Hunting New England Shipwrecks

Wreckhunter Trivia Quiz

We don't give out million-dollar prizes, but the satisfaction you'll get from coming up with the right answers, will make you feel like an expert. Answers to most of these questions can be found on other pages of this site. To display quick answers, hover your mouse pointer over the answer buttons below. We add new questions from time to time, so please check back periodically to test your knowledge of ships, shipwrecks and maritime stuff. Enjoy!

In years gone by, ship captains sometimes organized press gangs. In that context, what is the definition of a  press gang
A group of sailors who "recruit" crew members for their ship using violence and intimidation.

What is brightwork on a ship, boat or yacht?

Brightwork is varnished wood or brightly polished metal (usually brass).

One particular year in the 20th Century saw an unusually large number of ships sunk off the U.S. East Coast. What was that year, and what was the main reason for the many sinkings?
In 1942, due to inadequate defenses, German U-boats sunk a large number of American ships.

The new tunnel under Boston Harbor is named after a famous Red Sox player. What is it's name?

Ted Williams Tunnel

What is the general name used to describe ships that supplied Confederate ports during the American Civil War?
Blockade Runners

To even out its exposure to the sun, the USS Constitution (permanently docked in Boston Harbor) is turned around once a year with a ceremonial turn-around cruise. What is the date of the turn-around cruise?

July 4th (Independence Day)

The black and white pirate flag with the skull and crossbones (or crossed cutlasses) has a special name. What is it called?
Jolly Roger

In the first half of the 20th Century, the main immigration station in New York Harbor was located on a famous island. What is the name of that island?

Ellis Island

Back in the 1800s, many ships were built with composite hulls. In those days, what materials were commonly used to build composite hulls?
Iron frames and wood planking

What human ailment was first identified among caisson workers in the 1800s?

Caisson Disease or The Bends. also known as Decompression Sickness

Upon the occupation of France in World War II, the United States seized a famous French Line passenger steamer to use as a troopship. While being refitted in New York Harbor in 1942, the ship caught fire, rolled over at the dock and was eventually scrapped. What was the name of that French ship?
SS Normandie

Massachusetts has two "Capes" that project into the Atlantic Ocean. One is Cape Cod, what is the other one?

Cape Ann (north of Boston)

Many years ago, scurvy was a common disease among sailors on long voyages. What food was served to prevent scurvy?
Scurvy is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C. Citrus fruit was served to prevent the disease.

In the 1800s, many ships were built with composite hulls. How were those hulls constructed?

Composite hulls of the 1800s had an iron frame and wood planking.

The "Hooligan Navy" played an interesting role in American history. What was the Hooligan Navy?
In 1942, German submarines came to the American east coast to sink merchant ships. Because our government was slow to respond to this attack, east coast yatchsmen banded together to patrol the coastline and report U-boat sightings. These enthusiastic volunteers became known as the "Hooligan Navy."

A "
Black Gang" could always be found on early steamships. What was the Black Gang?
The boiler room crew was called the "Black Gang" because they were always covered with coal dust.

What is the name of the warm ocean curent that flows northward along the east coast of North America?
The Gulf Stream

In compass terminology, what is the definition of the term magnetic declination?
The angle between magnetic north and true north (at a particular point). Also called magnetic variation.

The State of Maine was originally part of what Early-American colony?

In the early 1800s, a Massachusetts port city became famous and rich because of its trade with ports in China. What is the name of that city?

What is the name of the famous fishing ground that is located about 100 miles east of Cape Cod?
Georges Bank

In the Lat/Lon grid system, how many minutes are there in a degree?
60 minutes

What historic event resulted in the abandonment of hundreds of ships in San Francisco Bay in 1849?
The California Gold Rush

Seeking religious freedom, a small group of people left England in 1620 and established a colony on the New England coast. What was the name of that colony?

