“The Loss of the Antelope”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1964 (recording, C. H. J. Snider)
Keywords: death drowning ship shore work disaster storm wreck brother cook sailor worker
Found in: Canada(Ont)

Description

The Antelope sails from Chicago; on the second day out a gale arises. The cook, in the fore-rigging, freezes to death; the ship springs a leak and is wrecked. The captain tries to save his brother, but drowns; all but the singer are lost

Notes

The relevant section of Bruce D. Berman's _Encyclopedia of American Shipwrecks_ (Mariner's Press, 1972) lists *no* ships named _Antelope_ were wrecked on the Great Lakes!

In this case, Berman is certainly wrong, since Julius F. Wolff, Jr., _Lake Superior Shipwrecks_, (Lake Superior Port Cities Inc., Duluth, 1990) lists two _Antelopes_ lost on Lake Superior alone. In 1879, a tug with that name was wrecked, probably near Marquette. A better candidate for this song would be the 187 foot schooner _Antelope_, built in 1861. On October 7, 1897, while carrying coal from Sandusky to Ashland, Wisconsin, she started taking on water (the guess is the seams of the old ship started to come apart). It was clear she would not survive, so the _Henry W. Sibley_, which was towing her, took off her crew.

William A. Ratigan's _Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals_ (revised edition, Eerdmans, 1977) on p. 235 quotes a version of this song which seems to be set on Lake Superior (as opposed to Lake Michigan in the Snyder version) and on p. 236 says that there were 13 ships named _Antelope_ on the Great Lakes, with two of them (both schooners) lost in 1894. He therefore thinks the song should be associated with one of the 1894 wrecks.

In trying to untangle the confusion, I note that, while ice storms occur on all the Great Lakes, they are much more likely on Lake Superior than on Lake Michigan, making it a better candidate for the disaster. It is most unfortunate that we don't have more versions. - RBW

Historical references

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Roud #3840
  2. BI, RcLoOTAn