Those of us at the AHA who have often daydreamed about a historical high-seas adventure (minus the scurvy) were thrilled to learn that two schools, the University of Pittsburgh and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, are offering classes this summer onboard the U.S. Brig Niagara, a fully-operational replica of an early 19th-century naval warship. Students who sign up for either “Maritime History” (Edinboro) or “Maritime History of the Great Lakes” (Pitt) will listen to lectures while learning how to hoist sails, climb masts, and run rigging. “The combination of college course study and hands-on training aboard the Niagara is a great way to learn,” says the vessel’s captain, Wesley Heerssen. “It will appeal to students with a sense of adventure and a desire to experience learning in an authentic setting.” Students will initially be given dockside training and go on short trips before setting sail on an eight-day voyage across Lake Erie.
The Niagara is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and managed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It was built in 1988 as a replica of the ship Oliver Hazard Perry used in 1813 to defeat the British during the Battle of Lake Erie. Most months of the year, it is on display at the Erie Maritime Museum.