"In such vast ocean of matter and tumult strange"
October 31, 2021 12:09 AM   Subscribe

Christine Riding, "Shipwreck, Self-preservation and the Sublime": Being "a subject that encourages the spectator to imagine 'pain and danger' and 'self-preservation,' 'without being actually in such circumstances' may well be why shipwreck ... was suited to the sublime." Hans Blumenberg, Shipwreck with Spectator [PDF; chapter summaries: 1 + 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]: "Humans live their lives and build their institutions on dry land. Nevertheless, they seek to grasp the movement of their existence above all through a metaphorics of the perilous sea voyage." Supplementing many previouslies, a number of shipwreck narratives offer further occasions for reflection.

Additional resources of related interest: "What is a Shipwreck?" is an essay by historian Jamin Wells answering a writing prompt for his Ph.D. qualifying exams and identifying assumptions and ambiguities in thinking about shipwrecks; Wikipedia has an extensive List of lists of shipwrecks by year; and the Internet Archive has two books by Keith Huntress available for checkout: A Checklist of Narratives of Shipwrecks and Disasters at Sea to 1860 and the anthology Narratives of Shipwrecks and Disasters, 1586-1860 (modeled on the many anthologies published in the 17th-19th centuries).
posted by Wobbuffet (3 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Then there were the "people who cursed the moon"

Centuries ago, about one ship per week wrecked along our shores. Lighthouses were few and far between; the fog and mist often all but obliterated their weak candlepower. But these beacons spaced along the coast–Highland, Nauset, Chatham and Monomoy Point–were the only reliable guideposts for sailors navigating off our tricky and dangerous shores.

Knowing this, a band of local scoundrels united to deliberately wreck, then plunder, passing ships. During the darkest hours, especially on wild stormy nights, these land-loving pirates criss-crossed the coast on horseback and planted large decoy lanterns at strategic points.

I don't see too much on the web but heard occasional comment by old salts around Boston/Cape Cod.
posted by sammyo at 9:51 AM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

We are pressed, pressed on each other,
We will be told at once
Of anything that happens

And the discovery of fact bursts
In a paroxysm of emotion
Now as always. Crusoe

We say was
So we have chosen.


Now in the helicopters the casual will
Is atrocious

Insanity in high places,
If it is true we must do these things
We must cut our throats

The fly in the bottle

Insane, the insane fly

Which, over the city
Is the bright light of shipwreck

from George Oppen's 'Of Being Numerous'
posted by juv3nal at 2:07 PM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

The passage between Martha's Vineyard and the south coast of Cape Cod, was, until 1910 or so when the Cape Cod Canal was completed, the third busiest waterway on the planet. It saw a good number of wrecks.

One of the worst was the grounding of the City of Columbus, considered one of the worst maritime disasters ever. I've been out there under the cliffs after dark and sometimes when the wind is just right, you'd swear you can hear...things.

Happy Halloween.
posted by vrakatar at 6:40 PM on October 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

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