Launched from the shipyard of J. H. Holmes and Sons on April 16,
1878 for owners Gifford and Cummings of New Bedford, the bark
Wanderer was a first class vessel in every aspect, and it was
the last whaler, or any vessel for that matter, built in the
town of Mattapoisett.
Standing in the stocks at the water’s edge, the Wanderer was a
sight to behold. She measured 116 feet from stem to stern with a
bean of 27 1/2 feet and draft of 15 feet 8 inches. When fully
rigged, the extended bowsprit would add 50 feet to her length
and her three masts would stand 125 feet above the deck. On
land, waiting for launching, she dwarfed the surrounding
On April 16, 1878, away the last restraining blocks were removed
and the Wanderer slid into the harbor. Following the fitting out
in New Bedford, the Wanderer sailed June 4, 1878. Returning
after a four year voyage, she sailed again on August 29, 1882.
This voyage ended in San Francisco where her registry changed to
that city and her whaling grounds became the North pacific and
Arctic Oceans. In February 1903, the vessel left San Francisco
on a whaling voyage which ended in New Bedford where the vessel
During the next 20 years the Wanderer made eleven whaling
voyages out of New Bedford, but after World War I the price of
sperm oil dropped, and the vessels owners fitted her out for a
last voyage in the summer of 1924.
On August 24th, the Wanderer anchored just west of Mishaum Ledge
bell buoy to await a more favorable wind. No one was aware of a
large tropical system making its way up the eastern seaboard
that would pass just south of Cape Cod. By 10 am August 25th
very heavy squalls and gale force winds were battering the
Wanderer from the northeast. The anchor chain parted, and
although a second anchor was dropped, the vessel was driven
across the mouth of the Bay onto the rocks of Cuttyhunk. Wedged
high on the rocks, the vessel was a total loss. Wreckers
salvaged provisions, whaling gear, sails, boats, the figurehead
and many other items before a second storm on September 30th
completely broke up the hull.
The Wanderer’s mizzen mast stood as a flag pole in Shipyard Park
until 1964 when lighting brought it down. Today it hangs in the
Carriage House of the Mattapoisett Historical Society.
Currently the Mattapoisett Historical Society is publishing a
booklet of the Wanderer’s voyages written by Frank Rezendes and
edited by Seth Mendell. The booklet will also include an
overview of the whaling industry, major shipyards on the
Mattapoisett waterfront, and 35 photographs of the Wanderer
given to the Historical Society by Brad and Priscilla Hathaway.