Marco Polo

17 Apr
English: Marco Polo (ship) Built in 1851 in Sa...

Marco Polo (ship) Built in 1851 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. 1625 tons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Marco Polo was launched at Saint John, New Brunswick, on April 17, 1851.  In those days, the harbours of the Maritime were ringing with the hammers of men making wooden ships to sail the Seven Seas.

Marco Polo was the fastest ship in the world in her day, and her speed was said to be due to an accident that occurred when she was launched.  She went down the launching ramp too quickly, shot across Marsh Creek where she was built and settled in the mud.  Fortunately, the heavy spring tide was enough to get Marco Polo righted and there did not seem to be any great damage.  Later, when the ship showed such speed, it was said that the accident had twisted her frame in such a way that she sailed faster than had ever been intended.

The Marco Polo was an ugly duckling that became a luxurious passenger liner. She was built as a “drogher” for carrying lumber to Britain.  Even then, she showed such speed that she was bought by the Black Ball line which needed ships for the Australian trade.  Marco Polo was transformed into the most luxurious passenger liner afloat, with a copper-sheathed hull, maple-panelled cabins, mirrored pillars ornamented with coins, deep pile carpets, and red velvet upholstery, all set off by mahogany with gilt and silver fittings.

Marco Polo‘s first captain was “Bully” Forbes, who predicted that his ship would astound the world.  She spread her great white sails for the first voyage to Melbourne with 930 passengers, and was back in Liverpool in six months.  It was a record, and Marco Polo had a sign strung between her masts that read “Fastest Ship in the World.”  In 1867, the year of Confederation, Marco Polo made a trip from Australia to Britain in seventy-six days, beating the new-fangled steamer Great Britain by more than a week!

Unfortunately, steamers with iron hulls replaced the “wooden ships with iron men”, and the Marco Polo was transformed into her original ugly duckling form, as a lumber carrier.  A wreck, she went home to die on Cape Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

What a beauty! Want to read more about this great ship? Well, I suggest visiting Kensington, P.E.I.‘s tribute to her; then, Marco Polo Shipping list, part of the community; for a timeline, a good place to go is , from 1996 by Lars Bruzelius.


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15 responses to “Marco Polo

  1. angrygaijin

    April 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I didn’t know this was a Canadian Ship!

    I used to play Marco Polo in the schoolyard in elementary. Is there a connection..?

    • tkmorin

      April 21, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      Sorry, Angrygaijin, for the late response. I was searching for an answer to your game question. I just *had to know*! Anyway, sorry again, but I can’t find the origin for the game. Marco Polo, the explorer, was known so early in history, I can only guess that there was a conversation amongst boys talking about explorers … And well, as they say, the rest is history … 🙂

  2. L. Marie

    April 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I wonder if shipbuilders studied the bent frame and determined what made the Marco Polo so fast.

    • tkmorin

      April 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Yes, I wondered that too … :

  3. carmencomments

    April 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I really enjoy your small bites of Canada!!

    • tkmorin

      April 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you, that’s nice to hear! 🙂

  4. seeker

    April 17, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Yay, I’m so glad Marco Polo came and brought noodles and pasta to the New World! Isn’t she marvelous? It’s a great history, TK. 😛

    • tkmorin

      April 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Thanks, P! You’re in a silly mood, aren’t you? Thanks. 🙂

      • seeker

        April 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm

        Duh! Mea culpa, Wasn’t thinking that we are talking about Canada’s Marco Polo this morning. I’m sorry TK.

        This reminded me of Schooner in your previous post. 😛

        • tkmorin

          April 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm

          Yes, I felt a “deja vue” moment when I was writing it. You still make me smile … 🙂

  5. Maurice A. Barry

    April 17, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Those ships were such wonders both from an artistic and an engineering point of view. What’s more skills associated with sailing were amazing. I know we have to live with economic realities–big bulk carriers are the way to go; they are cheaper, faster and safer. But still it’s a shame to see great art, skill and engineering fade away.

    • tkmorin

      April 17, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Yes, there are certainly less of these craftsmen around. 🙂

  6. andy1076

    April 17, 2013 at 8:10 am

    wow right from the start she just wanted to go huh? really enjoying these history lessons 😀

    • tkmorin

      April 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Thank you, I’m glad to hear it! 🙂


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