Aye, Aye, Professor

Issue Date: 
April 9, 2007

Students to earn academic credits, learn seamanship skills aboard replica War of 1812 ship

Students enrolled in a new Pitt summer course will earn four credits and a sail-training certificate while living, studying, and working aboard a replica of a wooden-hulled, square-rigged War of 1812 warship.

During the three-week course, titled Maritime History and The Great Lakes and offered by the Pitt School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of History, students will serve as a “crew- in-training” aboard the U.S. Brig Niagara. Docked at the Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, Pa., the Niagara is the official “tall ship” of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was built in 1988 to closely resemble the U.S. flagship in the Battle of Lake Erie.

Depending on weather and other factors, the course will include day sails, overnight passages, port visits, and tours of historic sites. In addition to studying the historical development of maritime power in the Great Lakes and their environs, students will work alongside the Niagara’s crew of 16 professional sailors to learn seamanship skills.

The crew is U.S. Coast Guard-certified, and the ship is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and fully insured.

“This program is a mix of adventure and academic work,” said Pitt Professor of History William Chase, who helped to develop the course. “Students are really going to understand what it was like to be a sailor during the 1800s. I think the idea of experiencing how people in the past lived is really neat.”

There are no academic prerequisites for the course, but Chase said participating students must be willing to “engage in physical labor and forego the comforts of the modern home.” Students and crewmembers will sleep in hammocks and eat meals prepared in a wood-burning stove.

Chase emphasized that both male and female students are encouraged to enroll. “We are hoping to draw a diverse group of students to participate,” he said. “If you’re adventurous and you’ve got an interest in history, this course is for you.”

Maritime History and The Great Lakes will be taught by Timothy Walker, who is an adjunct faculty member in Pitt’s history department as well as an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where he teaches courses on maritime history.

The course costs $2,892 and includes tuition, room, board, and fees. It will run from July 12 to Aug. 1 and is limited to 20 students. For more information or to register, contact the history department at 412-648-7451 or visit its Web site.