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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Birchenough

Norman’s Woe

Gloucester Harbor has so many interesting places to visit and to see from parks to museums to schooners sailing around the harbor. One place that always seemed interesting to me is Norman's Woe. There is a green can located here so mariners will not get too close, but that was not always the case, and this spot got its name for a reason.

There have been many shipwrecks at this site, hence the name Norman's Woe. It is a rock reef 500 feet off the shore in Gloucester (near Magnolia). There are many of the rock reefs in Gloucester and it is very important as a mariner to know where they are all located, and especially at mean low tide. Norman's Woe has been the site of a number of ship wrecks including the “Rebecca Ann” in March, 1823 during a snowstorm. Another was the wreck of the schooner “Favorite” out of Wiscasset, Maine, in December 1839.

It was also the subject matter of an 1872 painting called "Off Norman's Woe," by Edward Moran.

"Off Norman's Woe" by Edward Moran, High Museum

Norman's Woe was also the subject of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled "The Wreck of the Hesperus" (Longfellow also wrote ""Paul Revere's Ride). The Poem is about a a ship wreck at Norman's Woe. Specifically the last stanza in the poem reads ...

"Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,

In the midnight and the snow!

Christ save us all from a death like this,

On the reef of Norman's Woe! "

The next time you come by boat into Gloucester Harbor, stop at the green can at Norman's Woe and think of how fortunate we are to have chart plotters, charts and technology to get us into safe harbors.

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