Terror on the Sea-Flower

I only recently learned about the incident I’m about to write about.  It surprised me that something like this is hard to find information on (even using a Google search you have to dig down a bit to find any real information).

At any rate, the story of the sloop Sea-Flower is one of ineptitude, suffering and even cannibalism.  The American-Irish Historical Society put out a book called The Recorder, the first volume of which details the Sea-Flower‘s fateful voyage.

Early on in the voyage undertaken in 1741 Captain (and minority owner of the Sea-Flower) Ebenezer Clark died and the second in command fell ill.  “Thus,” The Recorder says, “began a reign of suffering, wretchedness and misery that has seldom been surpassed in the annals of ocean voyages.”

The trip took longer than was anticipated, partly due to being held up by problems with the Sea-Flower herself.  At some point, drinking water and food ran out, leaving the 106 passengers (indentured servants headed for the New World) desperate for sustenance. Many people died of starvation.

The emigrants from Ireland, the poor souls contracted to be indentured servants for five to seven years in order to pay for this passage to the New World, began to eat the bodies of the deceased.  They were cutting up a seventh when a man-of-war, the Success, pulled up alongside and fed what The Recorder called “well-nigh crazed survivors.”

The survivors were found to be near death and in need of attentive care.  A group of selectmen in Boston arranged for them to be cared for in a hospital on Rainsford’s Island until the majority owner of the Sea-Flower, Joseph Thompson of Connecticut, arrived to pick up the boat’s papers.

The nightmare voyage lasted from July 10th, 1741 to October 31 of the same year.

The Sea-Flower‘s role in history was not finished with this scene.  Another sloop of that name would take part in the important attack on the fort at Louisbourg in 1745.  Admittedly, I’m not sure yet if they were one and the same ship.  The Sea-Flower that took part in the Louisbourg battle was owned by a Jonathan Sayward.  It is possible that Sea-Flower was simply a popular name, as another sloop of that name appears in records between 1714 and 1717.

4 thoughts on “Terror on the Sea-Flower

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  2. Great write-up here. I came across the dreaded Sea-Flower voyage in Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and was intrigued to look for more information. I can’t imagine the carnage and horror.

  3. I am led to believe that my grandfather’s great, great, great grandfather William Fisher and his brother Samuel were aboard the Starved Ship on that terrible voyage. After Boston, they settled in Londonderry, NH. Samuel stayed and William moved to Truro, Nova Scotia where he became the town’s first town clerk.

    • Hello Robert, William Fisher is my 8 or 9x Grand Father and Deacon Samuel is my 8 or 9x uncle. My maiden name is Crystal Fisher and Melvin Bertie Fisher was my Great Grandfather. His Father I think was George Fisher.

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