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The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, October 6, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NV002
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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.

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