Friday, July 8, 2011

Reef of Norman's Woe, part 2

I'm not happy with one of the mixed media pieces I showed you here--the one with the postcard Reef of Norman's Woe, Gloucester, Massachusetts. As I looked through papers, postcards, and tattered books for inspiration I came upon a 1931 world atlas. A map, I thought, might be what's needed. I then remembered some old nautical maps that I got at an auction last year, in the garage. I pulled them out--there were four rolled up in a barrel--and one is Ipswich Bay to Gloucester Harbor.

 It was published by the U.S Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington D.C. in 1920.

Next to the words "Lights, Beacons, Buoys and Dangers Corrected
For Information Received to Date of Issue." 
it is stamped June 26, 1923.

I looked for Norman's Woe.
There it is.
It was time to do some research. 

In January 1839, a great blizzard struck the northeast, destroying many ships, including the schooner Favorite out of Maine, bound for England. Twenty bodies washed ashore including a woman lashed to a piece of the ship. This was not the first shipwreck on Norman's Woe. In 1823 all crew members of the Rebecca Ann were lost. However it is the wreck of the Favorite that inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write The Wreck of the Hesperus. The last verse:

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of the Norman's Woe!

This map, and the others, feel loaded with history and I cannot bear the idea of cutting it up. Therefore, my search for ephemera for Norman's Woe continues, and I hope to find a way to incorporate the history of this bit of reef into my little project.


  1. Hello Jen:
    This post is totally fascinating. How intriguing that you should find this old map stored in your garage and that, on account of your collage, you should unearth so much of the history of Norman's Woe. And the link to The Wreck of the Hesperus, a poem of which large chunks were at one time learnt by heart whilst at school, is extraordinary. Does it still get read in American schools or is it now considered too old fashioned?

    By the way, how is your son? Any news of his college entrance? Oddly, on account of that wonderful line about reading, we think of him often.

    Happy weekend.

  2. What a cool treasure hunt you're on! I love the name Norman's Woe, and think its a wonderful idea to gather related objects.