Missouri on April 15, 2020:

Good story. I was unfamiliar with Joshua Slocum, now I know.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on April 15, 2020:

Thanks for your comments. Appreciate it.

Rosina S Khan on April 15, 2020:

It is interesting to note how Joshua Slocum sailed alone around the world and wrote a book on it earning him fame and fortune and yet, his disappearance remains a mystery until today. Noteworthy and remarkable hub, Fran!

Liz Westwood from UK on April 15, 2020:

This is a fascinating biography of a real adventurer who encountered a lot in his travels, which eventually cost him his life.

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