A certain type of ship is called a collier, what is a collier?
A coal-hauling ship

A famous Boston shipbuilder of the mid 19th Century built many beautiful and fast clipper ships. What was his name?
Donald McKay

On early steamships, what was the Black Gang?
The boiler-room crew - usually covered with coal dust

Which of the six New England states has no coastline?

In marine salvage jargon, what is a casualty?
A casualty is a vessel in distress, usually disabled, stranded or sunk.

In towboat jargon, what is a messenger?
A messenger is a medium-weight line used to haul the heavy towline (or wire) aboard a vessel to be towed. The messenger is usually preceded by a light line which is thrown, shot or floated to the casualty. In heavy seas, getting a towline aboard a vessel in distress is a difficult task.

In the 1970s, an unusually powerful winter storm struck New England. It disrupted normal activities for several days and destroyed many coastal homes. What was the name of that storm?
The Blizzard of '78

Over the past few years, divers visiting the Andrea Doria wreck (off Nantucket) have noted dramatic changes in the wreck's condition. What has changed? 
Much of the wreck's interior structure has collapsed into a pile of debris.

After the American Revolutionary War, many people with pro-British sentiments were banished to Atlantic Canada. What were these people called?
Torries or British Loyalists

What famous lake separates much of Vermont from New York state?
Lake Champlain

Old-time sailors used to get a daily ration of grog. What is grog?
Grog is watered-down rum.

Back in the 1800s, certain ships were called packets. How did packets differ from other ships?
Packets were ships that carried mail (mail packets) and ran regularly scheduled routes.

On the subject of maritime history, what is the the difference between the definitions of pirates and privateers?
Pirates were outlaws who raided ships at will. Privateers were people who were contracted by a government to raid enemy ships, blockade harbors, etc., in a war-like manner. There often was a fine line of difference between pirates and privateers.

What fictional pirate character did Johnny Depp play in the 2003 movie Pirates of the Caribbean?
Captain Jack Sparrow

What body of water has the world's greatest tide range ?
The Bay of Fundy

A ship's specification table often includes its displacement. What is the definition of displacement?
The weight (in tons) of the water displaced by the hull.

What inland body of water in Massachusetts contains the remains of several submerged villages? 
The Quabbin Reservoir

This summer, an American treasure-hunting group announced their plan to salvage an alleged fortune in gold coins from a sidewheel steamer that sank off the Georgia coast in 1865. What is the name of that steamer?
SS Republic

The word "chiseler" is often used to describe a person who is a cheater. In that context, what is the origin of the word chiseler?
In the days of crudely-made precious metal coins, such as Spanish reals, certain unscrupulous people used to chisel bits of metal off the edges of these coins to steal the metal.

What is the name of the chemical process that causes certain metals to deteriorate in the presence of salt water and an electric current?

In terms of Earth navigation, what is a Great Circle route?
Any circular path around planet Earth at its largest diameter. Any segment of a Great Circle route is the shortest distance between two points.

The word "posh" is used to describe high-quality accommodations. What is the maritime origin of the word?
In the early 20th Century, Mediterranean steamboat cruises to Egypt were a popular form of recreation for people from the British Isles. The best accommodations were cabins on the shady side of the ship, or port out, starboard home. When booking agents started abbreviating this POSH, the word caught on.

What is the definition of the nautical term keel-hauling?
Keel-hauling is a form of shipboard punishment used in the past. It involved dragging an offender under the keel on a line tied to the bow. Keel-hauling would almost certainly be a death sentence.

For centuries, ships have been running aground on a small sand island off the coast of Nova Scotia. That island is commonly known as "The Graveyard of Ships." What is it's real name?
Sable Island

In 1803, a young mathematician and seaman from Salem, Massachusetts published a comprehensive book on the science of celestial navigation. That book, called "The New American Practical Navigator," was considered "the bible" of celestial navigation worldwide for the next 150 years. Who was that mathematician from Salem?
Nathaniel Bowditch

A ship carrying Irish immigrants was wrecked at Cohasset, Massachusetts in 1849. Ninety-nine people died in the incident. What was the name of that ship?
"Saint John"

Ferries from Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine, transport passengers and vehicles to what Canadian province?
Nova Scotia

In the United States, what electronic navigation system preceded GPS?

