Miguel Fernandez, Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies
“Tom Sawyer’s Wreck: Stories of the Steamship Independence (1853)”
On 16 February 1853, the steamship Independence struck rocks off the southern tip of Isla Margarita, Baja California, took on water and burst into flames. 140 passengers and crew perished of the 430 on board. The survivors were stranded on the island for three days before whaling ships came to their rescue. The Independence was owned by the Vanderbilt line and was shuttling passengers from Nicaragua to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. This presentation will share details about the ship, the wreck, identification of her remains in 2020, and stories of historical and cultural interest about the passengers and crew, such as coal passer Tom Sawyer who would go on to befriend Mark Twain in San Francisco. Topics addressed include migration, the Gold Rush, and the interdisciplinary nature of marine archaeology.
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