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VIDEO: Survival of the fittest

The Emma C. Berry, one of the oldest surviving commercial vessels in America, slid down the ways in June 1866.

Built at the R&J Palmer Shipyard in the Noank section of Groton, Conn., by James A. Latham, the Berry was designed to the specifications of a Noank “smack” — an able craft known from Maine to the Caribbean.

Capt. John Henry Berry, of Noank, specified a sloop rig carrying a large mainsail, two headsails and, for light weather, a gaff topsail.

The vessel was equipped with a live well — a truncated pyramidal construction amidships into which water flowed through numerous holes in the bottom hull. The continuous flow of water kept the catch alive for delivery to the markets.

You’ll find additional information about the Emma C. Berry and other vessels in the museum’s collection at