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This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Marco Polo
William Vandervalk
1960, 20th century
Wood, metal and thread
133.35 x 62.23 cm
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum

Keys to History:

The Marco Polo was built at James Smith's shipyard, Saint John, and launched 17 April 1851. Designed as a cargo carrier and timber transport, she was one of the largest vessels to be built in New Brunswick.

Ship launchings in New Brunswick and other Maritime shipbuilding centres were gala affairs. People flocked to witness the impressive spectacle of a ship hitting the water for the first time. Much could go wrong at this critical moment.

Typically, a launch began when the order was given by the master shipwright to "split" the blocks under the ship. The ship would begin to move, and then with increasing speed glide majestically down the ways, taking to the water with a great splash. The spectators would cheer. The ship would slice into the water, rocking from side to side. She would then be "snubbed", or brought under control.

Source : The Golden Age of Sail [Web tour], by New Brunswick Museum (see Links)


The Marco Polo measured 57 metres and was registered at 1625 tons. Vandervalk used a one-quarter-inch scale when constructing the model.


Lines for the model were obtained from the builder's half model, which is in the collection of the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia.


During her launch the Marco Polo stuck unceremoniously in the mud after leaving the slipway.


William Vandervalk built this model of the Marco Polo in 1960.

© Musée McCord Museum