Aerial view of Mallows Bay
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued a national call to arms against Imperial Germany as he called for America’s entrance into the War to End All Wars, the First World War. What followed in the United States was a massive national endeavor to build thousands of wooden and steel merchant ships needed to support the Allied war effort and counter the massive German campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare.
In the hands of the newly created U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation, the nation embarked on the largest shipbuilding program ever undertaken, and a course that in the span of a few pivotal years, made the United States for a moment in time the greatest industrial shipbuilding nation in world history.
Today, the extant product of that effort, nearly a hundred great wooden merchant ships sold for reduction after the war, as well as scores of vessels dating from 1776 to the 1970s, covers the shallow muddy floor of the Potomac River at Maryland’s Mallows Bay, the largest assemblage of historic vessels in the Western Hemisphere.
Historian and marine archaeologist Donald Grady Shomette recounts the fascinating tale of what lies beneath the Emergency Fleet’s final resting place, and his decades-long historical and archaeological survey campaign to document what came to be called the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, which helped secure its formal designation as a National Treasure, a National Historic Landmark District, and in 2019, a National Marine Sanctuary.
- If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.
- Unless otherwise noted, registration for online programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
- Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from CustomerService@SmithsonianAssociates.org.
- Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
- View Common FAQs about our online programs presented on Zoom.