The Palatine Wreck: The Legend of the New England Ghost Ship

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Part of our First Friday Lecture Series
Friday, May 3, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
NEHGS, 99-101 Newbury Street, Boston
Cost: FREE


Two days after Christmas in 1738, a British merchant ship traveling from the Netherlands to Pennsylvania grounded in a blizzard on the northern tip of Block Island, 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast. The ship carried emigrants from the Palatinate and neighboring territories in what is now southwest Germany. The 105 passengers on board—sick, frozen, and starving—were all that remained of 340 men, women, and children, who left their homeland the previous spring to move to America. They now found themselves castaways, on the verge of death, and at the mercy of a community of strangers whose language they did not speak.

From this incident sprang one of New England’s most chilling maritime mysteries. Shortly after the wreck, stories began circulating that the passengers had been mistreated by the ship’s crew and by some of the islanders. The stories persisted, transforming over time as stories do, and in less than a hundred years, two terrifying versions of the event were in circulation.

How did the rumors at the heart of the legend begin? What really happened to the Princess Augusta and to the souls she carried on her final, fatal voyage? Through years of painstaking research, Jill Farinelli reconstructs the origins of this long-standing New England mystery.

About the Speaker:

JILL FARINELLI graduated from William Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies and English. Determined to live near the ocean in a city steeped in history, she moved to the Boston area where, for the past twenty-five years, she has worked as a freelance writer and editor, primarily in educational publishing. This is her first work of historical nonfiction, on a subject that captured her imagination after spending a week with friends on Block Island ten years ago.