Watch a selection of lectures from our popular evening Lecture Series. Lectures cover a wide range of maritime topics and are presented by nationally and internationally recognized authors, filmmakers, historians, scientists and other experts in their fields.
View more of our lecture videos on our YouTube channel.
American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11
Feb 22, 2018
Presented by Tricia Wachtendorf and James Kendra
When the terrorist attacks struck New York City on September 11, 2001, boat operators and waterfront workers quickly realized they had the skills, the equipment, and the opportunity to take definite, immediate action in responding to the most significant destructive event in the United States in decades. For many of them, they were “doing what needed to be done.” American Dunkirk shows how people, many of whom were volunteers, mobilized rescue efforts in various improvised and spontaneous ways. James Kendra and Tricia Wachtendorf explore how people pull together to respond to and recover from catastrophic events.
History Below the Waves: Shipwrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Nov 30, 2017
Presented by Jeff Gray, Superintendent of NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Preserved by the cold freshwater on which they once served, more than 200 shipwrecks are believed to rest in Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The sheer number of shipwrecks is impressive. However, it is their excellent state of preservation and what they represent—a century and a half of maritime commerce and travel on the Great Lakes—that make them truly special.
Jeff Gray, the superintendent of TBNMS, will take us on a freshwater journey to a time when schooner and steamer ruled the Great Lakes. We will explore some of the nation’s best preserved shipwrecks and how the sanctuary is working through research and education efforts to protect the Great Lakes and their rich history for future generations.
A Pirate’s Life for SHE: Swashbuckling Women Through the Ages
Oct 26, 2017
Presented by Laura Sook Duncombe
Pirates dominate the popular imagination, from Halloween costumes to the silver screen, but there is much more to the story than parrots and peg legs. Author Laura Sook Duncombe sheds light on a forgotten corner of pirate history—the women who sailed the seven seas alongside (and sometimes in command of) their pirate brethren. Pirate women existed virtually everywhere pirate men did, yet they are often left off the record. This presentation explores why that might be, as well as separates facts from fiction of many popular pirate tales. Duncombe discusses the lives and legends of many pirate women, including the notorious Anne Bonny and Mary Read, as well as some lesser known North American pirate women.
So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family’s Fight for Survival During World War II
April 3, 2017
Presented by Michael Tougias
On May 19, 1942, a German U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico stalked its prey 50 miles off New Orleans. The ship had her sights set on the freighter Heredia. Aboard were 59 people; most were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians. Fast asleep in their berth, the Downs family had no notice that two torpedoes were heading their way. When the ship exploded, all four members of the family were separated from each other. More than half the crew and passengers aboard the Heredia perished, but incredibly, after 15 hours in the ocean — facing sharks, hypothermia, drowning, and dehydration — all members of the Downs family survived and were reunited.
The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats
March 23, 2017
Presented by William Geroux
Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay — but it sent an unusually large concentration of sea captains to fight in World War II. “The Mathews Men” tells that heroic story through the experiences of one extraordinary family whose seven sons (and their neighbors), all U.S. merchant mariners, suddenly found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the U-boats bearing down on the coastal United States in 1942.
Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers
March 9, 2017
Presented by Tamara Plakins Thornton
Tamara Plakins Thornton delves into the life and work of Nathaniel Bowditch, a man Thomas Jefferson once called a “meteor in the hemisphere.” Bowditch was a mathematician, astronomer, navigator, seafarer, and business executive whose Enlightenment-inspired perspectives shaped 19th-century capitalism while transforming American life. By examining Bowditch’s pathbreaking approaches to institutions, as well as the political and social controversies they provoked, Thornton’s biography sheds new light on the rise of capitalism, American science, and social elites in the early republic.
The Death of the USS Thresher
April 10, 2013
Presented by Norman Polmar
On April 10, The Mariners’ Museum commemorated the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Thresher with renowned naval and intelligence consultant and author, Norman Polmar. Taken from his book, The Death of the USS Thresher: The Story Behind History’s Deadliest Submarine Disaster, Polmar recounted the dramatic circumstances surrounding her implosion, which killed all 129 men on board, and the lessons the Navy learned. It was the first loss of a nuclear submarine in history and one which would later cause the Navy to send Dr. Robert Ballard, under the guise of the search for the RMS Titanic, on a top-secret mission to map and collect data on the nuclear fuel.
Norman Polmar has been a consultant to several senior officials in the Navy and Department of Defense, the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and several U.S. Senators. Polmar has written or coauthored more than 50 books and numerous articles on naval, intelligence, and aviation subjects and is a columnist for Proceedings and Naval History magazines.