Northern Light (clipper)

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
Northern Light
Career (United States)
Builder: Brigs Brothers, South Boston, Massachusetts
Launched: September 25, 1851
Maiden voyage: November 20, 1851
Out of service: January 2, 1862
Fate: Abandoned at sea
General characteristics
Tonnage: 1,021
Length: 180 ft (55 m)
Beam: 36 ft (11 m)
Draft: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Notes: [1]

The Northern Light was an American clipper ship. In 1853 it sailed from San Francisco, California to Boston, Massachusetts via Cape Horn in a record-setting 76 days, 6 hours. The record was broken by a sailing vessel with no cargo in 1993.


The Northern Light was designed by Boston-based naval architect Samuel Hartt Pook and built by the Briggs Brothers in South Boston in 1851.[2][3] The ship was 1,021 tons register and it measured 180 feet (55 m) long, 36 feet (11 m) wide, and 21 feet 6 inches (6.55 m) deep.[1]

1853 voyage

The Northern Light left Boston for San Francisco on October 29, 1852 under the command of Captain Freeman Hatch of Eastham, Massachusetts. The return journey was part of a competition with another clipper, the Contest, bound for New York.[4]

The Contest departed San Francisco for New York on March 12, 1853. The Northern Light sailed for Boston the next day. After 38 days the Northern Light came within sight of the Contest off Cape Horn. The Northern Light crew signaled and overtook its rival.

The Northern Light reached at Boston Light on May 29, after 76 days, 5 hours, arriving in Boston an hour later, two days ahead of the Contest's arrival in New York. It was the shortest run on the 15,000-mile (24,000 km) San Francisco to Boston passage on record.[4][5] It also beat previous around Cape Horn speed records of 84 days and 85 days held by the New York-based Comet and Flying Dutchman respectively. The Boston Post noted the Northern Light carried no cargo during the passage.[6] The San Francisco to Boston speed record would stand until 1993, when the 53-foot (16 m) trimaran Great American II completed the passage in 69 days, 19 3/4 hours.[5]

Later service

The Northern Light made its first transatlantic voyage in 1861, sailing to Le Havre, France, and departed Le Havre bound for New York on December 25. On January 2, 1862, the ship collided with and sank the French brig Nouveau St. Jacques. The Northern Light was abandoned at sea.[7][8][9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Clark, 163
  2. Morison, Samuel Eliot (1921). The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 339. OCLC 242077.,M1. 
  3. O'Connor, Thomas H. (1994). South Boston, My Home Town. UPNE. pp. 37. ISBN 1555531881. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Clark, 227
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Trip Around Cape Horn Sets Sailing Record". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. April 11, 1993. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  6. "The Quickest Passage from San Francisco" (PDF). The New York Times. June 1, 1853. Retrieved 2008-11-22. 
  7. Paine, Lincoln P. (1997). Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 366. ISBN 0395715563. 
  8. La Grange, Helen; Jacques La Grange (1936). Clipper Ships of America and Great Britain, 1833-1869. G. P. Putnam's sons. OCLC 1471826. "On January 2, 1862, she sank the French brig Nouveau St. Jacques..." 
  9. Clark, 342

External links