What famous slogan from American history refers to the sinking of a Navy ship in 1898?
"Remember the Maine!" The sinking of the battleship Maine, in Havana Harbor, was one of the incidents that led up to the Spanish-American War.

On a ship, what are bulkheads?
Bulkheads are transverse walls that divide the ship up into compartments. Bulkheads are often water-tight to limit flooding.

What is a schooner-barge?
A cargo vessel originally built as a schooner, but later towed as a barge by a powered vessel. In the early 20th Century, many schooners were converted to schooner-barges.

On a ship, what is the weather deck?
The uppermost deck of a ship; any deck that does not have overhead protection from the weather.

What type of vessels are built at the General Dynamics shipyard in Groton, CT?

What is the nautical definition of the word Founder?
When a vessel fills with water and sinks.

On a boat or ship, what are the colors of the starboard and port running lights?
Starboard lights are green, port lights are red.

A US nuclear submarine sank in a tragic accident 200 miles east of Boston in 1963. What was the name of that sub?
USS Thresher

What is the name of the large shipyard in Maine that builds military vessels?
Bath Iron Works

What is a hawser?
A large rope or cable used to tow a ship, or secure it to a mooring or dock.

During World Wars I and II, what East Coast port was the origination point for most merchant ship convoys bound for Europe? 
Halifax, Nova Scotia; the closest North American port to Europe.

In the early days of steamships, why were most ocean-going steamers also equipped with masts and sails?
Because early steam engines were notoriously unreliable.

What is the name of New England's 5,000-foot-long abandoned highway bridge?
The old Jamestown Bridge in Rhode Island. A replacement bridge was built in the 1990s, but the old one hasn't been torn down yet.

When on a boat, why is it important to pee to the lee? 
Because the lee is the downwind direction . . .

Nineteenth-century New England whale hunters coined a name for the ride they got when towed by a harpooned whale. What did they call that ride?
Nantucket sleighride

Why is the toilet facility on a ship or boat called a head?
Because on early sailing ships it was located (outdoors) at the bow or head of the vessel.

Using the Lat/Lon grid on a nautical chart, what is the easiest way to determine the length of a nautical mile?
One minute of latitude is one nautical mile.

How many feet are there in a nautical mile? How many feet in a statute mile?
A nautical mile contains 6,076 feet. A statute mile contains 5,280 feet.

What is the name of the easternmost point of land in the United States?
West Quoddy Head in Lubec, Maine

What is the name of the British passenger steamer that was sunk by a German U-boat off the Irish coast in 1915 with the loss of over 1,200 souls?

New England is the home of the last continually-manned lighthouse in the United States. What is the name and location of that lighthouse?
Boston Light - located in outer Boston Harbor.

In the summer of 1904, a New York Harbor excursion boat burned and sank while transporting  passengers to a church picnic. Over 1,000 people died in the incident. What was the name of the vessel?
The sidewheel steamer General Slocum.

What is the name of the group of small islands located several miles off the New Hampshire coast?
Isles of Shoals

An exposed rock navigation hazard near the western end of  Long Island Sound has an ominous-sounding name. What is the name of that rock?
Execution Rock. Explanations of the origin of the name are varied and no one knows for sure.

What is the meaning of the old navy term blivet?
Ten pounds of s--- in a five-pound bag; used to describe a messy situation.

What New England location is famous for its extremely cold and windy winter weather?
The top of Mount Washington, NH. For current conditions on Mount Washington, see our Weather page.

What is the phrase that world-famous treasure hunter Mel Fisher used to repeat  to his diving crew every morning?
"Today's the day!"

