The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is a 501 (c) (3) accredited, not-for-profit organization existing to research, interpret, and exhibit the maritime history of Florida and the Caribbean in ways that increase knowledge, enrich the spirit, and stimulate inquiry.

Archaeology & Research /Peter Mowell


On July 25, 1860, a schooner went ashore at Lynyard Cay in the Abaco Islands of The Bahamas. The ship was small and overcrowded, and after it wrecked hundreds of people poured out and made their way to the beach. Some were naked, weak, and confused, while others were angrily cursing their plight. Though they were lucky to be alive, crashing into an uninhabited island was not supposed to be their destiny. As it turned out, the vessel was the American schooner Peter Mowell, en route to Cuba from the West coast of Africa with a cargo of nearly 400 captive people. It was just one of dozens of US flagged ships making their way back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean that year, in a marked resurgence of the illegal slave trade.

The Peter Mowell was an American schooner of 129 tons. It had been built in Maryland in 1855, likely named after a contemporary Baltimore industrialist.  The vessel was 88 feet long, had a 22 ½ foot beam and a depth-of-hold of six feet and nine inches; it drew nine feet of water. It had a single deck with a trunk cabin. The vessel was built of White Oak and joined with copper and iron fasteners. In November of 1858, its hull was covered with copper sheeting as a protective, anti-fouling measure.

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Our Location

200 Greene Street  |  Key West, FL 33040

Open Daily

Monday through Friday
8:30 - 5:00
Weekends & Holidays
9:30 - 5:00
Did you know that the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is the only fully accredited museum in the Florida Keys? That means we’re more than just an exciting adventure story. We’re also a nationally recognized research and archaeology institution.
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum - Galleon "Atocha"