|The wreck of The City of Columbus (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
The City of Columbus steamer ran aground off the coast of Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard in January, 1884 and began to take on water, ultimately sinking into the frigid sea. More than 100 people lost their lives and in its day the Columbus was considered one of the worst sea disasters in history. Headlines of the time proclaimed it as "One of the Worst Horrors Ever Known in New England."
This wreck is the starting point for my novel The Ghosts of Aquinnah and one of my main characters is a fictional survivor named Christopher Casey.
I had never heard about The City of Columbus until I accidentally stumbled onto it while doing some preliminary research to flesh out the story idea that eventually became the Ghosts novel.
A few years ago The Martha's Vineyard Museum held an exhibit called Out Of The Depths: Martha's Vineyard Shipwrecks. Included in the exhibit was a door from the ill-fated City of Columbus that washed ashore after the wreck.
In addition to the Columbus, the exhibit profiled the wreck of the Port Hunter, a WWI supply freighter which collided with a tugboat and sunk off the coast of East Chop in Oak Bluffs. While no one was killed in this wreck, numerous supplies that were on their way to troops in Europe ended up ashore on the island instead.
To me one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit must have been the images of the submerged ships that are now available thanks to sonar technology. When I visited the Vineyard last summer and stood atop the Aquinnah cliffs, I couldn't help thinking about The City of Columbus submerged somewhere below me, underwater for nearly 130 years.
My A-Z of Martha's Vineyard theme is inspired by my book, The Ghosts of Aquinnah, which is set on the island. Click here for all the info on the book.