How we discovered a 3,000 mile bet at our fieldschool venue

In 1776 the face of global politics changed forever when the great British Empire lost its great territory of America in the Revolutionary War.  Just as we are commemorating the centenary of the end of World War One today, one Danish American decided to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, by undertaking what was the equivalent of a drunken bet with mates. The wager was to sail single handed across the Atlantic in an open fishing boat!

Sterographic photo of Alfred Johnson’s ‘Centennial’ fishing dory

Today is the 143rd anniversary of Alfred Johnson leaving Gloucester Massachusetts in the United States on a 3,000 mile trip to Liverpool, UK, single-handedly sailing a 20-foot (6.1 m) fishing dory.  On his wild trip upon the boat, suitably renamed “Centennial”, he suffered a number of setbacks, including being capsized. But after 58 days Johnson made land at Abercastle, Wales, before reaching his intended destination of Liverpool a few days later.

Alfred Johnson’s “Centennial” at Cape Ann Museum Gloucester, Massachusetts

The participants of the NAS field school, diving and working from Abercastle this week, have walked past a slate plaque mounted on the wall of the slipway every day not realising its significance commemorating Alfred “Centennial” Johnson’s achievement.  When the anniversary date was noticed, it was decided that it would be appropriate to remember him by cleaning the salt and grime encrusted plaque.

We came to investigate the SS Leysian wreck, but it turns out that there is much more history to be found in the beautiful coastal village of Abercastle.

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