Merida Shipwreck

SS Merida. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

SOCIAL STUDIES / MATH – On May 12, 1911 off the coast of Virginia, the Merida shipwreck occurred. The ship, scheduled to sail from Vera Cruz, Mexico to New York, collided with the Steamship Farragut. Capt. Robertson and his officers saw the lights of a steamer coming toward them through the fog. Sirens sounded, but within minutes the crash came. The collision tore a large  hole in the Merida’s starboard side. The Merida soon took a sharp list at an angle of about 40 degrees and water began entering the engine room.

Merida shipwreck
Herbert O. Benson, a wireless operator, on board the SS Merida. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“When I got on deck it was pitch dark, and people were pouring out of the main saloon. It seems to me that there were nothing but women all around, and they were all screaming at the top of their voices. Then the men began to come, and they were yelling too. Then we all heard a loud crash below (engine room), and two dozen fireman – Cubans and Mexicans – came running forward on deck. A fight occurred, and several passengers were pushed down. Capt. Robertson, officers, stewards and waiters gradually got everyone calm and quiet. Soon candles and lanterns were lit in the dark hallways to help guide the passengers to their life boats.” – On board passenger

Two hours after the collision, all 326 passengers and crew were safe, including the ship mascots, five cats that only understood Spanish.Today the wreckage lies about 55 miles from Cape Charles, in 210 feet of water, and buried in about 20 feet of sand. The wreck site has lured many treasurer hunters over the decades. Many still believe the treasure onboard the Merida, estimated at several million dollars, lies buried with the ship.

Below you will find primary sources for a law suit that detail passenger information and personal property loss from the SSHSA Archives.

Questions for Further Thought – Math

  1. Determine the total value of property loss.
  2. What would the property loss for each claim value today if $100 in 1911 equals $2613.30 in 2016?

Questions for Further Thought – Social Studies

  1. What do the items lost tell you about the class of passengers?
  2. Are there similarities in items carried onboard?
Merida shipwreck
Merida shipwreck
Merida shipwreck

Click here for more primary sources from the Merida shipwreck.

Education Standards

National Council for Social Studies

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

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