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12 January 2012

A Walk About Town is a weekly feature hosted here at Coffee and a Book Chick. You do not need to have a book blog to join; any blogger can participate! Write about a spot in your town, or in a city you've visited, include the button for A Walk About Town, and add your link in the Linky below so that we can all visit your post. You don't need to include a picture to participate. I will post on Thursdays, but you can post any day of that week. Just make sure to add your link to the most recent week's post here at Coffee and a Book Chick, and if you're on Twitter, use the hashtag #AWalkAboutTown


In this coastal town in Virginia, shipwrecks are a frequent part of local history.

In 1891, a Norwegian ship named the Dictator wrecked off the coast of Virginia Beach. With a small crew of fifteen, and the captain with his family, the Dictator carried a large cargo of pine lumber and was heading to England from Pensacola, Florida. With repairs scheduled in the Hampton port, the Dictator made her way up the Virginia coastline. It was Good Friday.

With gale force winds, the Dictator grounded into the sandbar and both lifeboats were smashed. All on board were feared to be be lost.

But the Cape Henry and Seatack Lifesaving Stations (the forerunner to the current day United States Coast Guard) began to work tirelessly through the storm and dangerous waves to rescue the trapped passengers. At the end of the day, 8 were saved before the ship fully broke apart by nightfall. The captain's pregnant wife and their toddler, along with five sailors perished. The captain washed ashore onto the beach, alive, but barely conscious.

1918 Va Beach Postcard featuring The Norwegian Lady
Ships in that time frame, had a wooden figurehead carved into the prow of the ship that rested horizontally to the water. The figurehead for the Dictator was found on the beach days later and it was positioned at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Eventually, it was removed due to hurricanes in the area, and unfortunately, the figurehead was lost. As news of the loss of the figurehead in the early 1950s reached Norway, the city of Moss discussed with Virginia Beach the possibility of replacing the missing figurehead. Instead, two statues were crafted; one in Virginia Beach, and one in Moss, Norway. On September 22, 1962, The Norwegian Lady in both cities was unveiled, and in 1974, Virginia Beach and Moss, Norway became sister cities.


Every year on the anniversary of the wreck, a wreath is placed at The Norwegian Lady. In 1995, Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway visited Virginia Beach to place flowers at the statue.

The following is inscribed into the statue: 
I am the Norwegian Lady. I stand here, as my sister before me, to wish all men of the sea safe return home.
Pretty neat story, huh?

What about you? What's going on in your area that you want to spotlight?

Article sources from VirginiaBeach.com, Wikipedia.

13 comments:

  1. That is a neat story. Did I miss the Norwegian connection? Was that just a random feeling of sympathy and solidarity?

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  2. I am totally loving your posts - I had forgotten about the Norwegian Lady!

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    1. Yay, I'm glad you are enjoying them! It's fun for me to document this town!

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  3. pagesofjulia - - The Dictator was a Norwegian ship. Just updated the post :)

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    1. Thanks, I was wondering if I was missing something :)

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  4. That was a really interesting post! Thanks for sharing it with us today!

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  5. Wow, that is some fascinating history! Thank you for sharing.

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  6. I just love shipwreck lore! That is so sad that the Dictator's figurehead was lost over the years. The vintage post card is great! My husband has quite a collection of vintage post cards from his grandfather who NEVER threw anything away ... thankfully!

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    1. That is fantastic that your husband has his grandfather's postcards! I'm such a fan of postcards from the past. I have a few that I've purchased from antique shops that I love!

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  7. That's so cool, especially that the cities became sister cities. But how do you lose a figurehead??

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    1. I know, right?! I have a feeling it's sitting in someone's secret room in Va Beach, along with some stolen artworks! (Yes, I love The Thomas Crown Affair) :)

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  8. This year is the 50th anniversary of Virginia Beach receiving the Norwegian Lady. There will be an extra special ceremony this year on Mar 31st at 2pm at the Norwegian Lady. We hope you will join us! It is a lovely & informative ceremony!

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    1. Thanks so much for the heads up on the ceremony! I would love to attend so I'll put this on my calendar right away!

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