Films: Sailing Ships in Rough Seas

One of my last posts for 2016 was a photograph taken ca. 1906 on the deck of the sloop Edward Berwind, captained by Frank Lacey. In 1908, after a desperate struggle, the sloop had to be abandoned in mid-Atlantic when gale force winds and a leak made it impossible for the crew to maintain her integrity.

I’ve come across two short films that show what the crew of a sailing vessel would encounter in rough seas. The first is a 1936 newsreel film of about 9 minutes in length, and of special interest to readers of this blog because it was filmed aboard a schooner, of which Milton saw many in their heyday. Much of the footage is taken in calm seas, but there is about a minute or so, two thirds of the way into the film, where rough seas are encountered while rounding Cape Horn.


The second film was made earlier, probably between 1910 and 1920, aboard one of the last of the great clipper ships. Paul J. Smith found it via Facebook and shared it; the link to the Facebook post is

This shorter film spends more time at Cape Horn and shows just what the crew of a sailing vessel had to do to cope with gale force winds. Although the clippers were much larger than schooners, the effects of high seas are the same.


2 thoughts on “Films: Sailing Ships in Rough Seas

  • Paul alias The Mr.

    Hi Phil,
    This film reminded me of what Capt. Conwell and Milton’s other ship captains must have seen as they navigated the waters as they traveled about delivering their goods and pick up cargo bound for American ports.

    • Phil Martin

      Yes indeed. The crazy thing about it is that a lot of wrecks occurred in Delaware Bay, not open water. It was dangerous work, but no risk no reward. A lot of Milton’s sea captains made beaucoup bucks.

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