Shipwrecks: The Steamship Portland

Image provided by

Image provided by

Something lurks at the bottom of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

It’s something big…. something legendary.

It’s the paddle wheel steamship Portland.

The Portland was one of the largest and most palatial vessels afloat in New England during the 1890s. Built in 1889, the steamer ran between Portland, Maine and Boston until its loss with all hands in 1898.

Portland’s loss is New England’s greatest steamship disaster prior to the year 1900 – and to this day, scientists from around the world come to the region to study the Cape Cod shipwreck. They’re in search of how it was constructed and why it sank.

History Of The Portland

Built by the New England Shipbuilding Company of Bath, Maine, the steamer was one of New England’s largest and most luxurious side paddle wheel steamships, accommodating up to 800 passengers. For nearly 10 years Portland connected Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine for the Portland Steam Packet Company (later renamed the Portland Steamship Company) without much notoriety. Portland carried thousands of passengers and tons of cargo along the New England coast and earned the reputation as a safe and dependable steamer.

In the 1989, the Historic Maritime Group of New England, led by maritime researchers John Fish and Arnold Carr, located the wreck, however they did not posses conclusive photographic evidence of their find.

In 2002, the sanctuary and NURC-UConn confirmed Portland‘s location with side scan sonar and ROV investigations of the wreck site.

Final Burial Ground

Portland lies upright on a mud bottom with its wooden hull nearly intact from the keel up to the main deck level. The vessel’s entire superstructure is missing with only the steam propulsion machinery protruding above deck level. In addition to the wooden hull and engine, smaller cultural artifacts lie scattered inside and outside the hull providing a glimpse of the steamer’s passengers and crew.

Visit Cape Cod

Cape Cod shipwrecks are legendary, and the Portland is no exception.

Book a stay at any of the hotels on Cape Cod and soak in the local legend and lore.

Now that you know the Portland’s shipwreck story, you too can help re-tell its remarkable tale.

Share it with your family and friends – and tell them to visit Cape Cod!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Bookmark and Share