Molluscs in pirate history

MCZ Mollusk department lot 124276
Class: Bivalvia
Family: Pholadidae
Genus: Martesia
Species: striata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Locality: Cuba, Cienfuegos Harbor
Collected by: Mark, E.L. in Feb 1901
(currently this is not in our online database as it has not been updated since August, and I entered this data in October)

Note: “From keel of barque “Joseph Maxwell,” the 1st vessel captained by the “Pirate Sumter” during rebellion, was taken as prize in Cienfuegos, Cuba and which then the parts unprotected by copper were bored by Martesia striata.”

Better yet, this is a documented case that I was able to track through the New York Times archives, the Joseph Maxwell was a ship from Philadelphia that was seized on the 27th of July, 1861. The ship ended up in Cienfuegos, and it seems that E.L.Mark pulled the Martesia striata specimen(s) from the ship some forty years later, still in Cuba.

The Sumter was a steam vessel that was essentially a Civil War pirate ship. There’s an engraving of the ship from Harper’s Weekly newspaper from 1862. There’s a good account in Harper’s of the Sumter’s crew burning the Boston brigantine Joseph Park, which is what she’s firing at in the engraving. There’s another watercolor image of the ship produced in 1951.

Wikipedia has an entry on the ship Sumter, which was her second incarnation, having started her career as the merchant vessel Habana, and finishing her career as a British blockade runner named Gibraltar. She was sold to the British in December of 1862.

I did not have the pleasure of any other exciting pieces of wood that clams bore into while working on the Pholad collection, and there are no other references to pirates in the database as it currently stands. Still, that one little moment made a lot of aggravating work worthwhile.

1 thought on “Molluscs in pirate history”

  1. I thought you meant power chords as in guitar. Shows how obsessed I am.

    Anywho, that sounds really interesting and useful! It’d be neat (and a bit scary) to use it with my computer and see how much energy it uses up.

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