Some nautical charts express depth measurements in fathoms. How many feet are there in a fathom?
Six feet

A great storm, known as the Portland Gale, struck New England in November 1898. It resulted in the sinking or wrecking of hundreds of ships. How did the Portland Gale get its name?
The storm was named for the steamer Portland that disappeared off Cape Cod with 191 people on board.

Why is the navy ship USS Constitution called Old Ironsides?
The Constitution is built mostly of wood, but because cannon balls bounced off her thick oak hull, she became known as Old Ironsides.

In early America, unscrupulous salvagers used bonfires and lanterns to lure ships onto shallow reefs on dark nights. What was the name given to these unscrupulous men?
They were called "Mooncussers" because they could not accomplish their evil deeds on nights when the moon was bright.

What is the name of the bridge that spans the entrance to New York Harbor?
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

What is the origin of the name of Maine's Acadia National Park?
The park is named after the Acadians, the French immigrants that colonized eastern Maine in the 1600s.

The infamous New England pirate Sam Bellamy (AKA Black Sam), accidentally wrecked his ship on a shoal off Cape Cod in 1717. What was the name of Bellamy's pirate ship?

During World War II, the U. S. Maritime Commission coordinated the production of over 2,700 identical cargo ships for the war effort. The ships were built in 18 yards around the country. What is the common name for these ships?
Liberty Ships

In May of 1945, the U-853, the last German U-boat lost in World War II, was sunk by the U. S. Navy in the coastal waters off what New England state?
Rhode Island

In what New England city is the United States Coast Guard Academy located?
New London, CT

Born in 1651, near Kennebec, Maine, this ambitious New Englander led the first successful salvage operation on the sunken Spanish treasure ship Conception, off Hispaniola, in 1687. He was later knighted for his efforts and became the first Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. What was his name?
William Phips

In 1772, a group of Boston colonialists staged a dramatic waterfront protest against British taxation. By what name is that famous protest known today?
Boston Tea Party

One of Canadian balladeer Gordon Lightfoot's most famous songs tells the story of a Lake Superior shipwreck that occurred in 1975. What is the name of that song?
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

Early in the 20th Century, a canal was built to provide a shorter and safer shipping route between New York and Boston. What is the name of that canal?
Cape Cod Canal

In December of 1917, two ships collided in a Canadian port. One of them was carrying a cargo of explosives for the war effort in Europe. The explosion of that ship resulted in massive destruction and over 2,000 fatalities. Where did this incident happen?
Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia

In Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, the last voyage of the Pequod started from what famous New England whaling port?

In the years 1912 to1915, three Europe-to-America passenger steamers sank, each with over 1,000 fatalities. What were the names of these three ships and where did they sink?
Titanic (North Atlantic - 1912), Empress of Ireland (Saint Lawrence River - 1914) and Lusitania (Off Ireland - 1915)

The 700-foot-long Italian Line steamer Andrea Doria sank off Nantucket in 1956. What was the cause of the sinking? 
Collision with the Swedish liner Stockholm

With over 1,700 fatalities, the worst shipwreck disaster in U.S. history occurred on a major river in 1865. What was the name of the vessel and where did it sink? 
The steamer Sultana sank in the Mississippi River near Memphis

In 1912, a Canadian Pacific Line steamer sank in the Saint Lawrence River, off Quebec, with 1,200 fatalities. What was the name of the ship? 
Empress of Ireland

During World War II, approximately what percentage of Germany's U-Boat crewmen were killed in the line of duty?  20%  40%  60%  80%  

What 18th-Century New England shipwreck was raised from Lake Champlain and is now displayed in the Smithsonian Museum, in Washington, DC? 
The Revolutionary War gunboat Philadelphia

A U. S. Navy submarine sank off Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1939. The next day, 33 crewmen were saved in a dramatic rescue effort. What was the name of the sub? 
USS Squalus

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